Jean-Martin Charcot and his vibratory chair for Parkinson disease

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      Nathan Thorpe
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      Vibration therapy is currently used in diverse medical specialties ranging from orthopedics to urology to sports medicine. The celebrated 19th-century neurologist, J.-M. Charcot, used vibratory therapy to treat Parkinson disease (PD). This study analyzed printed writings by Charcot and other writers on vibratory therapy and accessed unpublished notes from the Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris. Charcot lectured on several occasions on vibratory therapy and its neurologic applications. He developed a vibration chair for patients with PD after he observed that patients were more comfortable and slept better after a train or carriage ride. He replicated this experience by having patients undergo daily 30-minute sessions in the automated vibratory chair (fauteuil trépidant). His junior colleague, Gilles de la Tourette, extended these observations and developed a helmet that vibrated the head on the premise that the brain responded directly to the pulsations. Although after Charcot’s death vibratory therapy was not widely pursued, vibratory appliances are reemerging in 21st century medicine and can be retested using adaptations of Charcot’s neurologic protocols.

      Goetz, C. G. (2009). Jean-Martin Charcot and his vibratory chair for Parkinson disease. Neurology, 73(6), 475-478. Retrieved from http://www.cinahl.com/cgi-bin/refsvc?jid=1744&accno=2010367955

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