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Pricking instrument; 'percusso-punctator', Europe, 1801-1900

Chronic, painful afflictions such as rheumatism, sciatica and neuralgia were treated using a percusso-punctator. The instrument consisted of an ebony sheath containing a spring mechanism with a group of needles set in its base. It was placed against the body and the needles pushed into the skin. The treatment gained credence with the medical profession during the late 1800s when the instrument evolved to use a small electric current that stimulated the skin. The instrument acted as a counter-irritant, causing irritation to the skin in the belief it would ease a deeper complaint. Instruments were rarely sterilised between uses until the 1870s and 1880s. This means the percusso-punctator was used on several people without cleaning, possibly spreading infection. ‘W. Schrattenholtz’ is engraved upon a brass plate on the wooden shaft, likely referring to either a physician or the instrument’s maker.

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: neuralgia

Spasms of pain which extend along one or more nerves.

Glossary: pricking instrument

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