Terrifying Medical Practices No Longer Socially Acceptable

By Jack Ripley | April 12, 2023

This portable polio respirator was one of the smaller models available

Think back to the first time you remember visiting a doctor’s office. All of the equipment looked so large and frightening, and the examination was definitely strange, but regardless of which decade you made your first doctor’s visit it couldn’t have been as weird as the medical practices of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The tools, prescriptions, and ideas that were going around at the time certainly helped modern medicine get to where it is now, but it was definitely weird. Come along while we take a look at some of the most odd medicines and health practices from long ago. Let’s go!

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Polio was one of the worst viruses to infect the western world in spite of the fact that its most deadly incarnation was incredibly rare. This viral illness causes nerve damage, fever, and if it’s bad enough a loss of reflexes and muscle aches that make it impossible to breathe.

When you think about polio there’s no doubt that the iron lung comes to mind. This tank respirator was used to treat people in the early stages of polio who found it hard to breathe after polio paralyzed muscle groups in their chests.There were numerous variations on the tank respirator, and this design seems to offer a degree of comfort while still fixing a patient with a huge technical costume.

The last case of polio in the U.S. was recorded in 1979, although the virus still occurs in parts of Asia and Africa.

This woman is trying to improve her smile by giving herself dimples

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Regardless of era or age, people have always wanted to look their best and they’ll go to whatever lengths they can to make it happen. In 1936 New Yorker Isabella Gilbert created a face-fitting spring that shoved two small knobs into the wearer’s cheeks, giving them a gorgeous set of dimples.

It’s not clear how long the user was supposed to commit to this monstrosity in order to get the “fine set of dimples” on offer, or how long the dimples would last after this invention’s use, but the one that’s crystal clear as this definitely was a one way ticket to scarring your face forever.