History of Electrotherapy

The history of electrotherapy dates back to Ancient Rome when Scribonius Largos discovered a surprising use for the Mediterranean torpedo fish, a variety of electric ray: “The live black torpedo, when applied to the painful area, relieves some chronic and intolerable protracted headaches…carries off pain of arthritis…and eases other chronic pains of the body.” Aristotle and Pliny also both referred to the effect of this fish, and the famous Greek physician and pharmacologist Pedanius Dioscorides advised treatment by electric shock from the torpedo fish for the treatment of pain.

Towards Electrical Medicine

1780 Italian biologist and physician Luigi Aloisio Galvani with electrotherapy

In 1780, Italian biologist and physician Luigi Aloisio Galvani observes the leg of a dead frog twitch when struck by an electrical spark. This was one of the first discoveries that would lead researchers and scientists to study bioelectricity and the effect of electrical currents on the human body.

1836 Guys Hospital in London first electrical therapy department with electrotherapy

In 1836, Guy’s Hospital in London established England’s first electrical therapy department. The department’s head, Dr. Golding Bird, was notable for his research into the medical uses of electricity and was instrumental in bringing medical electrotherapy into the mainstream.

Major Breakthroughs in Electrical Stimulation Therapy

1891 Nikola Tesla Electrical Engineer with electrotherapy
1929 Russian scientist Georges Lakhovsky with electrotherapy

Great strides were made over the next century that would lead to wider therapeutic adoption of electric stimulation therapy around the world. In 1891, Nikola Tesla presented a paper in Electrical Engineer about the medical application of high frequency currents. In 1929, Russian scientist Georges Lakhovsky published The Secret of Life, in which he concludes that cells function like tuned resonant circuits. And in the 1950s the “Russian Stimulation” electrotherapy method is developed to help athletes build muscle and increase power output.

1950 Russian Stimulation with electrotherapy

One of the biggest breakthroughs in electrotherapy came in 1965 when Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall first proposed the “Pain Control Gate” theory, which explained how strong nerve stimulation by chemical, mechanical, or electrical means is able to suppress pain sensations from traveling to the central nervous system. According to the theory, pain signals must first encounter neurological “gates” in the spinal cord before they reach the brain.

1965 Pain Control Gate with electrotherapy

Although the story of how pain sensations are generated and experienced within the human body is far more complex, “Pain Control Gate” theory added a new dimension to our understanding of pain perception and helped pave the way for the next wave of electrotherapy devices and treatment modalities.

The Next Generation of Electrotherapy

2007 WellnessPro Plus with electrotherapy

Electrotherapy for pain relief continued to make strides during the 1980s and 1990s, but the future of electromedicine began in 2007 when ElectroMedical Technologies received FDA clearance for the WellnessPro Plus. This revolutionary electrical stimulation device took four years to develop and combined decades of research with new breakthrough technologies in the field of bio-electrics. The WellnessPro Plus was then (and is still) the only personal electrotherapy device of its kind to go through rigorous laboratory tests for safety, accuracy, and precision.


Electrotherapy has a long and storied history, but the best is yet to come. The mission of ElectroMedical Technologies is to help everyone live a pain-free life, and the WellnessPro Plus is how we plan to accomplish that.

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