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McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapy

by Dr Heather Parsons PhD(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 136 - June 2007

Most people have suffered from backache or muscle problems at some stage in their lives. For some, though the problems become chronic and seemingly set in stone. Pains are associated with tight muscles, and are usually not associated with the bones themselves. Relaxation of the muscles is the key to restoring good back health in people.

McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapy

McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapy developed from the work of John McTimoney in the 1950s and was later adapted by Hugh Corley, one of his students. After John McTimoney had a bad fall, when he lost the use of an arm, he visited a Chiropractor and quickly recovered.1 He was highly impressed and so trained as a Chiropractor himself. He believed that Chiropractic could be improved, and that the treatment itself should not be stressful to the person. He was totally convinced that the whole body should be treated and not just the part that was causing problems. Over time, he found that he could achieve fantastic results using very gentle whole body techniques. Both John McTimoney and Hugh Corley were extraordinarily gifted healers and were able to sense the importance and beauty of the holistic nature of the treatment given.

Diagram 1 Misaligned Spine showing a high shoulder and hip
Diagram 1 Misaligned Spine showing a high shoulder and hip

Diagram 2: The Channels of Courage and Trust and the associated Bladder Meridian. Part of the channel of Trust (pale blue) Another part of the channel is on the front together with the Kidney Meridian. The line of the Bladder Meridian. The Channel of Courage (dark blue).
Diagram 2: The Channels of Courage and Trust and the associated Bladder Meridian. Part of the channel of Trust (pale blue) Another part of the channel is on the front together with the Kidney Meridian. The line of the Bladder Meridian. The Channel of Courage (dark blue).

The ends of the bladder meridian and the channel of courage
The ends of the bladder meridian and the channel of courage

The end of the channel of trust
The end of the channel of trust

Back Pain

Most back pains are not associated with the bones or the joints but with the muscles which become tight. Muscles become tight when the joints get out of alignment. This misalignment can be due to an accident as simple as someone slipping unexpectedly on a pavement and jarring their back. Misalignment is generally caused by bad posture over a long period of time. This can be due to continually turning to one side when using a computer, or continually twisting and lifting at work. However, when any misalignment of the joints occurs some of the muscles tighten up, and some of the muscles which become tight may, over a long time, actually become shortened and remain constantly in spasm. It is these muscles which give rise to much of the pain, as the nerves within the muscles are constantly stimulated.

When the pelvis is twisted, as in Diagram 1, the muscles become stretched on one side and shortened on the other. This causes a general imbalance with associated pain.

McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapy works at the level of adjusting the bones and realigning the joints. This brings about a rebalancing of the bony structures, unrestricting the body’s natural restorative healing mechanisms. Realigning the pelvis and other joints brings much improvement.

Much of the work of spinal therapists though is to relax the muscles. If the joints are realigned without the muscles being relaxed then:
a)    The treatment is less likely to be successful as the muscle may tighten up again and return the bones to their previous position; and
b)    The after effects can be severe as the body comes to terms with the realignment.

Techniques of Muscle Relaxation

Massage is one of the oldest techniques known to relax the muscles. Using various oils, including possibly essential oils, the muscles are physically worked. Acupressure is the firm pressure on the painful parts of the muscle which are in spasm. These points are called trigger points and are treated in neuromuscular techniques.2 Acupuncture, as practised by most practitioners in the National Health Service and most Osteopaths or Chiropractors, uses these acupressure points and inserts needles into them to release the spasm. Strain counter strain techniques are where pressure is applied to the part of the muscle in spasm, and the limb or torso moved until the pain subsides and the muscle relaxes.2 Exercises used to practise at home or in the gym can help reduce the tension in the muscles. Muscles that are in spasm though are very tight and almost impossible to relax. It is as if within them they have a memory of a tight elastic band and keep recoiling back to their unstretched shape.

All of the above techniques can help many muscles, especially in the hands of experts, in their use. All of the techniques, however, are unable to directly affect the deep muscles within the pelvis, which are the cause of much pain in the low back.

There are a number of techniques which can help relax the muscles deeply in the pelvis through energy channels. These include the use of Acupuncture as practised by someone trained in the Chinese method, and the use of the neurovascular points as in Kinesiology.3

The Energy Channels

There are 12 energy channels within the body flowing from the limbs to the head. The outermost part of the channel is the meridian which is used by Acupuncturists. The channels also extend deeply into the body, as they flow around specific muscles and into certain organs. The channels are found within the collagen fibres of the supporting tissues or fascia. Every muscle in the body is a part of one of these 12 energy channels. A part of every channel, although not necessarily the meridian, reaches the head. This knowledge can help in relaxing any muscle of the body. It is especially useful for the deep muscles within the pelvis.

