Enter the words ‘tissue memory’ in any search engine such as Google and you’re taken immediately to several hundred references. As often as not, these relate the experiences of therapists and healers of all types in dealing with the spontaneous recall of past traumas and other events in the lives of people being treated. Such recall can occur either or both to the patient and to the therapist.

The reality of tissue memory has some science behind it: immune system response, for example, is enhanced by the memory T-cells holding information about a previous attack by specific foreign antigens; and muscle memory improves the ability of top class sportspeople and musicians to perform optimally even under extreme pressure.

There is no science that supports the existence of tissue memory in the way I will describe except with one interesting phenomenon that has been noted by scientists. I refer to memories about donors of organ transplants recalled by the recipients! (Lauren Slater 2003, New York Times Magazine, quoted in ‘The Times’, London, on 16 April 2003).

The fact that there is no science does not diminish the possibilities. It’s just that science has not thought the topic worth researching unless the findings on transplants encourage a researcher somewhere to widen the search for evidence. Nonetheless, the reality that tissue memory is known to exist for some functions within the body strongly suggests that it is much more widespread within the body than science has so far recognised.

Purely as a hypothesis I think that what we call tissue memory is more likely stored in the body’s magnetic fields – rather like the hard disc of a computer – and that it can therefore be read through the merging of the energy fields of the person carrying out the treatment and the person being treated. For those who believe, as I do, that there is a review of our lifetime shortly after we die and that we live through many lives, it’s interesting to speculate that perhaps our whole life experiences are stored in our energy fields to be downloaded and reviewed as part of that post-death experience!

My experience of tissue memory – and its significance in achieving healing – lies with memories that arise while treating illness and injury of all types. The conclusions I draw may not necessarily be true of emotional and mental disturbances that have not lead to either physical injury or an illness; although I have found that everything I relate in this article is just as true for issues such as depression and lack of concentration. Nonetheless, I have no intention of straying into territory that more properly belongs to Psychologists and Psychotherapists!

It’s also rare for clients I work with to experience spontaneous recall, although it does sometimes happen. More usually it’s my obtaining information from the tissues, leading to me making a comment to the person I’m treating, that triggers off the response.

Before I give a few examples of my work with clients, I set out some of the conclusions I draw. For me, reading the tissues is a kind of clairvoyance that occurs once I put my hands on the person being treated – and that sometimes occurs while I’m sitting at their head even before I take up physical contact.

Here are my conclusions (with more detailed explanations following the list):

  1. Much of the illness with which I deal provides a ‘wake-up call’ to the client to attend to an important aspect of their self-development that’s being neglected. In many cases, the self-development issue is a talent that’s either unrecognised or under-used. It’s as though ‘Life’ thrives on all of our talents being un-locked and used for the benefit of the Human Race as a whole!
  2. The only information that the tissues provide is that necessary to remind the client about that self-development aspect. Comments about the primary self-development issue needing attention by the person being treated are often accompanied by advice on how to tackle the issue.
  3. All that is necessary is for the client to acknowledge the issue – without any further debate being required – for the healing process to take place. Healing may still require several more treatments but the acknowledgement removes any previous block to the healing taking place.
  4. Once acknowledged, the significance of ‘listening’ to tissue memory is revealed: that it enables permanent healing to take place instead of temporary relief being achieved, necessitating further treatment later on.

Dealing with these in more detail:

The ‘wake-up call’

Our lives have a purpose.  Life is not a random accident. We are born with a purpose in mind that we know before we are born but which, through the birth process, we forget. Why? Simply because we’d want to go back rather than face the tasks we’ve set ourselves! Yes, we set our own tasks as part of our overall plan of Spiritual Development that may take many lives to achieve. In that sense, all our lives – and our between-lives experience – are continuous.

I see this sense of purpose being revealed by the tissues over and over again and clients’ lives being transformed as a result: to the point where I confidently assert that our lives have a purpose and that there is a guiding intelligence into which we can tap, when we’re ready to do so.

