The term shock is used very loosely by the layperson to denote a strong element of surprise but in medical terms it is the clinical manifestation of a failure of blood to return to the heart. The consequence of this is that the heart has less to beat upon and circulation diminishes.

The most common cause of shock is blood loss, which may be visible or invisible. Internal injuries in the chest or abdomen may allow a bleed of some quantity to occur without any external appearance. The abdomen can hold most of the blood in the circulatory system and the severing of a major artery such as the aorta or one of its main branches can lead to a state of shock within seconds.

The neurological system can induce medical shock by a sudden or severe surprise but it more usually occurs with fear. Fainting is often caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure caused by nervous impulses preventing the right amount of blood from reaching the brain. The nervous system may affect the arteries, as may toxins such as drugs or chemicals produced by certain bacteria. The effect is to cause marked dilation of the blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure and, again, preventing blood flow to the heart. Strictly speaking a heart attack or any condition that affects the beating of the heart can lead to shock.

Recognition of shock is important because rapid intervention may be necessary to save a life.

Any bleeding must be stemmed and any suspicion of internal bleeding must rapidly be dealt with by a doctor. First-aid techniques are necessary until such intervention is available. The signs are of pallor, weakness and a rapid heart beat accompanied by sensations of dizziness, confusion, nausea and a need to sit or lie down. If a blood pressure-recording instrument is available, a low blood pressure is usual.


Lower the head below the heart by placing it between the knees in a sitting position or lying flat with the legs raised.

Remember the ABC (Airways, Breathing, Circulation) of emergency resuscitation and move to stem any bleeding if visible.

Avoid giving anything by mouth, especially if internal bleeding is suspected because this may interfere with any necessary medical intervention.

Keep the individual warm, using body contact if necessary.

Despite the recommendation above, it is acceptable to give a few drops of Rescue Remedy or a few drops or pills of Arnica 6 or Aconite 6 under the tongue. Do this every lOmin until medical attention is received.

Electric shock

A high-level electricity jolt most commonly will have an effect by interfering with the electrical conductivity of the heart and stopping it temporarily or, sadly, permanently. Electric shock also has an effect on the nervous system through creating peripheral blood vessel dilation so that all of the blood pulls into the surface vessels, thereby reducing the cardiac flow.


Do not touch a body that has received an electric shock unless you are certain that it is out of contact with the source.

Use a non-conducting instrument such as a plastic broom handle to knock out any flex from the wall or pull the carpet from under the individual.

Emotional shock