The energy channels exist to allow people’s positive thoughts to flow easily around the body. Every energy channel can be involved in the various problems of the muscles, such as back or shoulder pain. The channels are in pairs linked to specific energies. There are two water channels which flow into the bladder and the kidneys. They are closely associated with each other, and both of these can be involved in cases of back pain. Specific types of thoughts flow in each of the energy channels. The channel which includes the bladder should have the uplifting thoughts of courage flowing within it, while the channel flowing through the kidneys should have the emotions of trust flowing through. These are the channels of courage and trust. The outermost parts of these channels are the meridians of the bladder and the kidney.

Stresses that beset our lives today, and memories that people want to hold onto, all play a part in muscle tightness. The muscles of the channel of courage hold the opposite emotions of fear deep within them. The muscles of the channel of trust hold within them the emotions of a lack of trust. These emotions often act as blockages to the freely flowing energies which the channels should have. Emotional blockages and memories often remain as blocks in these channels, especially around the muscles making any misaligned joint problems worse.

The channel of courage enters the bladder as well as specific muscles. This channel is found in the very deep muscles in the centre of the spine and its course closely follows the outermost layer of the channel as reflected in the bladder meridian in the skin. The second water channel, that of trust, flows around the deep muscles of the inside of the pelvis as well as the kidneys, and is often involved in low back problems. (See Diagram 2.)

Both of the two water channels flow to the head. The channel of courage ends on the inside of the eyebrows and the channel of trust at the back of the skull. At a physical level, drinking lots of water helps both of these channels.

The ‘Healing Points’

There are ‘healing points’ on the head which are the ends of all the channels. Holding these gently, whilst also holding the specific muscle in spasm, can bring about complete relaxation of the muscle. This reduces the pain considerably, as pain is associated with muscles in spasm. This is an amazingly gentle way to relieve muscle spasm. It is especially useful for the elderly, or those in acute pain, where moving limbs about or applying deep pressure is not suitable.

When using the healing points on the face, the emotional blockages within the muscles are released allowing them to relax, and bringing about long-term recovery as well as a reduction of stress within the person.

Case Study

Liz had a severe hip problem which came on suddenly for no reason a few months earlier. The doctor told her it was probably the onset of osteoarthritis, and that she may need a hip replacement. An X-ray showed no damage though, and so she searched for outside help. When I first saw her I had to make a home visit as she was unable to drive, or even to walk for more than a few steps. She described the pain as excruciating, the worst she had ever had, even more so than having three children. On an energetic level she had severe blocks within her channel of trust as the deep muscles on the right side of her pelvis were in severe spasm. These muscles were pulling the whole of the pelvis over to one side and affecting the hip joint. I was unable to do the normal adjustments of the pelvis and spine as the pain was very severe. I limited myself to using the points around the head whilst contacting the particular muscles.

Liz was able to drive and visit me for the second visit. This time I was able to realign the pelvis using the normal McTimoney-Corley techniques and continued to relax the muscles.

On the third visit she talked to me about her life at present. Her partner was estranged from his wife and lived and worked away, seeing Liz only at weekends. For the past few months he had returned to his wife only to see her through cancer treatment. Liz’s trust in him was being put under a severe test. The stress of this was being shown in her body, rather than verbally, towards her partner whom she tried to support and understand. Many therapists help by listening to the person’s problems. Knowing the emotions which should be involved as particular muscles tighten up helps to begin the gentle asking of the important questions.

The healing points on their own can release the muscles in spasm, but if the person is continually causing these to tighten up then they need extra help. Allowing the person to talk and express their worries reduces the recurrence of these problems. After this Liz said that her hip and leg felt much better, and that she was able to walk normally for the first time in three months. She didn’t have to see me again.


1.    Alexander J. Supertherapies. Bantam Books. London. p167-168. 1996.
2.    Chaitow L. Soft Tissue Manipulation. Healing Arts Press. Rochester. p177. 1988.
3.    Thie J. A Touch for Health. DeVorss and Co. California. p24. 1996.


Deadman P, Al-Khafaji M and Baker K. A Manual of Acupuncture. CD Rom. The Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications. Hove. Sussex.


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About Dr Heather Parsons PhD

Dr Heather Parsons PhD BSc DC PGCE is a scientist who has spent many years trying to find an explanation for alternative therapies. Heather works as a McTimoney-Corley Spinal Therapist using Kinesiology and Healing in her practice in Somerset. Heather is also is an artist and writer. She can be contacted via Tel: 01278 445564;

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