Electric Shock Treatment - A healing force
The warnings are everywhere. Electricity is dangerous and it can kill you. When we think of electricity, we think of a great power that can turn on our lights and heat our homes. When we think of shocks, we think of pain, even death. However, seldom do people consider that a shock…a normally painful, deadly or undesirable shock…can actually save your life. Electricity has many uses in the medical field and can be used as electric shock treatment to benefit the body in a great variety of ways.
Electricity and the heart
One of the greatest uses electricity has within the medical community is as a diagnostic tool. The most notable way electricity is used as a diagnostic tool is through the use of the electrocardiogram, called the ECG or EKG. The natural beating of the human heart is driven by quick, short bursts of electricity that cause the muscles of the heart to contract. This test translates the natural electrical impulses of a person’s heart into a series of lines that doctors can read to determine how the heart is functioning. This test can tell a doctor a great number of things about a person’s heart, including if the heart’s walls are the right thickness and how medications are affecting the heart’s function. ECGs can also be used to find the causes behind a variety of symptoms associated with the heart or heart attacks including chest pain; dizziness; shortness or breath; rapid breathing; or irregular heartbeats. Similarly, it can check the function of implanted devices that help the heart stay on track, such as pacemakers. It can also diagnose heart health in the presence of other diseases or conditions, such as smoking, high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes or congenital heart issues.
During an EKG, a health professional may have to shave parts of a person’s body in order to make a smooth, clear area on which to attach the electrodes. Sometimes alcohol or a special paste is applied to the skin to add conductivity, but most modern health care professionals feel the disposable electrodes are sufficient. An electrode is attached to each of the patient’s arms and legs, and also to the chest. The patient will be asked to remain very still and breath normally, refraining from speech, while the machine measures the heart’s electrical outputs.
Electricity and heart function
In addition to determining if the heart is working appropriately, electric shocks and stimulation can also serve to keep the heart functioning appropriately. Pacemakers have been effectively used to control the beating of the human heart when disease or injury renders it unable to do it alone.
Pacemakers are tiny devices that are powered by batteries that are used to deliver artificial electroshock signals to the heart, signaling it to beat more quickly. A pacemaker is usually inserted beneath the person’s skin on his or her chest. A wire is threaded from the device, through a vein, to the heart. When the pacemaker releases an electrical shock, the wire transfers the shock to the heart, causing it to beat.
There are many different sorts of pacemakers. Some work only to make a heart beat when its natural rhythm gets too slow. Other pacemakers make a heart beat all the time. There are pacemakers that deliver a shock to the heart only when it senses that the heart’s beating has become irregular or abnormal. Pacemakers have become so advanced that some can even sense when a heart’s pace needs to quicken, such as during exercise, and can automatically adjust to the situation. A person will receive the type of pacemaker that best fits his or her needs, but most pacemakers are meant to be kept in place for a long time.
People with pacemakers need to understand their risks. Since the pacemaker is powered by electrical charges, any change in this spark may cause trouble for the heart. Specific types of medical tests that use magnets or electricity need to be avoided in order to reduce the risk of pacemaker malfunction.
Electricity to save lives
The heart can tell doctors when the heart is functioning incorrectly, it can keep the heart working properly, and it can also start a heart beating again if it stops. Defibrillation involves issuing a dose of electricity to a malfunctioning or non-functioning heart. It is meant to depolarize a critical mass of heart muscles in order to stop arrhythmia and allow the heart’s natural electrical pulses to take over function of the heart again.
Defibrillation, in the past, was only possible when the chest was opened via surgery and the heart was fully exposed. Obviously, this meant that defibrillation occurred only when surgeries were going wrong or when a heart patient needed a tremendous shock in order to reset the rhythm of the heart. The closed chest message, which people are likely familiar with from the plethora of medical dramas on television, is now much more widely used. Even small town Emergency Medical Technicians have portable defibrillators on board their vans.
Electricity and the Brain
The use of electricity to treat mental illness has been under hot debate for literally decades. The Romans were said to use torpedo fish, a type of electric fish similar to an eel, to cure headaches. It was once used to induce grand mal seizures in mental patients or those with severe cognitive disorders in an attempt to “bring the patient out of it.” Electroconvulsive therapy began to be used in earnest in the 1940s and was a brutal treatment for the mentally ill. Popularized to the public eye in the Jack Nicholson movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, based on the book of the same title by Ken Kesey. This treatment involves sending electrical impulses into the brain to increase, decrease or alter function. The main argument against it stems from the fact that no one can explain exactly why it works. Another argument stemmed from its lack of regulation and subsequent overuse and abuse.
Today, ECT is mainly used to treat depression. In its beginnings it was used to combat everything from criminal insanity and deviant behavior to memory loss. Today, it is most often used to treat severe and chronic depression. Ironically, one of the most common reported negative side effects is memory loss. The advent of muscle relaxers and various anesthetics during the procedure have made it much less painful.
