Back Pain: A Historical and Infinite Development


Back pain is common among many people all over the world and has been for some time. It’s arguable to say that our back pain contributes to our ever-growing evolution. Degenerative spines have been discovered in the earliest humans on this planet. In fact, bad backs were discovered in Neanderthal caveman before homo sapiens came about. Even crazier, dinosaurs had trouble with their backs 66 million years ago, before any trace of the human species was alive. Most of that pain was caused by bone problems such as overgrowth and misalignment. The dinosaurs were ambitious eaters and violent hunters, leading them to inevitable back issues. 

In Western history, evidence of back pain was recorded by Greek writers, who acknowledged that many citizens had pain symptoms that originated in the back. This gave them fleeting pains from the joints and muscles. The only remedy at the time was spas, herbal medicine, and plant-based oils. In the East, Islamic laws forbade surgical evaluation of any deceased human and therefore were slower in advancing their theories on back problems and solutions. Western advancement was not far along either during the middle ages when patient care was handed over to the ‘expertise’ of the church. In relative terms, scientific and medical progress almost ceased to exist. 

Brighter days looked ahead during Europe’s Renaissance period when body anatomy became increasingly popular and scientists looked more deeply into the human back. During this time, individual diseases were carefully studied. Hypotheses, like one deriving from rheumatism, suggested that back pain could be the after-effect of exposure to the cold and damp, causing trauma to the muscles. 

Modern treatment for low back pain closely compares with the old orthopaedic medical advice of rest. The early rise of orthopaedics was mainly formed out of concern for deformed children. The first “back school” was started in Montpellier, France in 1825 where young doctors had the opportunity to study human backs much more precisely. 

However, there is a clear distinction between back pain, back disability, and back injury. They are all obviously related but very distinct. Today, each of them has a specific remedy to it, but it took well over several centuries to figure that out.

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