Janet Travell (1901-1997) is the leading in the diagnosis of myofascial pain. Her extensive research produced over 100 scientific papers concerning her findings. She discovered and mapped myofascial trigger points* and published her findings in her groundbreaking medical opus: Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction, The Trigger Point Manual, Volumes I & II.
Over the decades of observing thousands of patients, Travell compiled maps of the most common trigger points and the areas to which they refer pain. The referred pain from trigger points don’t normally follow normal neural pathways, but may travel a considerable distance. For example, trigger points in the neck’s scalene muscles can irritate nerves that send pain, tingling or numbness down the arm and can feel like a tight grip on the wrist. TPs of the abdomen, pelvic area, gluteals and legs are often responsible for several common back pains. Trigger points in the neck muscles most often are the culprits that cause headaches, and levator scapulae trigger points are most often the cause of a stiff neck.
The ignorance of the role of trigger points in causing myofascial pain was considered by Travell the leading factor in misdiagnoses and subsequent ineffective treatment of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction. Though her findings are becoming more well known, most medical personnel are still unaware of the importance of these factors in chronic pain.
Trigger Point Therapy is safe and effective in alleviating myofascial pain and syndromes that erroneously are diagnosed as tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, menstrual problems, sciatica, TMJ, fibrositis, trick knee, whiplash, etc. Subsequent clinical research has shown that trigger points can be also responsible for headaches, muscle weakness and pain, restricted range of motion, dizziness and blurred vision.
from The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook:
“Among those who recognize the reality and importance of myofascial pain, Janet Travell is generally recognized as the leading pioneer in its diagnosis and treatment. Few would deny that she single-handedly created this branch of medicine. Many would contend that it’s the world’s great loss that her amazing career was not crowned with the recognition that would have come with a Nobel Prize.”
“At the time the first volume of her book went to press in 1983, she had been studying and treating trigger points and referred pain for over forty years. She had already published more than forty articles about her research in medical journals, the first appearing in 1942. Her revolutionary concepts about pain have improved the lives of millions of people.
The innovative clinical techniques for the treatment of pain that are beginning to be used by physicians and physical therapists all over the world wouldn’t have existed without Dr. Travell’s dedicated energy and intelligence.”
“Dr. Travell’s personal success with one particular patient had a far-reaching effect on history. Not many people remember that Janet Travell was the White House Physician during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. President Kennedy honored her with that position in gratitude for her treatment of the debilitating myofascial pain and certain other ailments that in 1955 had threatened to prematurely end his political career. It’s a stunning example of how trigger point therapy can change someone’s life and destiny.”
“Although in her sixties at the end of her duties at the White House, Dr. Travell had no intention of retiring or even slowing down. She went on developing and teaching her methods with vigor and enthusiasm for the next thirty years. She was past eighty when the first volume of her grand opus, Myofascial Pain & Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual was published, and past ninety when the second volume appeared. She refused to rush into print: she wanted to get it right.”
*NOTE: Dr. Travell described a trigger point as a hyper-irritable knot in tense muscle fiber that causes intense pain, often referred far from the trigger point itself). When pressed, a trigger point causes pain disproportionate to the finger pressure. Pressing on a muscle one inch from a trigger point might cause no discomfort, but the same pressure directly on the trigger point may cause immediate, intense pain–often far from the trigger point. In addition to pain, trigger points may cause muscle weakness and restricted motion.