Who, What, When, How of Bowen Therapy
What is Bowen Therapy?
Bowen Therapy is a physical therapy and treatment that involves gentle movements applied to specific areas of the body. The movements always place tension into the structure being worked ono followed by a release of the tension resulting in a message of relaxation to the nerves. This therapy has a systemic effect, addressing not only structural and functional issues but also overall well-being. Sessions are typically scheduled a week apart, and the effects can last for many days. It is often recommended to undergo a series of about three treatments to initiate the healing process. Bowen Therapy stimulates deep relaxation, allowing the body to find its natural balance. During the treatment, the therapist applies movements in specific patterns, leaving the room to allow the patient to achieve deep relaxation. Bowen Therapy can be used as a complementary treatment alongside other modalities, such as homeopathy, massage and other physical therapies but it is best employed alone as other physical modalities affecting deep tissue may counteract its effects if used within a week. That is because Bowen Therapy is a stimulus to affect a change in deeply held patterns and another therapeutic influence can dampen that effect.
What’s the History of Bowen Therapy?
Bowen Therapy was developed in Australia by the late Tom Bowen (1916-1982). He is said to have told those about his discovery that it was a gift. Having a strong spiritual faith we can assume from where he felt it was from. Because this therapy is so effective, it has been widely embraced by a broad spectrum of people. Healing professionals are impressed by the capability of Bowen Therapy and the diversity of problems addressed by it. In 2008 Jonathan Damonte formed the North American Bowen Teaching College Inc., now the School of Bowen, in order to provide a higher standard of training for therapists in Canada. The growth and demand for therapists is growing as more and more people discover the clear and effective benefits of this pain relief system.
Who was Tom Bowen?
Mr. Bowen was a humble man who, in his lifetime and beyond, made an incredible impact on humanity around the world after he developed this unique therapeutic system now practiced in more than 40 countries. The results achieved seem to be miraculous – children learning to walk again after being crippled and in braces, lifelong health issues resolved, and many clients saved from the surgeon’s knife. After serving in World War II, Mr. Bowen became interested in new ways of alleviating human suffering. He noticed that when he made certain moves on a body, it had particular effects. Mr. Bowen developed and refined the effectiveness of his observations without training in any particular healthcare field to guide him. He always stated that the therapy was simply a ‘Gift from God’.
Tom and his longtime friend Rene Horwood started out working from her house at 100 Autumn Street, Geelong West, in 1957. Originally, this was in the evenings after they had both finished work. (Tom worked at the cement works and Rene had her own hairdressing salon). They would often work into the early hours of the morning, often treating clients for free. Sometimes they would work right through the night, traveling to make house calls to sick children, then go back to their respective homes and get ready for the next day’s work. They worked like there isn’t tomorrow for many years before they started to accept donations for their services. Eventually they moved into a retired doctor’s clinic at 99 Latrobe Terrace and began to run their clinic full time. Typically, Tom would treat up to sixty-five people per day in the clinic and then they would go off to do home visits. On more than one occasion, Tom would ask Rene not to close their book so they could see how many they could treat. It was in excess of 100 per day; children were always treated for free. In 1973, when Tom was interviewed for registration, which was later declined, he indicated that he was treating around 250 people per week.
Tom’s own granddaughter suffered from disability and died at an early age. In her memory, Tom ran a free clinic for children with disabilities – twice a month on Saturday mornings. Under his and Rene’s care and guidance, many children had an improved quality of life. From the asthmatics to the disabled, Tom devoted his life to these children who later on called him ‘Uncle Tom’.
Tom also worked with many of the sports clubs in and around Geelong. Often driving all over the place on a Saturday afternoon attending to injured footballers. He would then treat them and others on Saturday evenings back at Autumn Street when further treatment was necessary. These treatments were also given free of charge. He was also well known for attending the Geelong jail on Sunday mornings to treat injured inmates. He assisted the Victoria police, treating them at all hours of the day and night. He was acknowledged for his dedication. He was made an honorary member of the Geelong Crime Car squad. He was the second member of the public to be given such an award. The list goes on and on and on for all the achievements that Tom and Rene attained together. From TV personalities and opera singers down to Melbourne Cup racehorse jocks, he treated them all with amazing results.
Many people came to observe his clinic and the therapy he’d continue to develop. He acknowledged six men to have a good understanding of his work. The six he affectionately called his ‘boys’ were: Keith Davis, Kevin Neave, Nigel Love (deceased), Oswald Rentsch, Romney Smeeton and Kevin Ryan. Romney and Kevin Ryan carried on Tom’s work with the free children’s clinic for another 12 years after Tom’s death in 1982.
