Back pain, a communicable disease?

Heiner Raspe*, Angelika Hueppe, Hannelore Neuhauser

*Corresponding author for this work
31 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Back pain (BP) is a frequent disorder affecting currently up to 40% of adults inWestern Europe. Most of it is said to be 'non-specific', i.e. lacking an obvious patho-anatomical explanation. It is seldom the consequence of a contagious disease caused by microorganisms. This does not exclude it from being communicable if 'communicable' is to refer to something being transmitted by sharing or exchanging information. Aim: To propose the hypothesis of BP being a communicable disease. Methods and results: We base our hypothesis on a reanalysis of five German health surveys. They show a wide gap in BP prevalence between West and East Germany early after reunification. The gap consistently decreased to nearly zero in 2003. Work disability data followed a comparable course. Discussion: Various processes may have contributed to the observed changes. Our hypothesis is corroborated by experimental research showing that BP-related beliefs, attitudes and behaviour could positively be influenced by media campaigns and by insights from another recent epidemic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)69-74
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 02.2008


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