medical history

Pain cures from history

Grabbed from the internet over the past couple of days…some things have not changed. Humans seem to have a fascination with magnets, colours, electricity and traction.
First up, the Faradic Electrifier – apply the electrodes to the painful part, press a button and – hey presto! an electric shock. Not exactly sure what that did about the pain, apart from distract from it, but it sure looks cool.

The Electreat was a device that is probably the forerunner of the modern TENS – if you head over to here you’ll find the whole history of it…


The one that really got me was this specially designed treatment for men only (don’t worry ladies, we have our own treats coming right up!).

The history of traction as a treatment for back pain goes back far further in time than I realised.  If you thought torturers needed inspiration, I’m sure they took a look at some of these drawing for some.


But if you thought it stopped there – this is available today, for use in your own home…

I did promise you something specially for women – well, here ’tis (and it’s only one of hundreds of such potions and compounds)…


…and I haven’t even started on the rest of the ghastly herbals that were mixed together and thrown down the throat.  Perhaps that’s for another day.

Fabulous, frivolous Friday!

It’s been a bit hectic actually, because I’ve been packing for my week away and going in to work, and taking my wonderful daughter out girlie shopping…Now just a few minutes to myself before being picked up and whisked away to magical Kaikoura.

I did some planning ahead and found this wonderful site for your edification…

I had no idea toilet paper had been around for so long…. but here is a site dedicated to ‘toilet paper curiosities’.  Again, I do the searching so you can die happy.

It reminds me of some of the medical history you can find – so that lead me off on a tangent, and I located this site. Earle Dickson invented the BandAid – well did YOU know that?  And it was invented in 1921.

This site has loads of information about medical history – and although I didn’t spend a lot of time in there today, it has a whole lot of different areas of history.  Worth a look if you’re keen on finding out why we do some of the things we do today.  I’ve always enjoyed looking at historical information, so much of what we do today arose out of conflicting with historical legacies, or out of the knowledge accumulated from our past.  It’s good to recognise that, for example, pain management is relatively new.  The gate control theory which has almost become old hat was only introduced in 1965…

Now this page has a whole lot of links to chemistry oddities…Among them how to create fireworks from grapes and a microwave.  Want to create a love potion? Turn lead into gold?  Head here… to look at Alchemy.

Bioephemera is a blog about art + biology – anything and everything from representations of science in art and literature to the neuroscience of aesthetics.  I loved the graphic which I unashamedly snaffled to brighten up this post.  Do head over there to see it in situ.

Have a great week while I’m enjoying the great outdoors in Kaikoura!

Yes, it DOES say ‘Australian’ above those two blokes in skirts.  I personally think they need hats and more hair to fairly represent the Ozzie male, but who am I to argue?

History of pain and pain management

One of my colleagues at Burwood Pain Management Centre presented an interesting education session on the history of pain management – it made us all feel very grateful we are now in modern times because electric eels placed on the painful part, bloodletting and death from ingesting all manner of herbal potions just don’t appeal! (Oh, but it’s ‘natural’!)

The presentation did make me curious (OK so that’s my strangeness outed – as if you didn’t know!) so I thought I’d see what information’s about on the internet on the history of pain treatment and management.

Just before I link to some of the sites I found, I thought I’d give you this wonderful image – and it’s in modern times…

Anyway, The John C. Liebeskind History of Pain Collection contains some of the most authoritative and extensive collections of post-World War II pain history documents.

The focus of this collection is ‘on the origins, growth, and development of the international, interdisciplinary pain field’ and one of the major achievements is the exhibit called ‘The Relief of Pain and Suffering’ which contains some great information on the attempts to relieve pain prior to the 19th Century.

It has several wonderful engravings of late 1800’s pharmaceuticals such as the one below – note it is recommended for children ’10 drops every four hours’.

The UCLA Online Biomedical Library also has links to a large number of allied internet resources. One of the ones that really tickled my fancy was History of Medicine Images collection. If you search ‘pain’ 85 images depicting pain and pain relief in history are located – and if you didn’t feel squeamish looking at that bloodletting picture above, some of these will certainly turn your stomach! They’re primarily old engravings and line drawings of things like ‘The blacksmith turned toothpuller’ and ‘woman in labour’. Information about copyright is provided, so you can see how to access these images for use in presentations perhaps!

Now turning to more modern times, our fascination with magnetic, electric, hot and cold devices with special ‘healing’ properties hasn’t waned. While I can accept that in the 1800’s, when evidence-based methods were scarce, I cannot understand why we have open advertising for things that just don’t stand up to close scrutiny. I clearly recall people coming to Pain Management with magnets like these in the mid-1990’s…, and the ‘magnetic underlay’ can still be bought today – endorsed by prominent sportspeople and the like. The history of electric devices for pain relief goes as far back as the electric eel mentioned above, but carried on with ‘Dr Bell’s Electro Appliance’, an electrified belt that was advertised as ‘This appliance is for Sexual Debility, Nerve Troubles, Stomach kidney, Liver, Bowel or Bladder weakness, Rheumatism and other congested or weakened conditions of the system…’.

More recently? Well, this link leads us to an Electric Sympathetic Block for pain relief, and this link for transcutaneous spinal electroanalgesia. I’m not sure of the efficacy of this type of treatment – but it doesn’t seem to have developed too far from the original electric eel to the painful part, just perhaps a little less ‘natural’.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this diversion into the history of pain treatments – and that I haven’t scared you off coming back! Please, if you’ve got about 5 – 10 minutes, click into my Questionnaire on pain management strategies. I’m really keen to find out what definitions we use for coping strategies, and whether there is any agreement on what we use them for, and why we use them. Congratulations to the person who was first!! A social worker by trade, but I know nothing more about him/her, but thanks for being the first to answer!