Trigger Point Massage Therapy History

Trigger point therapy has been a subject of study by a number of doctors for several decades although this has not become part of mainstream medicine. The trigger point model states that unexplained pain frequently radiates from points of local tenderness to broader areas, sometimes distant from the trigger point itself. The existence of tender areas and zones of muscle stiffness/hardening has been recognized in medicine for many years and was described as muscular rheumatism or fibromyalgia.

Important work on trigger points was carried out by J. H. Kellgren at University College Hospital, London, in the 1930s and, independently, by Michael Gutstein in Berlin and Michael Kelly in Australia. The latter two workers continued to publish into the 1950s and 1960s. Kellgren conducted experiments in which he injected hypertonic saline into healthy volunteers and showed that this gave rise to zones of referred extremity pain.

Janet G. Travell’s work with trigger point and treatment of US President John F. Kennedy’s back pain led to her being asked to be the first female Personal Physician to the President. Today, much treatment of trigger points and their pain complexes are handled by myofascial trigger point therapists and other hands-on somatic practitioners who have had experience or training in the field of neuromuscular therapy (NMT).