Page images
PDF
EPUB

every other remedy, constitutional diseases should be treated constitutionally.” Their method of procedure is to place the

the patient with his naked feet upon a sheet of copper connected with one pole, usually the negative; the other pole is connected by a moistened sponge with the left hand of the operator, who passes his disengaged hand over the muscles of the patient, and sometimes over his whole body. The originators claim for this method a delicacy of graduation to which they attach great importance, not to be equalled by any mere mechanical means; the sensations of the operator, the current passing through his body, are his guides to graduation; and they say also that no artificial rheophore can equal the human hand in its adaptability to the different regions of the body. My experience of this method has not been sufficient for me to decide upon its merits. The reader will find it fully described in the work of its authors.* There is another general application which may be of occasional service. This consists of a bath the water of which is in contact with one of the conductors of an induction instrument, or of a battery supplying an interrupted voltaic current, while the second conductor is applied to some part of the body that is not immersed, commonly to the upper and back part of the chest. The spinal cord is excited in a general manner by reflex excitation of the peripheral ends of the nerves. This form of application is useful in cases where stimulation of the nervous centres is indicated; and given of so feeble a strength as not to provoke muscular contraction, it produces an excitation that will increase muscular power in certain forms of general paralysis. In cases of general debility I believe that these baths are of decided benefit.

* A Practical Treatise upon the Medical and Surgical uses of Electricity, by Drs. Beard and Rockwell. New York: W. Wood and Co., 1871.

Franklinization, as partaking more of a general application than a local, may be conveniently discussed here. It has been suffered to fall into unmerited disuse, perhaps from the inconveniences of its application. It has been found in the practice of the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic, and in private cases coming under my own observation, of considerable value. Facial neuralgia, for example, which has resisted other modes of treatment, may occasionally be relieved with rapidity and permanently by drawing sparks along the track of the affected branch or branches of the tri-facial nerve. Sometimes also obstinate sciatica has been partially or altogether removed; as was also a remarkable case of facial spasm (tic convulsif) in a hospital patient. A female, 48 years of age, had suffered for thirteen years from spasm of the muscles of the left side of the face. The distortion produced by the spasm was very great, and was apt to be so much exaggerated by slight emotion, even such as would be caused by having to address a stranger, as to make speaking difficult, and to prevent proper attention to her occupation as a small shopkeeper. An experimental trial was made of electrization by sparks along the lines of the nerves distributed to the affected muscles. After the third application the spasm was manifestly relieved, the distortion being diminished, and the consecutive paroxysms occurring less frequently. By persisting with this treatment thrice weekly over a period of two months, so great an amount of relief was obtained that little distortion of the face remained, and the patient was able to pursue her business with comfort. Electrization by sparks over the larynx has been found so effective in the relief of cases of hysterical or emotional aphonia, even those of long standing, that it is now almost invariably used in the practice of the hospital in the treatment of these cases before having recourse to induced electricity. In six or seven recent cases, repeated twice or thrice this form of application effected a complete cure. One of these cases was of nine, another of six months' duration. The remainder had lasted from four weeks to three months. The seventh case did not receive any benefit from the use of static electricity, and the other forms of the agent proved equally ineffective. The case recovered slowly under general treatment. Electrization by sparks over the affected spot has often proved of great benefit in removing the localized excessive sensitiveness not unfrequently found in hysterical cases, particularly in the spinal region. Tremor, whether general or local, is sometimes largely relieved by insulating the patient, and charging him with positive electricity for a period of twenty minutes to half an hour. Other applications failing, I would advise always in cases similar to the above, a fair trial, say half a dozen sittings, of Franklinization.

There is a special method of electrization originated by Dr. Radcliffe, and which has in it very much to recommend it both in theory and practice. The investigations of this distinguished physician in animal electricity lead him to the conclusion that the primary condition of this electricity is not current but static.* The state of muscle and nerve during rest is that of charge, during action of discharge. The sarcolemma is proved by many experiments to be sufficiently non-conducting to allow it to act as a dielectric, and so also the neurolemma. Positive electricity having its origin in the molecular reaction of the blood and elsewhere, is developed on the outside of the sarcolemma or neurolemma, and as their sheaths are dielectric the effect of this development is the induction of an equivalent charge of negative electricity on their insides. Hence the sheaths of the

* Dynamics of Nerve and Muscle, by C. B. Radcliffe, M.D., &c., London: Macmillan & Co., 1871.

[graphic]

muscular and nerve fibres become charged precisely as a Leyden jar is charged. Hence, also, the particular view of muscular action which Dr. Radcliffe advocates, namely this, that the elongation of muscular fibre is caused by the elastic sarcolemma being compressed at right angles to its surface by the mutual attraction of the two opposite electrical charges disposed on its two surfaces (an idea which is proved to be practicable by a most ingenious experiment), and that the contraction follows upon discharge in consequence of the sheath being then liberated from the cross compression and left free to yield to its own innate elasticity. The sheaths of nerve fibres are subjected to the same pressure of the two opposite charges, but they do not exhibit the same elongation under charge and contraction on discharge because they are less elastic than the muscular fibres. This view explains all the electrical phenomena of muscle and nerve as well as the current theory of Du Bois-Reymond, and it leads to important consequences in electro-therapeutics. If the sheaths of the muscles and nerves are thus dielectric it is to be supposed that an artificial charge of positive or negative electricity will affect them like the natural charge. If the outside be supplied with a positive artificial charge, an equivalent negative charge will be induced on the inside, and vice versa. Moreover, if the natural charge was one in which

« PreviousContinue »