Word of the Week: Hexenschuss

Oct 24, 2014

Hexenschuss Enlarge image (© picture alliance / ZB) Have you ever had a sharp pain in your back - one that leaves you cringing in pain or crouching in agony? Germans would call that a Hexenschuss - a shot by a witch!

In German, Hexe means witch and Schuss means shot (in this context, a gunshot). It might sound strange - especially since witches carry broomsticks and not guns. But either way, any sort of bewitchment on your back is bound to be unpleasant!

A Hexenschuss refers to the sort of lower back pain that leaves you crippled for at least a few seconds - but perhaps even a few days or weeks. Maybe you pulled a muscle or injured yourself. Most likely you'll reach for the Ibuprofen and hope that the pain subsides. But back in the Middle Ages, Germans had more supernatural beliefs attributed to this sort of pain.

Hexenschuss Enlarge image (© picture alliance / dpa Themendienst) In the olden days, people believed that illnesses or pain were caused by supernatural creatures like witches or elves. Some said that witches would shoot people with a bow-and-arrow, thereby causing the painful Hexenschuss. Others simply believed that lower back pain would lead to permanent bad posture, turning someone into a hunchback that looks like an old witch.

But despite its supernatural origins, there is no magic potion to cure a crippling Hexenschuss, and you're best just sleeping it off and taking some over-the-counter drugs.

Sometimes lower back pain can come out of nowhere. So what do you think - have you been bewitched?

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

© Germany.info

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