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Electricity in Medicine

current, treatment, galvanic, body, faradic, static and effects

ELECTRICITY IN MEDICINE. The use of electricity in treatment of human diseases dates back to the 18th century, when the electric spark and frictional electricity were so applied. Franklin was the first to use shocks from Leyden jars for the treatment of paralysis. As far back as 1775 the effect of static electricity on the human system was well known, and was dealt with to siderable length in the writings of berius Cavallo in 1777. The discovery of voltaic, or galvanic, electricity in 1800, and of faradic electricity during the past century were further steps in electro-therapeutics, since they allowed of a gentler treatment than was possible by means of the Leyden jars. For a i long time static electricity was not in use, but more recently there has been a return to that method because of mod ern methods of application.

The application of electricity to the human body for curative purposes may be divided into three forms; static, gal vanic, and faradic. The first form is produced from the ordinary frictional machine, in which glass plates are re volved against chamois, rubber or horse hair brushes, the current being received in Leyden jars. Galvanic electricity is set in motion by the voltaic battery. And faradism, or faradic electricity, is produced by induced, or interrupted, currents, generated by magneto-electric or electromagnetic induction coil ma chines.

The first form, static electricity, pro duces many effects on the human body. It has been long known that the body loses weight through its application, and that it causes the temperature either to rise or fall, due to increased functional activity. It sets free the potential energy cells, causes contraction of proto plasm, excites nerve fibers, nerve cells and nerve centers, and stimulates nutri tion. It is, therefore, effective in the treatment of lumbago, spastic paralysis, locomotor ataxia, chronic and muscular rheumatism, neuritis, progressive mus cular atrophy, insomnia, congestion of the liver, and sciatica. It also serves to control nervous headaches, hysteria, neurasthenia, and is valuable also as a general tonic. It has also been effec tively used in reducing sprains. The only danger of its use, in unpracticed hands, lies in the liability of a reduction of the blood pressure, which in certain cases may produce bad effects. For this rea son care should be taken to avoid the numerous quacks and charlatans who advertise widely the use of electricity for curative purposes. For this reason

it is advocated that the use of electricity be restricted to the legitimate medical profession.

Galvanic treatment is produced by passing a voltaic current from a battery of many elements through the living body, which causes a shock, or contrac tion, of the muscular system, succeeded with a distinct interval by a momentary sensation or flow of heat due to the electric current. During the continued passage of the current, slight tingling sensations and a raising of the tempera ture are felt, especially in those parts in contact with the electrodes, which be come painful and congested. On open ing the circuit, the depolarization of the tissues which follows is accompanied by a second shock and a glow of heat, which are powerful in proportion to the length of time the circuit has been closed. The contraction of the muscles is in pro portion to the intensity, rather than to the amount of the electricity which flows through the body. The use of this 32—Vol. method of application is to exercise atrophied muscles and secure their nutrition. In surgery the electrolytic action of the galvanic current destroys tumors and abnormal growths in the nasal cavity. The galvanic current is also used in heating a cautery for sear ing a surface to secure a cicatrix.

The use of faradic electricity is us ually for its tonic effect. The continued passage of the interrupted currents acts chiefly as a mechanical stimulant, first exciting, and after a time depressing the vitality of the parts in the circuit. Vi brations produced by purely mechanical means, without the use of electricity, may be made to cause very similar effects. Faradization is especially appli cable to those diseases in which a defi ciency of functional energy is involved, as in mild cases of spinal and peripheral paralysis. Changes of circulation or of the molecular state may be excited in the central organs by reflex irritation. It has also been used with good effect in the treatment of gout, rheumatism, widespread ecezma, and constipation, when due to indigestion.

Galvanic electricity, however, will also produce all the effects due to the faradic current, but to a very much higher degree.