The way it seems to work is this: our Body intelligence has an awareness of the task(s) we set ourselves to carry out. There is only one way it can communicate with us to remind us what that task is: by changing or interfering with the energy rhythms of the healthy body so that illness results. It’s in this sense that illness provides us with the wake-up call, giving us time to consider our lives and what we’re doing with them.

And does this apply to children and to people born with congenital disease? I generally find less information being available in these cases but have experienced sufficient ‘readings’ of the tissues to say that the answer is still ‘yes’: it’s here that tissue memory might provide a link with an earlier life or with earlier lives with which our current life is one of a sequence. In other words, it provides information on this life being linked to an earlier one; and hence the disease being treated.

Is ‘tissue memory’ an ‘open book?’

The only information revealed is that necessary to help the healing process. We cannot read the tissues as though they were an open book for us to read whatever information we think is interesting. For example, if the illness is linked to a talent that we’re neglecting or failing to develop, all that will be revealed is a reminder of that talent: not the life story of the person being treated!

Acknowledgement is enough

Once the therapist speaks the illness-linked issue, it is enough for it to be acknowledged by the patient. There is no need for any discussion or debate; and nor is there any need for the therapist to understand what the issue is. Advice is often offered about how to deal with it. I stress that the ‘advice’ is not coming from me. As well as ‘speaking’ what I sense is an issue linked to the condition I’m treating, I also feel compelled to ‘speak’ everything that comes to me while the tissue memory is flowing, including advice on what to do about it. Interestingly, ‘speaking’ tissue memory may only take a minute or two in a treatment session lasting about 45 minutes.

Permanent healing

Most therapists have experienced clients who finish their sequence of treatments apparently healed; only to find them returning for further treatment for that condition some weeks or months later. I’ve come to believe that the missing element is that we haven’t listened enough to their tissues or provided the conduit through which the client is enabled to acknowledge some important missing item of self-development in their lives; and that having that item acknowledged enables a permanent healing to take place.


Tissue memory about unresolved trauma sometimes arises during treatment. Abuse of all kinds: sexual, mental and physical are the ones I find appearing most often although other emotional and/or physical trauma can also be linked to illness.

There is no clear pattern of direct correlations between specific types of trauma and the illness that eventually results. Sexual abuse occurring in childhood can manifest as illness or physical injury or weakness many years later in adulthood and frequently affects the pelvic region. This is not its only link, though. As one example it can also appear during the treatment of pancreatic disorders.

I must emphasise that this is definitely not stating that all pelvic disorders have a childhood sexual abuse origin! There are many causes of which sexual abuse may be one. Where it is the cause then it is simply sufficient for it to be acknowledged by the client, without any further discussion, for the body to begin the process of releasing the tissue tension or energy blockage leading to healing.

In this area of trauma sometimes being linked to an illness, I find myself at odds with Trauma specialists in that there is absolutely no need for the trauma to be revisited. Even in the mental field, post-September 11 research suggested that repression provided a healthier outcome than talk-therapy. I have to be careful, though: it’s not my field! However, there have been too many successful outcomes with the therapist identifying the tissue memory, client accepting it without further discussion cycle for me to ignore it!

How do we access tissue memory?

Therapists and healers reading this who have not so far experienced tissue memory may be wondering how to start. The only advice I can give is to trust your intuition and ‘speak’ whatever comes to you during a treatment session. Do not be discouraged if nothing comes. I do not ‘read’ the tissues with every treatment. Not everything we treat has an emotional issue attached to it and nor can we demand access to information stored in the tissues of the people we treat. It will be revealed if it needs to be.

As a simple example of the therapist not needing to understand what’s being revealed, I once treated a patient’s pelvic region that seemed totally locked and encaged. In this case the tissue message was straightforward: there was a needless but nonetheless strong sense of self-blame associated with the pelvis. This was immediately recognised and acknowledged by the patient and, although I hadn’t the faintest idea what this self-blame related to – and I don’t make guesses where tissue memory is concerned – it was clear that this was the only tissue ‘message’ that the patient needed to acknowledge for the healing process to proceed, even though several more treatments were required.

