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July 20, 2010

Neuroscience journal Brain has an amazing article on the history of non-drug treatments for headaches. What sounds like a dry article on the history of neurology is actually a remarkable romp through many of the most eccentric treatments in medicine.

The piece has just been published online and sadly is locked behind a paywall (keeps the riff-raff out) but here are a couple of interesting excerpts. The first, completely terrifying, the second, somewhat more calming.

To start, a scorching treatment for headache from Ancient Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia:

‘Consequently, you have to shave off the hair (which yet on its own is good for the head) and cauterize [burn] superficially down to the muscles. If you wish to cauterize down to the bone, carry it out at a site where there are no muscles. For if you burn muscles, you will provoke cramps. Some physicians incise down to the bone on the forehead along the border of the hair. They abrade or chisel the bone down to the diploe and let flesh grow over the place. Others perforate the bone down to the meninges. These are hazardous treatments. You have to apply them when the headache persists after all that has been done; the patient keeps courage and the body is vigorous’

…and relax. Needless to say, there were also some slightly more gentle treatments from times gone past (assuming you’re not a mole).

Read in Full:  http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2010/07/an_eccentric_history.html



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