Janet Travell's quick cure for hiccups

Muscle Therapy Pioneer Also Cured Hiccups   by Jane Miller

The following article first appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette, June 5th, 1996.

Dr. Janet Travell, who is best known as President Kennedy's personal physician, once wrote a 17 page article for a post-graduate medical journal on the history of hiccups and several cures, including, the best cure.

"She received five thank-you notes from doctors," said Tasso Spanos, who teaches Travell's muscle therapy methods at The Pain Treatment Center on the South Side.

One doctor contacted Travell for permission to condense the article for a popular national magazine. It ran about 20 years ago.

"After it was printed, she received 5,000 thank-you letters -- all from doctors," Spanos said.

Later, when Spanos was telling the story to a large group, a surgeon in attendance interrupted and said, "But what's the cure?" Upon hearing it, he ran out of the room in search of a telephone.

When he returned, the physician explained that his brother, who was also a doctor, had had a case of the hiccups for five weeks. Just the day before, he had signed a release to be injected with curare, a highly poisonous substance made from South American plants that is sometimes used by doctors to paralyze muscles.

As the man spoke to his brother in his hospital bed, he explained the Travell procedure. Within seconds, the brothers hiccups stopped.

The procedure? Lean forward. Take a deep breath and exhale. Then gently touch an object, such as the back of a spoon or a spatula, to the uvula palatina, the pendulum tissue which hangs down in the back of the throat. Though it may cause a slight gagging, it stops hiccups instantly. 

Through her work with President Kennedy and many, many other back pain sufferers, Dr. Travell discovered that deep manual pressure applied to trigger points had a dramatic therapeutic effect by quickly eliminating pain. The work she developed with her colleagues evolved into what is known today as Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy.

 
 

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