In the presentation of a paper dealing with physical therapy technique, in which light we may justly regard Roentgen therapy, I feel that it is advisable, and indeed imperative, to point out the underlying physics substantiating the method employed. This point becomes of even greater importance and significance when presenting a scientific explanation of treatment to replace the heretofore mechanical method of attack.
The older methods of Roentgen therapy, though in many cases beneficial were, in their mode of action, purely mechanical and could often have been substituted by the cheap and most effective applications of the cherry-red soldering iron, for the ultimate goal in the past has been the destruction of the mass by the rays; often accompanied by undesirable, uncontrollable and fatal reactions.
Every Roentgenologist has experienced beneficial therapeutic results following a “sub-lethal” dose of Roentgen rays; and he has likewise experienced unexplained responses to Roentgen therapy. These two points alone must satisfy the thinking therapeutist that there is another action of the rays aside from that of destruction.
I think that there are few of us who are acquainted with the underlying bio-physics of cell metabolism, therefore few of us have attempted to apply the physics of ray generation and action to the existing physics or bio-physics of the body cell, but the day is now at hand when we as Roentgenologists, are called upon to view our problem in a truly scientific light and to utilize the knowledge of present day advances in the sciences of physics and chemistry; and when we do, we find them fitting in admirably.
It is impossible, in a presentation of this nature, and extent, to give more than a very brief glance into the complex physical foundation underlying our method of Roentgen therapy, however, the citing of a few basic facts of physics and physical chemistry will satisfy you with the rationality of the procedure.
Let us start with the cornerstone upon which this structure is rapidly being built.
The cornerstone is the atom, the basis of all matter; organic and inorganic, animate or inanimate. We cannot conceive of anything “under the sun” without dealing with this ultra- microscopic division of matter; all of us mortals being “under the sun” naturally come under the consideration of atomic structure, mechanism and energy, so let us proceed to briefly outline some points regarding this physical unit of anatomy and physiology.
Every atom, known to the present day scientist, is composed of two component parts; one a positive particle, named by Rutherford a proton; the other, a negative portion, or electron. These two components are endowed with equal quantity of electricity, but of course, opposite in sign.
Every atom is electrically neutral, that is, is composed of equal charge of positive and negative electricity, otherwise there would be no atoms. When an atom loses its electrical equilibrium it is termed an ion. There are, of course, two forms of ions; one, in which the atom has been deprived of an electron, and therefore termed a positive ion, with one elementary quantum of electricity; the other, in which an electron has been added, causing the formerly neutral atom to become a negative ion, with one elementary quantum of electricity.
Now, if we know that our body cells are nothing more or less than a mass of chemical substances, and that all chemical substances are merely chemical molecules massed together, and that these molecules are aggregates of ions, and that these ions are merely atoms which have been altered by the loss or addition of electrons, and are therefore electrically charged, we MUST view our bodies as a huge, functioning mass of electrically charged particles, or in brief, a mass of functioning electricity. This scheme naturally only applied to the living body, for it is quite likely that in due time after death, such functions are brought to a state of balance, but it is not until this balance of electrical units is brought about, that we can speak of death in the true sense of the term.