Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Janet Travell, MD: Pioneer of Myofascial Medicine

"The pioneer in the study of chronic myofascial pain as we know it today is Dr. Janet Travell, later joined by Dr. David Simons. Travell discovered as early as 1940 that by applying pressure to a trigger point, she could establish and predict referred pain patterns. After successfully treating President John F. Kennedy for residual effects from bouts with myofascial pain and longstanding back problems, she was the first woman and first non-military doctor to be appointed to the post of White House physician. Dr. Travell is considered to be an expert authority, and her work and dedication continue to be internationally referenced.

Thanks to [Dr. Travell and Dr. Simons] dedication to scientific study and education, we now know that specific triggerpoints cause specific pain patterns and symptoms." (Cooper and Miller, 2010) 

One only has to visit Dr. Travell’s family tribute to understand the huge impact she had as White House physician to President John F. Kennedy. I hope you will take a moment to honor her by visiting the family’s memorial website. It is a testament to her work, her dedication, and to her life.

Dr. Janet Travell (1901 – 1997) was not only the personal  physician to President Kennedy, but she was also an Associate Clinical Professor at the George Washington University and made many other contributions to medicine. A collection of her work consists of manuscripts, reports, correspondence, research data, articles, newspaper clippings, photographs, and a variety of material from Dr. Travell's service in the White House. It is said to include 104 boxes, or 44.5 linear feet of materials. The collection was donated to the Gelman Library University Archives in 1998 by her daughters with the stipulation that it can only be used to further the research and study of myofascial medicine. (Accessed,1-24-2015).  Her work will live on.

She made a huge impact on our knowledge of myofascial pain syndrome, its perpetuators to pain, and the role of the myofascial trigger point not only in pain, but also as a contributing factor to many other autonomic, circulatory, and nerve-related symptoms. One might say she was also the founder of ergonomics because she understood, studied, and educated others about the effects of furniture, clothing, and posture on the body. She studied relentlessly to identify and map out the pain and symptom referral patterns associated with the location of each specific myofascial trigger point. 

She and Dr. David Simons and published the first medical textbooks on myofascial medicine.

Few in medicine have made such an impact and she and Dr. David Simons has made. Both were children of physicians.

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