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14 Now concerning rubbing, Asclepiades as if he were the inventor of the practice has treated it in his volume, entitled "Common aids," at such great length, that, though making mention only of three such aids, namely, Rubbing, Water-drinking, and Rocking, yet he has taken up the greatest part with the first-named subject. Now on such matters recent writers ought to have credit where they have made discoveries, or where they have rightly followed others; yet we must not omit to attribute to their true authors teaching found among the more ancient writers. And it cannot be disputed that Asclepiades has taught when and how rubbing should be practised, with a wider application, and in a clearer way, although he has discovered nothing which had not been comprised in a few words by that most ancient writer Hippocrates, who said that rubbing, if strenuous, hardens the body, if gentle,[p. 177] relaxes; if much, it diminishes, if moderate, fills out. It follows, therefore, that in the following cases rubbing should be employed, when either a feeble body has to be toned up, or one indurated has to be softened, or a harmful superfluity is to be dispersed, or a thin and infirm body has to be nourished. Yet when examined with attention (although this no longer concerns the medical man) the various species of rubbing may be easily recognized as all dependent on causing one thing, depletion. For an object is toned up when that is removed, which, by its presence was the cause of the laxness; and is softened when that which has been producing induration is abstracted; and it is filled up, not by the rubbing itself, but by the nutriment, which subsequently penetrates by some sort of dispersal to the very skin itself after it has become relaxed. The cause of the different results lies in the degree. Now there is a great difference between anointing and rubbing. For it is desirable that even in acute and recent diseases the body should be anointed and then gently stroked, but only during remissions and before food. But prolonged rubbing is unsuitable in acute and increasing troubles, unless it be in madness to procure sleep. Yet a prolonged illness and one declining from its primary vehemence loves this aid. I am quite aware that some say that the need for any aid is during the increase of diseases, not when diseases are tending to end of themselves. But this is not the case. For a disorder, even although it will end of itself, may be expelled yet more speedily by adopting the aid. An aid is necessary on two accounts, both that health may be regained at the earliest possible[p. 179] moment, and that what remains of the disease may not again become exacerbated from however slight a cause. Possibly the disease may have become less grave than it had been, yet is not completely got rid of, but some remnants of it persist, which the application of a remedy disperses. But while rubbing is rightly applied after a disorder has been lessened, yet it should never be applied whilst a fever is increasing: but if possible after the fever has entirely left the body, or if not, at least when it has remitted. Sometimes, moreover, rubbing should be applied to the body all over, as when a thin man ought to put on flesh; sometimes to a part only, either because weakness of the limb actually rubbed demands it, or that of some other part. For both prolonged headaches are relieved by rubbing of the head, although not at the height of the pain, and any partially paralysed limb is strengthened by itself being rubbed. Much more often, however, some other part is to be rubbed than that which is the seat of the pain; and especially when we want to withdraw material from the head or trunk, and therefore rub the arms and legs. Neither should we listen to those who would fix numerically how many times a patient is to be stroked; for that is to be regulated by his strength; and if he is very infirm fifty strokes may possibly be enough, if more robust possibly two hundred may be made; then an intermediate number according to his strength. Hence it is that the hand is to be passed even fewer times over a woman than over a man, fewer over a child or old man, than over a young adult. Finally, if particular limbs are rubbed, many strokes are re-[p. 181]quired and forcible rubbing; both because the body cannot be as a whole quickly rendered weak through a part, and it is necessary that as much as possible of the diseased matter should be dispersed, whether our aim is to relieve the limb actually rubbed, or through it another limb. When, however, general bodily weakness requires that the rubbing should be applied all over, it should be shorter and more gentle, just to the extent of softening the skin, so that the body may be more easily capable of forming new material from food recently consumed. As I have stated above (II.6.7), a patient is already in a bad way, when the exterior of the body is cold, whilst his interior is hot and there is thirst. But even then rubbing is the only remedy; if it draws the heat outwards into the skin, it makes possible an opportunity for other treatment.
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