Taut Band Therapy
Strategies for Pain Reduction


The outstanding research of Janet Travell regarding the phenomena of trigger points has had profound implications for the science of bodywork therapy. Her early publications almost single-handedly legitimized the emerging science of trigger points and myofascial pain. Her “Spray and Stretch” method demonstrated that it is the lengthening of muscle fibers which is primarily responsible for normalizing these abnormal muscular dynamics.

Taut Band Therapy is based on Travell’s research and method. However, it is distinct from her method because there is no cooling spray. In addition, this therapy does not emphasize the circulatory benefits attributed to the “ischemic compression” techniques which were prominently featured in early editions of Travell’s and Simons’ texts. Although circulatory stimulation is probable, it is the stretch in Travell’s method that is most essential in achieving the benefits of pain reduction and increases in functional strength.

On one hand, abnormal tensions within taut bands help to generate and perpetuate trigger points and sore attachment points. On the other hand, pain in such areas evokes involuntary responses which directly contribute to increased tension. Taut Band Therapy is designed to resolve this important dilemma. The resolution of tensions within these bands is critical to the process of pain reduction; and levels of pain intensity must be reduced in order to facilitate lengthening.

Travell’s research proved that pain originating from a trigger point within the muscle may reflexively inhibit the motor neuron which innervates the muscle. When this happens, fewer motor units are recruited and the muscle becomes functionally weaker. Restoration of the muscle’s full function requires this neural inhibition to be reduced. In this regard the effects of Taut Band Therapy can be dramatic and almost immediate. When the pain of the trigger point is eliminated the muscle’s functional strength can improve as much as 25%.

The lengthening of tight muscle fibers must be accomplished in a manner that does not violate sensitive pain thresholds. If pain thresholds are overstepped the body’s involuntary/reflexive responses to pain are provoked resulting in immediate, automatic contractions. In Travell’s method the mandate to work within these limits was facilitated by spraying a vapocoolant to block the responses of sensory nerves. Taut Band Therapy accomplishes these challenges in two ways. Therapists must work slowly enough, gently enough, to be undetected by the “alarms” at the threshold. Also, this therapy enables practitioners to actually reduce the intensity of pain from trigger points through application of pressure at other points along the length of the band.