Medicine and Electricity: History, Applications, Benefits

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Medicine and Electricity: History, Applications, Benefits

Medicine and Electricity: History, Applications, Benefits

Modern health care providers rely on electronics to perform nearly every aspect of their job, from administering tests and monitoring vital signs to assisting with treatment and surgery. However, electricity does a lot more than just help health care providers do their job better—it can actually be used to help people feel better, too.

The medical field has a long history with electricity as a therapy modality. And as more people seek devices and alternative treatments that replace toxic pharmaceutical drugs, electricity and medicine will become even more intertwined. In the meantime, here’s a closer look at the evolution of electromedicine through the ages, how electricity is used in medicine, and the benefits of electrotherapy compared to the traditional paradigm of prescription drugs.

A Brief History of Electrotherapy

It might be shocking to find out, but medicine and electricity have gone hand-in-hand for hundreds of years. Electrotherapy specifically dates back much longer, all the way to Ancient Rome when Scribonius Largus discovered that electric shock from the Mediterranean torpedo fish eased chronic bodily pains.

More recently, scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs have helped push electrotherapy to the forefront of alternative pain management. Here’s a very brief history of electrotherapy to help you understand how we went from Largus’ torpedo fish to the advanced bioelectrical stimulation machines of today.

  • The first medical treatments using electricity are recorded in London in 1767 at Middlesex Hospital.
  • Nikola Tesla discusses the medical application of high-frequency currents in a paper published in 1891.
  • The “Russian Stimulation” method is developed in the 1950s to help athletes recover, build muscle, and increase power output using electrotherapy.
  • Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall introduce the “Pain Control Gate” theory in 1965 which explains how strong nerve stimulation is able to alleviate pain symptoms.
  • American neurosurgeon C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D. is credited with inventing the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine in the 1970s.
  • Electromedical Technologies receives FDA clearance for the WellnessPro Plus in 2007, the most advanced personal electrotherapy device of its kind.
  • In 2015, a major pharmaceutical company invested $50 million in bioelectronics startups and $5 million in additional research funding to learn more about how the body’s neurons might affect chronic diseases, among other things.


How Electricity is Used in Medicine

Medical treatments use electricity in several ways and for a variety of reasons. A defibrillator, for example, helps to restore the heart to its normal rhythm. Electronic pacemakers deliver pulses to control the rate at which the heart beats. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation devices use electrical stimulation to manage pain.

Indeed, there’s a long list of ways that electricity is used in the medical field, but for our purposes here allow us to focus on some of the specific ways in which electrotherapy is used in the fields of rehabilitation and pain management. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) acknowledges the use of electrotherapy for the following:

  • Pain management
  • Treatment of neuromuscular dysfunction
  • Tissue repair
  • Peripheral blood flow
  • Parasympathetic nerve stimulation
  • Edema reduction
  • Wound healing


Benefits of Electrotherapy for Pain Relief

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Man grabbing shoulder due to back pain

Although there’s a large number of electrical applications in medicine, one of the most popular (and promising) is electrotherapy for pain relief. Compared to painkillers, electrotherapy offers users a variety of benefits as an alternative pain management solution. For example, “electroceuticals” activate the body’s innate ability to regulate pain symptoms and heal itself, which means electrotherapy and similar bioelectrical modalities are promising all-natural pain relieving alternatives to toxic, habit-forming pharmaceutical drugs.

Another reason why electricity has long been used for pain management and tissue recovery is the fact that electrotherapy provides targeted treatment at specific points of the body. Painkillers, on the other hand, affect the entire body in order to help patients relieve pain. The targeted pain relieving capabilities of electrotherapy will continue to make bioelectronics one of the most promising fields of alternative medicine.

New Electromedicine Devices

Bioelectrical stimulation and frequency generator machines have come a long way since the invention of the TENS device in the 1970s. Over the last half century, scientific research and technological advancements have served as the catalyst for some of the most remarkable breakthroughs in electromedicine. Modern electromedicine devices are the culmination of decades of research into the effects of electricity on the human body, specifically how electricity treats pain and promotes healing.

One of the most revolutionary electromedicine devices on the market is the WellnessPro Plus. Discover why this electrotherapy machine is the #1 choice of health care professionals for the treatment of chronic and acute pain. Contact us if you have questions about electrotherapy or how to use the WellnessPro Plus to live pain-free.


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