We would call it quackery or chicanery today if doctor’s told us to take baths in water carrying electrical currents – but once upon a time, whole institutions were built upon treating people with ‘galvanic baths’. As if electricity wasn’t bad enough, we know now that water + electricity = death; back then we used it to treat everything from autism to zygomycosis.
The Schnee Four Cell Bath was used for treating general rheumatic conditions and painful joints. A patient would be seated with an individual bath for each limb. Each bath had its own current, which could be varied independently. In this treatment patients could bear a much stronger current than with electrodes on small areas, because of the large skin area exposed to the current in each bath.
There was no danger of electric shock as in a full bath as the porcelain tubs were not connected to water pipes and were well insulated from earthing. The quantity of water required was not great and did no depend on a nearby water supply. It also allowed the person to be treated without undressing, speeding up treatment times and proving much more comfortable and convenient than a full body bath.
Today, galvanic baths are considered an alternative medical treatment in the broad category of electrotherapy. They’re used to treat many degenerative diseases along with rheumatoid arthritis; the procedure is pain-killing and improves circulation in the areas of the body that are submerged in water. Hot tubs are beneficial in many of the same ways as galvanic baths, but have the added benefit of being hubs of social activity in the convenience of your own backyard!