Similar to an ECT, doctors are learning to use deep brain stimulation to treat various disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain and other movement disorders. While the causes of many of these diseases greatly differ, the results are very similar, as are many of the treatments. Much of the treatments that involved stimulating areas of the brain that have “short circuited” used to be accomplished through painful and invasive surgeries. Doctors are now attempting to affect the same stimulation by sending electrical impulses into the brain. DBS is still considered a major brain surgery and many risks accompany it.
With DBS, a hole is made in the top of the skull, through which a long, thin wire or electrode is inserted. A frame, previously attached to the patient’s head, guides the electrode to insure it stays on the right path. The patient is awake through the entire procedure. Since the brain does not feel pain itself, only topical anesthesia is used to numb the skull for the access hole(s). The patient needs to be conscious in order for the neurosurgical team to ask questions concerning bodily functions. During the procedure, it is not uncommon for the patient to experience abnormalities in vision, speech and so forth, since the areas that control such functions are very near the target area. With the patient awake and responsive, the neurosurgeons can better target the DBS.
While the risks of this surgery are similar to other surgeries, and the risk of improper areas being inadvertently stimulated are very real, DBS is a great resource for some patients. People with Parkinson’s have reported improved movement symptoms by between 25% and 75%, a huge mark to people who suffer from shakes or other involuntary motor functions that impair daily living.
Electricity and the muscles
Functional electric stimulation is the process by which professionals, many times chiropractors, use an electric shock therapy to activate the nerves in a specific part of the body. Other professionals use electrical stimulation to treat spinal injuries and paralysis caused by stroke, head injury other neurological disorders. It has been used successfully to restore bladder function in some paraplegics and improve motor functions in patients with other injuries. It has also been used, with some success, in awakening patients from comas.
A shock therapy can be used to stimulate involuntary muscle contractions in just about every muscle in the body. Once used by professionals to build strength during physical therapy or improve the natural life of arthritic joints by strengthening the muscles around them, this practice has quickly moved to the private sector. The common man, especially athletes, can purchase a TENS (transcutenous electrical nerve stimulation) device that will essentially stimulate involuntary muscle contractions in the same manner that a professional may do this. Most people understand that muscles become bigger and stronger through use, and athletes will use electrically stimulated workouts to improve muscle mass and function. It is more commonly used by professionals, however, and the TENS device is often tantamount in treating patients with arthritic difficulties or chiropractic patients in need of physical therapy.
It seems that for every positive there must be a corresponding negative within society. While there are many documented contributions of electricity in the medical world, there are some instances where electricity presents a problem.
“Dirty electricity” or stray voltage, has been a documented issue for some people with specific medical conditions. Obviously, unexpected charges are dangerous for people who wear pacemakers, as detailed previously, but there are other diseases and conditions negatively affected by dirty electricity that people seldom think of. Dirty electricity is a type of electrical pollution that occurs when electricity leaks from its designated circuit and sends weak charges into the environment.
It has been documented in numerous studies over the years that diabetics respond directly to the amount of dirty electricity in the air. In a “clean” environment, their blood sugar is easier to control and diabetics require less insulin in order to remain healthy and regulated. In polluted environments where a measurable degree of dirty electricity is present, blood sugar levels are more dynamic and difficult to control. Studies have also confirmed that borderline diabetics will remain “borderline” and will avoid dependency on medication longer if they resided in a clean environment.
While the study of diabetics has gone on for some time, new to the list of dirty electricity victims are patients with Multiple Sclerosis. These studies were prompted by the success of installing electric filters in diabetic patients. Many people with MS report similar symptoms to one another, although severity is often reflective of the disease’s progression. In one study, several MS patients were interviewed to determine the range of symptoms. They ranged from weakness and fatigue, to the near inability to walk. Some reported double vision or occasional cognitive failures.
Filters were installed in the homes of the subject. Most, even those severely affected by MS, began to show marked improvement in as little as 24 hours. Further study showed that symptoms flared when the subject was removed from the filtered environment but would again subside upon re-entry to a filtered home.
The subject has been posed by more than one scientist that many diseases that are currently on the rise (asthma, fibromyalgia, ADD/ADHD) may be attributed to negative electrical situations. Some scientists go as far as to point to dirty electricity in the growing number of autism cases, as well as heart issues.
Certainly, electricity is a valuable commodity and it has obvious benefits in the medical community. The improvements it can make on the human body are amazing and the possibilities for the future are seemingly endless. Will there come a time when, medically speaking, electricity does more harm than good? Has society already reached that point and are human beings currently suffering from the side effects of living in an electrified society? Only the future will tell what electricity has in store for the remarkable human body.
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