Here are some examples:

I start by stressing that the examples I give are based purely on my treatment sessions. Although they recur with a number of different patients – and can therefore be said to be providing a constant theme – I also stress that it’s vital to ‘listen’ and not to assume that two different patients suffering, say, low back pain face the same developmental issue.

The respiratory diaphragm

The diaphragm should operate as though it’s energy porous but frequently acts as a barrier arising from stored anger and frustration much of it against ourselves. I find that the tension held here is present in a wide range of conditions I treat: tension headaches, earache and ear infections, neck and shoulder pain and tension, anxiety and panic attacks, respiratory and throat problems of one kind or another, allergies, intestinal issues of many kinds including Candida, and pelvic, low back and lower limb problems.

The tension held here can be so chronic that it feels as though some of my patients have forgotten how to breathe or are holding their breath in the expectation of some calamity about to befall them.

This ‘holding’ of anger and/or frustration (often arising from our apparent inability to solve our problems, deal with our own perceived inadequacies and generally gain control of our lives) creates tension in the pericardium (the membrane surrounding the heart) and also the two principal neck muscles (trapezius and SCM) attached to the ribs and ziphi-sternum respectively.

The tension can sometimes be so acute that it causes chest pain and is sometimes taken to be an impending heart attack. The tissue links between the diaphragm’s attachment to the lower end of the sternum (the breast-plate) and the attachments of the two principal neck muscles to the sternum, ribs, collar bone and shoulder blades transmit the held tension in such a way that headaches, neck and shoulder pain and tension are also created.

Similarly, the respiratory diaphragm connection through the crura at the third lumbar spine vertebra contributes to tensions held further down the body and are one of the causes of the conditions identified earlier.

One of the more frequent linked issues I come across are patients living ‘too much in their heads’ who seem unable to quieten their over-busy minds. For anyone interested in the possibilities of energy medicine and prepared to consider an esoteric explanation of what’s happening, here is that explanation!

The ‘third eye’ (the brow chakra) arises from the development of insights and knowledge over many life-times which, together with our instinctive feelings that come to us through the heart energy found in the heart chakra, give us powerful tools to use in our everyday lives. The heart is where we’re most closely in contact with the Universe, God or whatever our belief system is; and instinctive feelings that arise here are taken into the body via the solar chakra – hence our ‘gut’ feelings. Pelvic energy then gives us the ‘passion’ and enthusiasm needed to take our instinctive feelings through to fruition, assisted by the determination and courage that also arise from the solar chakra. (Pelvic energy is a mix of the root and base chakras that give us our sense of identity and tribal origin).

The frustration barrier at the respiratory diaphragm prevents these linkages working so that the third eye becomes disconnected from our instinctive feelings (too much ‘head’ activity); we lose the ability to either act on our gut feelings or to bring passion and belief into the issues and talents that are dear to us.

Clearing this barrier – and reinstating its ‘porous’ facility – enables the intermingling of these energies that we all need for successful living and health. It’s an intermingling that’s required rather than for one or other of the energies to be dominant.

The upper chest

There are various issues that can settle in the chest:

  • The upper thorax is 4th chakra influenced and its usual tissue message is much more practical: either about chilling out more – by meditation, contemplation or just having a few quiet moments; or about learning to relax into enjoyment! This is where we rediscover the innocent joy and pleasure of childhood, allowing joy and happiness to permeate every part of our beings. It’s surprising how many people don’t actually know how to enjoy themselves! One of the principal messages from the ‘Universe’ is that it’s OK to enjoy ourselves: we are not required to be serious and work committed all the time!
  • A sense of anxiety, arising from all kinds of causes, settles in the chest generally not only creating tensions there leading to respiratory and other illnesses, including sleeplessness, but also spreading to the shoulders, neck and head. Recognising this, once its vocalised, seems to allow the heart energy centre to relax with a corresponding relaxation in the tension held in the respiratory diaphragm. This leads to easier and more natural breathing and a restoration of fluid flow and nerve function to all parts of the body.
  • Sometimes, the tension in the lower thorax arises from too high a sense of responsibility towards others (at the neglect of one’s own needs). The ‘antidote’ – as given by ‘tissue memory’ – is to remind yourself that your ‘belief system’ is present in this (the ‘God chip’ in all of us) and that it looks after the issue for which we feel responsibility leaving us free to get on with our lives.

