Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/257

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that full attention should be given at once to nervous pains and the means of counteracting them. First, every pernicious influence which may directly exert an irritating influence upon the nerves should be removed; then the remote causes which manifest themselves by nervous pains should be dealt with.

The removal of a decayed tooth may cure a face-pain at once and forever; taking away a body pressing upon the hip-nerve may be a complete remedy for a sciatica. Like ends may be reached in other cases by a regulated way of living which will lead to improved digestion and a more healthy circulation. The simple operation of an aperient, as I have had occasion to observe at Marienbad, has sometimes at once alleviated nervous pains that had defied every sort of treatment for years. Yet we do not always succeed in elucidating the causes of such troubles and removing them.

In such case the task of the physician, seeking to alleviate the pain, is to reduce the sensitiveness of the nerves. Sometimes he seeks to attain that object by applying counter-irritants on the skin along the course of the nerve or in its neighborhood. Of such are mustard-plasters, Spanish flies, burning, and dry cupping. Electrical treatment constitutes one of the most important applications for curing sick nerves. With alleviation of the pain, weakening of the attacks, and quieting of the nervous excitement, it also often induces improvement and cure in desperate cases. The same is also frequently accomplished by the use of warm baths, such as may be had at many natural thermal springs, sulphur, and other medical baths. Sometimes, when the pains are refractory to the application of heat, cold baths, washing and rubbing are of effectual service; and the cold-water method not rarely achieves real triumphs in cases of long standing, particularly when the neuralgia is the result of a cold, and it is desired, by hardening the organs of the skin, to make them less sensitive to changes of weather. Local applications of cold in the shape of ice-bags, cold poultices, etc., afford effective means of reducing the supersensitiveness of a nerve. Sometimes drugs are necessary which have the property when introduced into the blood of increasing or reducing the power of feeling. These remedies are applied outwardly or inwardly, and many of them have been known from ancient times. Narcotics taken inwardly, like opium and morphine, should be used with great care, and reluctantly. Beneficial and even indispensable as may be the pain-stilling and quieting operation of these drugs, it must not be forgotten that the human organization easily accustoms itself to them, so that ever more frequent application and larger doses of them are demanded, and, at last, bodily disease and mental disorder are brought on through the general poisoning they occasion. The