This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol1", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
Neuralgia. Electricity has been found curative in many cases of this affection, operating, it would seem, sometimes directly by the benumbing influence of its excessive power, sometimes revulsively. These two methods require different applications of the electric influence. If the object be to operate revulsively, the plan of Duchenne may be followed of confining the action to the skin (see page 517); if to benumb the nerve, a moistened extremity of one conductor should be applied over the nervous trunk as far up as may be, the other over one or more of its branches in which the pain may be felt.
Excessive cutaneous sensibility, which is a frequent attendant upon hysteria, yields 1n general readily to faradisation. The treatment is applicable only to purely functional cases, and not to those dependent on lesions of the nerves or their centres. In the application of the remedy, the skin should be kept perfectly dry. Sometimes fustigation may be used; in other cases, the blunt excitors, carried from point to point over the sensitive part, will be sufficient. The instrument should work with rapid intermissions, and with an intensity as great as the patient can well bear; and the operation may be continued from two to five minutes. A feeling of numbness follows the first pain, with an agreeable sense of relief. Sometimes a single sitting is sufficient; but more frequently the complaint returns after some hours, though with diminished intensity; and several applications are required before the cure is effected. In many rases, however, only temporary relief is obtained.
A similar excessive sensibility of the muscles sometimes occurs, which may either be conjoined with the cutaneous affection; or may coexist with insensibility of the skin. Though usually more resistant than the pure cutaneous affection, it often yields promptly to a similar excitation of the surface.
In neuralgia of the face, tongue, etc., galvanism and electro-magnetism have both been used with occasional success; the former being sometimes aided by acupuncture; but the general result has not been very encouraging.
Sciatica is an extremely obstinate form of disease, sometimes apparently purely neuralgic, sometimes rheumatic, and in other cases attended with inflamation of the neurilemma. When purely functional, it will sometimes yield to faradisation, after vain attempts to cure it by other means. Occasionally it will give way, for a time, to a sudden and violent pain excited by fustigation, or the contact of the wires, in any part of the surface. The measure, however, is more effectual when put in operation in the vicinity of the part. The skin must be thoroughly dried, so as to prevent the current from penetrating to the nerve, in which case the pain is aggravated. The relief at first procured is temporary; but. by repeating the fustigation upon each return, or at relatively short intervals, for six or eight times, the disease will often yield entirely. The most obstinate cases in the hospitals have recovered under the remedy. Electro-puncture is asserted also to have been used with advantage; but the cutaneous excitation is preferable.
Angina pectoris, in one striking instance under the care of M. Du-chenne, yielded speedily to electro-cutaneous excitation applied to the mammary region. At the moment of the application of the two metallic excitors, which proceeded from a powerful machine graduated to the maximum, and working with rapid intermissions, the patient uttered a loud cry, so as to render it necessary to interrupt the operation; but the pain of the angina, which had been excessive, ceased at once. By repeating the operation at each return, the disease appeared to yield entirely.
In other neuralgic cases, whether external or in the viscera, the remedy has operated with equal success. It should be recollected that it is the cutaneous excitement that is produced here; the current being prevented from penetrating beneath the skin by drying it thoroughly with some absorbent powder.
In colica pictonum, M. Briquet effects prompt relief by faradisation of the surface of the abdomen. For an account of his mode of applying the remedy see my Treatise on the Practice of Medicine (6th ed.. vol. i. p. 748).
Rheumatism. In the neuralgic form, this complaint will often yield with great facility to the electric influence; and it is probable that many of the cases treated successfully under the names of neuralgia, sciatica, angina pectoris, etc., have been either of this character, or gouty. But ordinary muscular subacute rheumatism, such as lumbago, pleurodynia, torticollis, etc., will also frequently yield to the remedy as to a charm. Sometimes a single faradisation of the skin is sufficient to effect a cure : but more frequently the pain returns, and five or six applications may be necessary for the purpose. It should not be abandoned until the last vestige of pain has been removed. Rheumatic arthralgia will also often yield happily to the remedy. To acute inflammatory rheumatism it is wholly inapplicable. In chronic rheumatism of the joints, galvanism, with the aid of acupuncture, has sometimes proved efficient; but electro-magnetism would probably be safer, as less likely to excite inflammation, with an equal degree of power.
Rheumatic contraction of the muscles, which not unfrequently affects the face, neck, shoulder, and parts of the chest, and which has a very disagreeable distorting effect, will generally yield to this remedy applied to the skin. M. Puchenne also cures the affection by bringing the antagonistic muscles into play through the electric current, and thus establishing an equilibrium between them.