Sounds Too Good To Be True!
Bowen Therapy has often been distinguished from other forms of bodywork treatments as being something different and somehow better, something unique and somehow special – It isn’t new or special; it is simply an incredibly efficient form of bodywork therapy that positively stimulates the body to heal quickly. This may seem like a large statement of claim about such a relatively new and, as yet, little known therapy. Keep an open mind and simply observe its effectiveness for yourself.
The effectiveness of any therapy in the treatment of pain, inflammation and misalignment should be ‘black and white’ in its benefit. Most clients will know very quickly whether Bowen Therapy is going to be a successful treatment for their problems regardless of how significant their present diagnosis may seem. The majority of clients seeking treatment at Bowen Therapy clinics come on average 3 to 5 times.
What to Expect
When coming for the first time there will be some unusual aspects to the treatment session:Interestingly, you can keep your clothes on during the treatment as the areas of skin needing to be touched are easily be reached by your therapist.The treatment requires various pauses of time between sets of therapeutic maneuvers for the body to respond effectively. These pauses are the most important aspect of the treatment as it is a therapy that doesn’t impose a change in the body; it is a therapy that acts as a catalyst for the body to change on its own.The session is deeply relaxing and falling asleep during your session is a likely occurrence.The whole body is usually addressed with the specific areas of concern being a focus of the treatment session.
Interestingly, the body is treated on both sides to create balance. So, if you only had one wrist problem the therapist will treat both.Your first visit is essentially a test of the treatments effect upon your problems and will enable the therapist to predict future treatment options and strategies. It will also clarify for yourself the overall effectiveness of the therapy for your concerns and give you an idea of how many future sessions are necessary and at what interval.There is such a thing as doing too much Bowen Therapy so it’s important to know how you respond to it before addressing some of your symptoms. This is a real skill that the therapist learns only after a great deal of experience.Finally, expect to get better! The real question to ask yourself is not what is the ultimate diagnosis of your problem as what’s the use of having any diagnosis that doesn’t necessarily help you get better. Ask yourself simply, why did this physical symptom, syndrome, injury, strain or pain not get better?
Can Other Therapies Work With Bowen Therapy?
No one can know for sure the answer to this as there may be times where that can work and other’s where it would be problematic. The ideal is to take a couple of weeks off your current treatments and try 2 or 3 Bowen Therapy sessions. By doing this you will know for certain what therapy does what for you. Simple.Heat and cold applications and hot tubs can be another therapeutic influence so best to avoid these too. However, if you are in need of pain relief in order to function do whatever you know to be effective at the time you need it.Overall, Bowen Therapy is not that fussy and you will know quite clearly its overall benefit for you very soon after treatment.
Can I Exercise After Treatment?
This is worth discussing with your therapist as it can depend on the type and vigor of the exercise activity you want to do. It also depends on your level of athleticism. In most cases exercise is fine if it remains moderate and well within your limits and in some instances is helpful. Some conditions simply do better with rest and recuperation, please trust your therapist’s advice and be sure that they will want you returning to normal activity as quickly as possible.
How Does it Compare to Other Therapies?
Bowen Therapy is another form of bodywork that achieves all the same therapeutic benefits of the following methods – what makes it unique is it’s efficiency:
- Like Massage, Bowen Therapy is relaxing soothes muscle spasm and affects the circulation and lymphatic systems. Its benefit is usually long lasting and clients report needing to have far fewer sessions to reach a sustained improvement.
- Like Acupuncture, Bowen Therapy stimulates the acupuncture points and meridians and promotes improved functions in the body’s systems like digestion, respiration hormonal and nervous systems. This is achieved without invasive needling or vigorous cupping and massage.
- Like Chiropractic, Bowen Therapy achieves skeletal adjustments. This is achieved because it is a therapy for the soft tissues such as muscle, tendon and ligament and it is these structures that govern the alignments of joints and vertebrae. The affect is ongoing after the treatment and is long-lasting because the body has self-adjusted without forceful encouragement.
- Like Physiotherapy, Bowen Therapy is not a muscular re-education it has the opposite effect of releasing held patterns of dysfunction and inflammation through its stimulus to Golgi tendon organs and spindle cells.
- Like Emotional Bodywork Therapies, Bowen Therapy stimulates a release of held emotions. This occurs quite naturally as the body responds to the treatment during the session and there is no need for discussion or analysis.