The spinal column

I’ll now move on to the issues held along the spine. These sometimes present as separate issues linked to a specific part of the spine and sometimes as linked issues.

Hip conditions remind us to learn to trust our ‘gut feelings’ about our talents and developmental needs without fear of the consequences and to bring enthusiasm and passion into achieving this. Included in this is taking on what we see as daunting personal challenges. These issues tend to affect the left hip rather than the right, with issues relating to personal insecurity tending to manifest on the right. Anger either against people close to us or our belief system, coupled with a sense of being let down by them, usually affects not only the left hip but also the sphenoid and ethmoid. I say more about this at the end of this section.

An example of a daunting personal challenge was experienced by one of my female clients who was reluctant to take on a leadership role offered to her in a principally male environment: a challenge that would take her out of her personal ‘comfort zone’!

‘Leadership’ – in terms of our personal development – doesn’t necessarily mean taking a leading role or being ‘the leader’. It often just means being prepared to say what we think, even when we fear that what we think is inconsequential. Compromise can be helpful, in some circumstances, but all too often we propose or look for compromise out of fear of expressing what we really believe. It’s only by courageously learning to say what we really think, both professionally and personally, that we develop the ability to speak passionately about what we believe in; and only by bringing such passion into our lives do we gradually free our bodies of its pelvic and backbone tensions and pain.

How often do we eventually speak up and, as we do so, suddenly realise that we really understand what we’re saying as though for the first time? There’s nothing like that realisation to imbue our demeanour and voice with the passion necessary to make others listen to us! We may still have to compromise, eventually, but at least we’ve said what we think rather than burying it so that it re-emerges as bodily pain and tension.

Sometimes, it may be less about ‘leadership’ and more about saying what we think – especially with family, friends or business colleagues who are in conflict or disagreement with each other. If we have conciliatory skills, we may still need to use them, but not until we’ve said our piece. Hiding what we think, in the interests of compromise, means we’re hiding our talents and abilities away and this ‘suppression’ eventually is reflected into pain and tension in our tissues.

[Note to craniosacral therapists: When dealing with severe spinal and pelvic issues it’s always worth checking the sphenoid. I often find that the SBS is either compressed or locked, especially when the pelvis is the main area being treated. Deal with this patiently because there are also often other sphenoid lesions hidden behind the main one. Interestingly, I also find that irregular sphenoid movement reflects either an issue around trust: often trust in their inner belief system where they’re being challenged by apparently insuperable problems in either their private or work lives; or a challenge to their values e.g. is the patient in a job whose values conflict with their own values; or, possibly, are they compromising their own beliefs in their relationships for the sake of ‘keeping the peace’ and thus failing to be true to themselves?]

There seems to be a particularly strong correlation between sphenoid and SBS imbalances and pelvic issues (possibly an indication that it’s ‘lack of trust’ or value issues that lie at the root of the condition being treated- a particular example of reciprocal tension in ‘action’). Again, don’t assume that sphenoid imbalances only reflect pelvic conditions – they are often present when treating other conditions, especially headaches.

You’ll often find, too, that the ethmoid seems very locked or sluggish. This usually indicates that the patient doesn’t see their way ahead at all clearly: too many problems in the way and so on. This arises from much the same issues: either of lack of trust that their inner belief system will help them solve their problems; or cloudiness around their values that are being challenged in some way: hence, a total lack of clarity about their ‘way ahead’].

Severe pelvic conditions.

