JFK’s Secret Doctor

Two years ago I had a conversation with Jeff Lutz, a trigger point therapist from Pittsburgh, on the work of Dr Hans Kraus. I did a little research on Kraus’s thoughts on back pain and then let it slip by. Trolling the internet earlier this year I saw that a book was being written on his life. After many publishing delays it recently arrived.

Author Susan Schwartz has called it ‘JFK’s Secret Doctor’ because Kraus had to be smuggled in to the White House from his NYC base over 80 times so as to not alert the public of Kennedy’s frail back condition. Kennedy already had Janet Travell MD on board as White House Physician, but her work had plateaued (according to the book she was eventually fired).

Kraus had developed what he called the Kraus-Weber tests along with Dr Sonja Weber, also from Austria, in the 1940s. They were trying to fathom the root cause of poor posture in American children. They tried their K-W tests on 4400 kids in the USA, of which 56% flunked them and compared it with that of 3156 European kids where just 8% flunked. They hypothesized that bad posture accounted for 80% of future disabilities.

The six key muscle areas tested were muscles of the hips, stomach, hips and stomach combined, upper back, lower back and hamstrings. All were tested for minimal strength and flexibility. The kids’ poor posture resulted from poor muscles and so the Doctors developed an exercise programme as the cure.

Bonnie Prudden became a patient (and special friend) after breaking her pelvis in a ski accident. After suffering for many years Kraus ‘healed her within weeks. She also became Kraus’s climbing partner and developed her own way of treating trigger points as outlined in her book ‘Pain Erasure’.

Kraus’s own method to treat muscle pain was to numb the damaged area with ethyl chloride then vigorously mobilise the damaged tissue, even in the acute phase. No RICE for him. He also gave very (very) painful trigger point injections and made his patients adhere to a strict protocol of exercises.

His results were quick and lasting and made him extremely sought after. It didn’t make him accepted by the conventional medical community though.

Jeff is now President of NAMTPT and we meet and chat on a regular basis. Thanks to him we are exploring the Kraus-Weber test protocol and the Kraus-Marcus exercise routines at 360NMT. (Norman Marcus will be the subject of a future blog.)

Trigger point deactivation, soft-tissue mobilization, stretch and exercise for pain elimination. There’s a concept. I’ll let you know how we get on.