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Janet Travell, MD

Biographical Sketches

from The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook

Janet G. Travell, MD (1901-1997)

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.

Trigger point massage, the most effective modality used by massage therapists for the relief of pain, is based almost entirely on Dr. Travell’s insights. 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.

David G. Simons, MD (1922- )

David Simons lends authority to the study of myofascial pain with his long experience as a research scientist. In his early career, Dr. Simons worked as an aerospace physician, developing improved methods of measuring physiological responses to the stress of weightlessness.

A fascinating sidelight to Dr. Simons’s career is the world altitude record for manned balloon flight he set in 1957 as a young Air Force Flight Surgeon. In point of fact, he beat Sputnik into space. He was featured on the cover of Life magazine that year and subsequently wrote a book, Man High, about his adventure.

Drs. Travell and Simons first met when she lectured about trigger points and myofascial pain at the Air Force’s School of Aerospace Medicine. Simons was so intrigued by Travell’s work that he eventually retired from the Air Force and began a long informal apprenticeship under her wing. An intense synergy developed between the two over the next twenty years, culminating at last in the production of The Trigger Point Manual, an inspiring testament to the transcendent power generated when two minds of uncommon intelligence work together.

Dr. Simons’s strict attention to detail and adherence to scientific method helped him bring rigorous objectivity to the documentation of myofascial pain. He was the driving force in getting the Travell and Simons books written, doing most of the actual writing himself, with Dr. Travell’s vast knowledge and experience as his primary resource. One day, when ordinary people know about trigger points and the diagnosis and treatment of myofascial pain is taught widely in medical schools, physicians everywhere will honor Doctor Simons, along with his mentor, Dr. Travell, as true medical pioneers.

Into his eighties now, David Simons is still hard at work promoting further research concerning trigger points. His latest book, Muscle Pain: Understanding its Nature, Diagnosis, and Treatment, with coauthor Doctor Siegfried Mense, seeks to impart a better understanding of the neurophysiology of muscles.

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