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Medical ArticlesOf Whitlow
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Source: Papers On Health
This is severe pain in one part or other of the body,
sometimes followed by swelling of the painful part, but frequently
without much sign of anything wrong at that point. It is, as the name
implies, a trouble affecting the nerves which are connected with the
painful part, and usually there is nothing whatever wrong where the
pain is felt. Where, however, violent pain in the head or jaws results
from chill, there is an altogether different trouble, though it is
often called by the same name.
We have seen a man who had been in agony all night with pain all over
his head. We took a large piece of flannel, about the size of a small
blanket, rolled it up so as to get about a quart of boiling water
poured into the heart of the roll. We kneaded the whole for a little
time, to have the heat and moisture well diffused through the flannel.
We now placed a large towel fourfold on the pillow under the patient's
head, so that it could be brought as a good covering over the hot
blanket when that was on. We opened up the blanket steaming hot and
laid the head in the heart of it, bringing it carefully up all round,
then brought the large towel over all, and tucked him tidily in about
the shoulders. In less than two minutes he exclaimed, "I'm in
Paradise!" The pain was all gone, and in its place was a positive
sensation of delight. There was nothing here but a chilled skull to
deal with, and as soon as it felt the heat and relaxed, the man was
perfectly relieved. Then came the question as to how what had been got
was to be secured, so that he might continue well. After he lay about
three-quarters of an hour in this hot fomentation of the head, we took
it off, and rubbed gently some warm olive oil into the roots of the
hair, and all around the head and neck. We then gave all a good dry
rubbing with a hard towel, and covered up his head carefully, and kept
it covered for a day or two. He required no more treatment of any kind.
But when this treatment increases the pain, or fails altogether to
remove it, we have a trouble which calls for the very opposite
treatment. Then we have true neuralgia, which may be in any part of
the body, and which is relieved by cooling the roots of the nerves
which supply that part. For the face and jaws, cold must be applied to
the back of the head, neck, or brain generally. For pains in arms, cold
is to be applied to the upper, and for pain in legs to the lower part
of the spine; for pain in the body, cool the whole length of the spine.
The cooling is done by cloths moistened in cold water and well wrung
out, pressed on gently over the part, and renewed as they grow warm. If
the patient feels chilly, foment or bathe the feet and legs up to the
knees during the process of cooling. This may require to be done for an
hour. Finish by rubbing the parts cooled with hot vinegar and olive
oil, and wiping off.
Even young people are exposed to a great deal of suffering from this
source, and we feel sure that every one of these may be at once
relieved and cured by the vigorous use of the cold compress. When the
patient is warm in bed, the cold compress is one of the most delightful
of applications; and the warm olive oil, to keep what has been got,
make up a real blessing for the sufferer.
We have seen cases in which the cold compress has been applied up and
down the spine, but not with that full effect which could be desired.
Somehow it has not power enough in the hands applying it to reach the
roots of the evil. The want in such a case is generally of a person
sufficiently skilful in the use of the cold towel. There is a way of
pressing it gently over all the parts under which the affected nerves
lie, which secures the cooling of those roots very effectually. But
such skill is not always at hand when needed. Well, mustard is spread
over the surface of the cold towel, and the compress, thus increased in
power, is placed all along the centre of the back. We find that very
soon the pain begins to moderate, and ere long it has ceased. If it has
to be applied more than once, cayenne is greatly to be preferred. The
pepper does not hurt the skin, the mustard very soon does. A cold damp
towel, folded at least four-ply, and placed properly, after being
sprinkled well with cayenne, has an excellent effect.
In wild toothache, or bad nerve pain in the head, massage all over the
head for a considerable time will often cure. We know cases in which
agonising pain was thus removed years ago, and it has never returned.
There was first rubbing, in a gentle soothing way, over the whole head.
At a certain point, that began to lose its soothing influence. The cold
towel was then wrapped round the head, and gently pressed. As soon as
it warmed it was changed. This was done for perhaps three or four
minutes, and the rubbing repeated. The whole was kept up for about an
hour. All pain and uneasiness were then gone, and there was no return
It will be seen that it is essential properly to distinguish between
the pain requiring heat and that requiring cold for treatment. In any
case it is safe first to try the heat. Failing relief with this, the
cold may be tried. Sometimes the cooling of the head and spine succeeds
in driving off several attacks, but eventually fails to relieve. If in
such a case the cold is applied over the stomach, there is frequently
almost instant relief. Where the attacks can be traced to indigestion,
or come on always a certain time after a meal, this is the proper
method from the first. Where a decayed tooth is the cause of pain, of
course go to the dentist.
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