"After asepsis and antisepsis to which operative medicine owes most of its magnificent success […] and has won new victories over Pain, here is the electrotherapy, barely a few years old, amazes its turn the scholars themselves and cause the admiration of crowds. […] Fortunately, electrotherapy is robust enough and strong enough to triumph without difficulty over all its enemies and not to succumb under the weight of contempt and ridicule from which all new inventions suffered in their beginnings, and not the less brilliant. , the less wonderful." Limoges Illustré
Electrical stimulation dates back to ancient Egypt (around 2500 BC). Indeed, we discover the description of a curious technique engraved on stone tablets. It involves using the electric shocks produced by electric fish to relieve pain. This process was also used in Socrates' time to relieve arthritis pain and headaches.
Electrostimulation in the XVIIIth Century
In 1748, Swiss physicist Jean Jallabert carried out the first conclusive tests on a patient paralyzed in one arm. To do this, he uses a static electricity generator and manages to cure his patient. Subsequently, the doctor and physicist Jean-Paul Marat developed a great interest in electrotherapy. In order to alleviate the pain, his patients, he subjects them to sessions of electric shocks (he will bring in a storyteller to distract his patients' attention!).
Nevertheless, it was Luigi Galvani in 1791 (Italian physician and physicist) who provided the first scientific proof that current can activate muscles. It was in the late 1770s that he first became interested in the influence of electricity. Then, he will multiply the experiments on frogs by applying electricity directly to the nerves. Alessandro Volta (inventor of the first electric battery) will say of Galvani's discovery that it is "one of the most beautiful and surprising, and the germ of many others. ".
Galvani tests on frog legs
Around the middle of the 19th century ...
…Christian Bischoff (German professor of pharmacology) introduces for the first time in the world of modern medicine, electrical processes for therapeutic purposes. At that time, silver electrodes were used.
In 1838 Michael Faraday coined the word (English) "electrode" after ancient Greek, merging "elektron" (amber, from which Gilbert formed electricity) and "odos" (the path).
Return to France, with the neurologist G. Duchenne from Boulogne. He is the founder of neurology and an imminent clinician of his time. He devotes a large part of his experiments to the use of alternating current on the human body and more specifically, on the face. In 1848, Dr. Duchenne observed an increase in muscle mass on the arms of various patients. His experience is based on localized faradization (induction electricity) sessions for 10 minutes, several times / week.
At the same time, the Salpêtrière is acquiring more and more equipment related to electricity in a therapeutic setting. The first electrotherapy room opened in 1880, and the management was entrusted to Dr. R. Vigouroux. Therefore the enthusiasm continues to increase. Dr Jacques A. D'Arsonval, member of the Paris Academy of Medicine (1888) and one of the founders of the Paris School of Electricity in 1894 and other great physicians joined Dr Vigouroux. The latter will actively participate in the promotion of electrotherapy in the medical profession.
Early 1900 ...
…The various electrical processes are now widespread in Europe. Thus, we find the use of galvanic currents during the First World War. Indeed, the war psychoneurosis is a new phenomenon of war. The condition of the soldiers affected by this mental disorder forced them to fall back to prevent them from becoming cannon fodder. Neurotic soldiers suffer from psychosomatic symptoms including limb paralysis, tremors, sciatica, prostration etc.
Military medics are ordered to use this new technique everyone is talking about: electrotherapy. Soldiers who refused treatment were considered deserters. They therefore had no choice but to endure the unbearable high-frequency electric shocks imposed on them by Dr. Clovis Vincent. The latter uses the soldiers as guinea pigs. His methods were very controversial and the electrician doctor Charles Chardin will denounce this barbarity by speaking of these doctors as "madmen" or even give the nickname of "roaster" to one of them.
Towards a new era
It was not until the end of the 1960s that electrostimulation was introduced into the sports world. The first to realize that electricity could increase the muscle mass of its athletes was the USSR. More particularly, Dr Yakov Kotz made his first tests on the shoulders of gymnasts. Dr Kotz will admit that the USSR had an agreement with the GDR: the exchange of the "secret" of the EMS for their doping technique.
Tests will be made on athletes from different fields for the Olympic Games. (From 1971 to 1976). As a result, in France, EMS is gaining a bad reputation and is presented as "technological doping". This technique resurfaced in 1986 thanks to the French Athletics Federation, which took a closer interest in EMS.
Despite some reluctance, electrostimulation made a place for itself at the end of the 1990s, in contemporary sports and medical circles. The machines were then heavy and bulky and reserved for use in a professional setting. Since the early 2000s, many portable devices have seen the light of day. Great athletes such as Usain Bolt can regularly be seen using electrostimulation devices during their training. Many physiotherapists also treat their patients with electrotherapy.
Since then, with the arrival of smartphones, a new form of electrostimulation has appeared: connected electrostimulation. Now, EMS and TENS are available in a micro device controlled by a Smartphone (Bluetens?).
The effectiveness of electrical stimulation is no longer to be proven. From its discovery until today its results have never ceased to amaze us. However, like any new technology, it took a long time to be accepted and recognized but as predicted already in 1887:
« The ever-increasing number of patients flocking to each visit is the best proof of the effectiveness of this treatment. Already known, but not yet sufficiently, this new therapeutic method, which has already taken the greatest extension, is called for the brightest future. »
Extract from the weekly newspaper LE MONDE ILLUSTRÉ, August 14, 1887.