History of Electrotherapy


Pain is the symptom which most often causes one to seek out medical care. Acute pain is pain usually caused by a recent injury or illness, be it physical or psychosomatic. Typically, it helps to alert us when something is wrong. This type of pain usually lasts a few days to months, until the problem which first caused it is resolved. Chronic pain is pain that persists or recurs for a prolonged period of time. This is the type of pain which stems from ailments such as arthritis and other joint problems, certain back conditions, injuries and accidents, and many other problems concerning the nerves, muscles, and bones but also including psychosomatic disturbances. The experience of pain varies widely between individuals, making its exact definition unclear to this day.

The treatment of pain, naturally, was the first interest in electrotherapy and electromedical research. For centuries electricity has been a challenge to scientists. They have long known that it exists, and have discovered how to generate it on a large scale, but found it difficult to explain exactly what electricity is. That remains even to this day in the orthodox, scientific fields. Around 600 BC, the Greeks found that by rubbing an 'electron' (a hard Fossilized resin that today is known as Amber) against a fur cloth, it would attract particles of straw. This strange effect remained a mystery for over 2000 years, until, around AD 1600, when Dr William Gilbert investigated the reactions of amber and magnets and first recorded the word 'Electric' in a report on the theory of magnetism. Gilbert's experiments led to a number of investigations by many pioneers in the development of electricity technology over the next 350 years.

The earliest references to the use of electricity in medicine was the use of the Mediterranean torpedo fish, a variety of electric ray. Aristotle and the historian Pliny both referred to the effect of this fish. Dioscorides, the famous physician who founded the Western Materia Medica, Galen, and Paul of Aegina advised treatment by electric shock from this fish for the treatment of pain.