A History of Using Electricity for Pain Management and Tissue Repair

giant-moray-eels   Electricity has been used for generations for health reasons. An original use was an electrical charge could create life like responses and the most famous was Galvani who applied an electrical charge to a dead frog’s leg and it would “jump”. What was this magical force? It was a static charge and when the frog leg was touched the electrical charge stimulated the dead muscle tissue. Since Galvani there have been multiple uses of electricity to maintain or restore health in people.

Today the same principle is used to establish if a nerve has been severed or is dead. A direct current electrical charge is supplied to test if the charge can go from the point of stimulation to the point of detection. An example would be applying a charge at the shoulder to see if the charge can be detected at the wrist. This helps determine if there is “healthy innervation”. If no heightened electrical charge is detected then the clinician goes closer to the point of stimulation testing to find where the charge is lost. Chances are excellent there is disease or destruction at this
point. This process helps determine if rehabilitation is possible or not.

For decades an electrical charge, described as “high voltage” or preferably “pulsed galvanic stimulation”, has been used to make bed sores, decubitus ulcers, heal. The tissue in the open wound is gray, or if dead, necrotic, and the wound is not healing. A simple 5 – 20 minute charge is applied to start or accelerate the healing. Upon the body being stimulated to repair itself the wound bed turns red/pinkish from the increase in blood vessels transporting oxygen and nutrients to the area and healing resumes. The same phenomena is observed using tens units or interferential therapy units to facilitate healing.

Today the same type phenomena is being used to jump start stem cells to replicate body parts, also has been observed to start the process of cell division for new life creation from the combining of sperm and embryo. The magical ingredient for many beginnings of cell division is a small electrical charge.

Another use of the same electrical phenomena has been to make bones heal, unionization. The typical incident where electrotherapy is used is the motorcycle crush accident where the leg bones are crushed in an accident. The leg is exposed to a car and the impact splinters the bone. After cleaning and setting the bones are not healing. In the past if the fracture does not heal and the leg is not functional then amputation was the result. Today a “bone growth
stimulator” may be used and is generally very successful if the patient had/has the proper nutritional content to allow the body to heal the bones. The practice of using electricity, such as the bone growth stimulator or interferential unit, has become so commonplace that often many different orthopedic bone repair procedures involve the application of some form of electrical device to increase the growth rate and decrease the rehab. time while also protecting the patient against new injury. When healing increases there is less harm of further or future injury. This is especially true with neck injuries and the cervical bones need to heal as rapid and functionally as possible.

One of the first uses of electricity was for pain control. The disease, trigeminal neuralgia, is often referred to as the “suicide disease” due to the pain becoming so unbearable that the patient had rather die than live in such misery. During Roman days there are records of patients suffering from this and the remedy for treating this excruciating pain was to put an eel in a bowl of water and have the patient then put their face into the bowl. The eel emitted an electrical charge, this was a reaction to the possibility of food for the eel and the reaction was to “stun the prey” so the eel could eat. The electrical discharge from the eel in the water also produced a sensitizing effect after the initial pain of the electrical discharge had worn off, and the patient was pain free for some time period.

Today the time period is referred to as “carryover pain relief” or “residual pain relief” and is the amount of time after interferential therapy stimulation a patient goes before, or if, the pain returns. Today the use of interferential machines, often referred to as pain machines, tends to increase the carryover pain relief time period by giving the patient the ability to treat when needed. With the freedom to treat as needed, which is before the pain really starts, then the pain is never allowed to start.

For as long as there have been humans on this earth there has been the use of electricity to aid the body in healing and to stop pain. Today with the advanced materials and knowledge of how to regulate electricity from a machine to the body, advanced concepts are emerging that are benefiting human health and eliminating human suffering.

One of the most recent advantages has been the ability for patients to have FDA approved electrical medical devices, such as interferential and tens machines and self treat as needed. Many of the primary fundamental causative agents for positive medical results comes from a basic understanding of electrical charges and how our body uses those charges needed and disposes of those not needed. It is characteristic of our daily food intake where we often consume foods that are inherently bad from a nutritional point of view, yet as long as we consume enough of the necessary nutrients our body continues to live, heal and avoid disease . And also the body uses the right foods and discharges the junk food with it’s unhealthy ingredients.

Next, our body seems to work the same way with positive and negative electrical charges by using the negative or positive charges as needed while allowing the opposite polarity to pass through and be discharged. It’s truly amazing of the resiliency of the human body and the ability to heal itself when given the electrical nutrients needed.

Time and time again the phenomenon of electrical charges causes positive change for our daily living and health.

Just consider it. Maybe, just maybe, with the advent of interferential units combined with tens units we’ve reached the point for many innovative therapies with devices that allow self treatment.