Continuing to ‘hug’ our comfort zones can cause pelvic issues of all kinds because turning away from implicit trust in our belief system effectively blocks ‘heart energy’ from connecting with ‘pelvic energy’ eventually leading to either locking up or partly disabling the pelvic area.

An example of this lies with left or right hip conditions that are coupled with disturbances in both the sphenoid and ethmoid. On their own, both the latter give the separate messages already referred to above.

When all three – sphenoid, ethmoid and left hip area are disturbed or frozen in some way – this usually indicates stored anger against someone close to them emotionally, whether friends, family or God! There’s a general feeling of having been let down by them in some significant way: hence the anger. If there is pelvic tension but it’s on the right, then you’re probably looking at some form of personal insecurity with all these pelvic conditions being sub-sets – as it were – of the general pelvic issue of being locked into fear in some way, especially fear of challenging one’s personal boundaries.

Fear essentially arises because we’re dislocated from our belief system in some way: in other words we’ve lost trust in it and our ability to follow our instinctive feelings. So the left hip reflects this lost contact with our belief system; with the right hip reflecting an earlier stage of diminishing trust when the ‘going gets really rough’ and we can’t see our way through to a solution; and the centre (around the sacroiliac joint) our loss of trust in ourselves (sometimes in terms of possible ‘temptations’) and our abilities. In all these, the energy link between heart and pelvis breaks down: we no longer trust our instinctive feelings.

There is a close link between what arises in the pelvis from this loss of trust and feelings of anxiety held in the thorax. There may be stiffness around the lumbar area generally and especially in the lumbar spine (with the respiratory diaphragm being the ‘conduit’ because of its attachment to the 3rd lumbar vertebra and its further attachment to the pericardium surrounding the heart ). The close link between pelvic, lower back and thoracic conditions arises from our inability to let go. Having mentally passed our problem(s) over to our belief system to resolve, we continue to worry at it (thereby exhibiting a lack of trust which inhibits or prevents resolution). It’s better to relax into enjoying our lives as they are or if circumstances are such that they cannot be enjoyed, to leave the issues ‘parked’ and simply get on with our lives as best we can. It still helps, though, to mentally acknowledge the people and things in our lives that we enjoy!

You’ll probably also find tension held in the respiratory diaphragm: anger against people close to us emotionally is often coupled with anger against ourselves, which may also be the by-product of some past traumatic experience. Fortunately, it’s the impact on the body we’re treating, not the trauma – although you may sense some issue that needs to be spoken. My experience is that, if this is the case and it touches on some past trauma, we can rely on the body intelligence only revealing that which the patient needs to know and that there is, therefore, no risk of re-traumatisation occurring.

Low back pain can also arise from either an inability to make an important decision (and/or a reluctance to make a decision because of the impact on others, particularly spouses and partners); or fears arising from lack of money. (Without being pedantic about this, I often find indecision affects the left side more than the right and that money problems tend to affect the right side). I emphasise that not all low back pain is linked to these issues: it can be caused by all kinds of structural, accidental or traumatic stress and we must not assume anything unless the tissues ‘reveal’ it.

Mid-back pain indicates too much inhibition about speaking our minds to any group we are part of where there is a collective decision to be made. We are too ready to compromise and do so without our friends/colleagues knowing what we really think because we don’t tell them! The accompanying ‘advice’ is usually to train ourselves to say what we think so that everyone in the group is clear about this. Compromise may still be necessary because it’s often the only way in which things can get done and the vital change required by that person is to accept the challenge of ‘speaking out’ so that friends, colleagues and family know what’s in their mind! As before, don’t assume this issue is what’s causing all the mid-back pain you treat. As an example, horse riders frequently have a compressed thoracolumbar junction affecting the nerves in that area; and producing pain.

Upper back and neck pain are usually linked to a sense of betrayal, either from someone close to the person being treated or frequently having a deeper cause such as a sense of having betrayed one’s own principles or beliefs. Again, do not assume this is the cause of all upper back pain: there can be postural or stress issues that are independent of this ‘personal development’ issue. Listen to the tissues and do not fret if they fail to ‘speak’ to you!

