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10+ Historical Medical Methods That Are Painful Enough To Send Chills Down Your Spine

Modern medicine has given us some truly wondrous achievements. Anesthesia, the artificial heart, and even things as simple as aspirin have improved our day to day lives. But how did we get to the land of milk and honey?

It was a bumpy road for sufferers of these common ailments. Some of these “treatments” could double as torture tactics. There is a reason “getting medieval” is a term which explains punishment.

History of Medical Methods

Ever since man started trying to comprehend the biological nature of the human body, he has been trying literally the whole enchilada to cure diseases. Many among the humans have been subject to testing of some medical method so as to find out how to cure a certain disease. Many ingenious methods were discovered but at the same time, very painful. Historical medical methods were not as advanced as they are today, but they did serve the purpose in the past quite well. They have been found to so painful that the person who was having the treatment would have wished to live without a treatment and die rather than get treated.

Boar Bile Enemas Historical Medical Methods


Boar Bile Enemas

Enemas in Medieval times were performed using long metal tubes with a cup on the ends called Clysters. The tube was inserted into the anus and “fluid” was then poured into a cup and pumped into the colon. Today, soapy water is the common method in enemas but back then it was boar’s bile, hence the name.

Trepanning Medical Methods

Source: Wikipedia Commons


Preceding lobotomies, trepanning was a painful historical medical method in which a hole was bored into the patients Dura Mater. Used as a remedy for seizures, fractured skulls, and mental illness, trepanning had an unusually high survival rate with very little cases of infection.

Hot Iron for Hemorrhoids Historical Methods

Source: franciscojaviertostado

Hot Iron for Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are a painful ailment that troubles us today. Fortunately, a hot bath in most cases will take care of them but historical sufferers weren’t so lucky. This past medical method involved inserting a red, hot iron directly up the anus. The less painful (and probably less effective) method had the patient sit on St. Fiacre’s Rock who was originally cured of his hemorrhoids using the former method.

Needle Eye Surgery Historical Medical Methods

Source: Wikipedia

Needle Eye Surgery

Before the invention of fancy laser eye surgery, cataracts were dealt with by this painful historical medical method. A huge needle was used to push the cornea to the back of the eye before Middle-Eastern medicine showed Europeans the light.

Metal Catheters Medical Methods

Source: jornaldenisa.blogspot

Metal Catheters

Due to various STD’s and no form of antibiotics to speak of, blocked bladders were handled with this painful medical method. A small metal tube was inserted into the urethra, which would eventually unblock the bladder. The pain was described as excruciated and was sometimes fatal.

Bloodletting Historical Medical

Source: bbc


This painful historical medical method of the past not only caused the patient unnecessary pain but also didn’t make much sense. Based on the logic of the female menstrual cycle, a doctor or a barber (you read that right) would make small incisions on the patient’s body according to their age, health, current location and the weather.

Childbirth Historical Medical Methods

Source: dc224.4shared


Childbirth in medieval times was so painful. Mothers were told to prepare their soul in case of death due to this historical medical method. In the case of breech births, Midwives would attempt to move the child in Utero (a common practice today) or they would shake the bed in an effort to move the child externally. In the unfortunate case of a dead baby, the remains were cut up with a sharp instrument while the child was still inside the womb and removed with a “squeezer” while the placenta was removed with a counterweight.

Battlefield Surgery Historical Medical Methods

Source: google

Battlefield Surgery

During a battle, surgeons would often have to employ this painful historical medical method. When a soldier was shot with an arrow, one couldn’t simply pull the arrow out as the tip would get stuck and cause more damage. Upon the invention of the “arrow spoon”, the surgeon could extract the arrow without further damage. They would then cauterize the would with a hot iron to prevent infection.

Hemiglossectomy Medical Methods

Source: Buzzfeed


This painful historical medical method was the bane of stutterers. Half of the sufferer’s tongue was removed in an effort to treat the ailment. The procedure is still used today for oral cancer with the benefit of anesthesia, a luxury stutterers didn’t have.

Source: susangyoung

The Tooth Man

Children may love the Tooth Fairy, however, the Tooth Man is quite a different story. they were historical dentists who traveled with the circus, wearing a pointy hat and a necklace of his “trophies”. Patients in need of an extraction would have to wait for the circus to come to town before they could find any relief. It is unknown why these tooth men would travel with the circus, however, the sound of the musicians would cover the sound of the screams emanating from the victims…er…patients.

Erectile Dysfunction Historical Methods

Source: fusion.kinja

Erectile Dysfunction

Viagra was nowhere near being invented when this painful historical medical method was being employed. In an effort to restore “men’s power”, electroshock therapy was employed as a cure. Electrified beds or even belts were used to get a man’s little soldier to stand at attention.

Lobotomies Historical Medical Methods

Source: Wikipedia


In the first half of the 20th century, a lobotomy was considered the bee’s knees. This painful historical medical method was performed for cases as serious as schizophrenia and as little as depression. The process involved driving a spike into the patient’s brain via the eye socket.

Lack of Anesthesia Historical Medical Methods

Source: Wikipedia

Lack of Anesthesia

The lack of anesthesia has been largely a myth over the centuries. Despite what films will tell you, anesthetics were around back then, however, patients often died due to lack of antibiotics. Some doctors would purposefully not use them as to not hear a patient scream was to imply that the doctor was weak.

Source: google

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This could not be a more true or painful lesson. Man’s naivete or perhaps his sadistic nature is presented in this list. So remember the next time you’re in your local pharmacy, thank you the deity of choice that they don’t carry rod irons.

Sometimes the same historical medical methods are applied today but they are less painful versions of what they once were; like Hemiglossectomy and Childbirth. You ought to be thankful to science that you won’t need a Needle Eye Surgery or to have your tooth removed without getting an anesthetic first. Even the thought of it would give you goosebumps! You’d rather live a miserable life than have such a painful method used on you.

Such historical medical methods are somewhat used for torturing purposes now a days, like tooth removal, hot iron and various other forms of medical methods. Pretty creative though, these medical methods. The inventors were indeed had a brilliant mind and a taint of madness in their head because these methods were so brutal. You might have to experience such a painful medical method, don’t feel too propitious!