Massage therapy is an ancient practice that has remained popular because of the presumed increase in circulation to diseased tissues. The discovery of electricity allowed healers to better provide "healing oxygen" through vibration.
Before technology provided healers with sophisticated bells and whistles, most were content to use the elements they had at hand, including water, light, and temperature. A common goal was to either increase or decrease circulation and thus oxygen supply to various diseased parts of the body. Additionally, few physicians hesitated to explore mysterious new and untested healing discoveries like electricity and radioactivity.
From the time of the ancients, electricity was always an astonishing and almost miraculous phenomenon. Any number of superstitions and myths attended the natural occurrence of lightening, and early Vikings believed that this phenomenon originated from a magic hammer thrown to earth by Thor, the god of thunder. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin established the relationship between lightening and electricity with his famous kite experiment.
Medical therapy drifted in many strange and unusual directions until physicians were required to test their treatments according to the scientific method with controlled series.
Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest inventors of modern times, and his early landmark discoveries include the radio and alternating current. He was able to transform household electricity into high voltage, high frequency, low amperage energy. His development of high frequency current in 1891 was picked up by the medical community as manufacturers incorporated this discovery in a variety of medial devices.
Electricity could be produced in a number of ways, and entrepreneurs were eager to capitalize on a growing and unregulated industry. Faradic, galvanic, wet and dry cell batteries, and static electricity produced direct current for home devices before indirect current was available to power larger machines in doctors’ offices.
The newly discovered wonder of radioactivity in the early twentieth century awaited a commercial application which was eagerly supplied by innovative entrepreneurs.
Light therapy has always been considered a healing force, and because they felt that light was the source of life, some Egyptian cults worshipped the sun and the healing ability of light. This modality was rediscovered by JH Kellogg in his "Light Therapeutics" (1910): "To be able to harness this force, to control it, and to focus it upon any desired organ or function of the body, is one of the newest and greatest triumphs of modern therapeutics.”
The explosion of technology and the discovery of the many applications of electricity in the early twentieth century provided opportunities for entrepreneurs who were not burdened by having to prove the safety or efficacy of their therapeutic theories.
There has been a long history of confusion regarding the efficacy of various therapeutic regimens, a fact that has often led to the success of disreputable physicians: a) many patients improve spontaneously no matter what the therapy, b) up to one third will feel better by placebo effect alone, and c), the therapist's convincing conclusion that a bad outcome resulted from the patient's sinful behavior or tardiness in seeking medical help.