Tension and/or pain around the atlanto-occipital joint (the joint that attaches the skull to the spine) often arises as a result of patients neglecting their own needs in favour of supporting and succouring others. Many of us are brought up to put others’ needs first but it seems essential to our development that we allow more room for ourselves rather than subordinating everything we do to succouring others: not an easy balance to find!

These are issues that I find with spinal conditions. Bear in mind, though, that these are a summary of the issues I generally find ‘locked’ into the spine and that there can be subtle variations of those themes for different people. The essence is not to immediately assume that you will, for example,  find indecision ‘locked’ into the lower back; and to allow whatever information is to be given to come through without pre-judgement.

Hayfever and other allergies

A number of my patients mention they suffer hayfever when they see me for treatment for other conditions. I often find the hay-fever receives the first ’tissue memory’ mention in that they’re either continually ‘beating themselves up’ with self-criticism, or live too exclusively inside their own heads, or both.

The same ‘source’ (which I think is the inherent wisdom contained within their own bodies of which their minds are part) often offers advice along the lines of switching their attention to something positive about themselves whether it’s an achievement that pleases them or something in their lives that they enjoyed. This seems a more effective remedy than trying to stop their negative thoughts about themselves – in other words, switching their attention to something good about themselves helps their tendency to feel bad about themselves to wither away.

So far as living in their own heads is concerned, this is more to do with the whole of their attention being essentially focused on themselves in negative ways, even though their motivation is seeking ways of improving themselves. It sometimes makes them seem very withdrawn. The solution (offered through their own ’tissue memory’) is for them to be more outgoing and, if they must dwell internally, let it be on practical issues rather than mulling over their latest failure to be as perfect, brilliant or right about a recent event as they would have liked to have been. It often comes with a tendency to be too perfectionist.

A theme that runs through tissue memory ‘readings’ is that there is no requirement on us anywhere in the Universe to be perfect. Therapists and other Health Professionals seem particularly prone to over-criticising themselves – or at least the ones I treat do! We’re allowed to make mistakes. Often, it’s the only way in which we can learn. Finding ways to live without fear can rarely be accomplished without our making mistakes along the way.

I’ve also found these themes run through other allergic reactions I’ve treated, although I have less experience with other allergies than with hay-fever.

The throat

As much of this paper is about vocalising any feelings that arise during treatments, it seems appropriate to finish with the throat. The heart chakra (from which our instinctive feelings initially arise) wants to be heard and the voice is its main vehicle for achieving this.

The throat is the centre of the 5th chakra – and perhaps could more aptly be referred to as the voice chakra for it’s here that our psychic centre resides. This is where we find clairvoyant and other psychic abilities; and where we give voice to the feelings of the heart that bring us into synchronicity with life.

Of all the areas of the body I’ve treated, I’ve found that the voice really likes its owner to appreciate it – otherwise, it tends to close down!

Trust is a theme that runs through several of the chakras and the trust theme for the 5th chakra is about learning to ‘speak our truth’ confidently, the ‘truth’ that we receive from our instincts and from our hearts.

Memory recall by the patient

Sometimes we find the patient recalling some forgotten memory, including past traumas, either during or between treatments.  The advice given to one such patient during treatment has often been repeated to others. This was simply to switch her focus to a happy event in her life, whether it was something she’s proud of, or an enjoyable experience or any incident in her life that made her laugh or smile. It wasn’t necessary for her to try to stop the bad memories: simply to switch her focus. Over time, the negative recall would begin to happen less often until it simply stopped happening.


For anyone reading this and interested in experiencing tissue memory I suggest you focus on ‘listening’ to the tissues during any treatment and trust whatever your instinct tells you, whether you are the therapist/healer or the person being treated. All that’s necessary is for it to be ‘spoken’ and acknowledged.

David Ellis