What Can Bowen Therapy Treat?
- The soothing and restorative effects of Bowen Therapy have a wide range of applications. Through practical experience Bowen practitioners have been increasingly expanding the range of conditions that the technique has been found to effectively treat. At this point we can list the following conditions as those that show substantial improvement under the influence of the Bowen Therapy:
Bowen Therapy is safe to use on anyone – from the newborn to the elderly. As there are no vigorous manipulations employed in the treatment. Yet, despite the gentleness of its application, Bowen Therapy achieves profound, substantial, rapid and lasting relief from a wide spectrum of conditions. Among the benefits it achieves in the process are the reduction of physical, emotional and mental stress, improvement in joint mobility, circulation of lymphatic and venous fluids and assimilation of nutrients and the elimination of toxins. In place of the illness and discomfort experienced with the conditions listed above, Bowen introduces a state of ease and well being.
What Research is Available on Bowen Therapy?
The world’s First Randomized Controlled Double Blind Research into Bowen Therapy undertaken at Be Well Now Centre in Vancouver! Be Well Now recently facilitated the first ever double blind randomized control study on the effectiveness of Bowen Therapy as a treatment choice of sciatica. This study is in process of peer review and is to be published in mid-2010 and the paper will be posted here thereafter. It is our hope that more scientists will begin to recognize the tremendous potential for Bowen Therapy as a standard of care.
Autonomic Nervous System & The Heart
- This study by Dr. Whitaker, MD has shown that Bowen Therapy affects the Autonomic Nervous System by measuring changes in value and pattern in Heart Rate Variability before and after treatment.
- Ashley Pritchard at the Swinburn University – Department of Psychophysiology, Melbourne showed that Bowen Therapy consistently reduced subjects’ level of anxiety, and enhanced individuals’ positive feelings by reducing tension, anger, depression, fatigue and confusion. Objective measures of decrease in Heart Rate Variability and muscle tension correlate with subjective feelings of relaxation.
- This study by Dr. Whitaker, MD showed the positive effect of Bowen Therapy on patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia; they all experienced various degrees of relief, which lasted from a few days to several weeks. The measurements of shifts in the Autonomic Nervous System by Heart Rate Variability studies fully complemented the clinical assessments.
TMJ – Temporomandibular Joint
- A research project on the application of Bowen Therapy on TMJ abnormality was started in Durango, CO by Dr. John Bauman, DDS. Assessment of masseter tension by Bio Feedback, measurement of bite and subjective symptoms were compared before and after treatments. Immediately after the 1st treatment, 1/3 (one-third) of patients felt dramatic relief in some of their symptoms and 20 out of the 22 patients showed significant improvement on the post Bio Feedback assessment.
- Dr. Whitaker, using darkfield phase and fluorescent microscopic live cell analysis, has shown that blood chemistry changes following treatment. These changes corroborate the reports from certain patients experiencing transient flu-like symptoms due to detox reactions.
- Dr. Bernie Carter’s research is well under way at the Metropolitan University of Manchester (UK) with lead Bowen therapist Rick Minnery to follow over a 12-month period. Patients were diagnosed with frozen shoulder and treated by Bowen Therapy to show the research’s effectiveness. Initial data consisted 77% of patients experiencing successful outcome from their treatment.
Upcoming Maternity Research
- Midwife and Bowen therapist Rick Minnery, in 2000 will start a long term study on the effectiveness of Bowen Therapy with maternity patients. Some research topics will be:
- Pre-natal morning sickness, heartburn, breast discomfort, symphyseal pain, lower back pain during pregnancy.Bowen Therapy as an aid to relaxation and reduction of the experience of pain in labor and the reduction of time of labor.
- Post-natal problems such as perineal trauma and particularly breast problems (engorgement, lactation, milk or venous engorgement, mastitis, poor or excessive milk production).
- The Original Bowen Technique: A gentle hands on healing method that effects Autonomic Nervous System as measured by heart rate variability and clinical assessment
by Jo Anne Whitaker, Patricia P, Gilliam, Douglas B. Seba
- The Pschophysiological Effects of Bowen Therapy
by Ashley G. Pritchard
- The Evaluation of Bowen Technique in the Treatment of Frozen Shoulder
by Bernie Carter, Minnery, Clarke
- Available Research on Bowen Therapy compiled by Anna Dicker
- Kinnear H. & Baker, J., (2000). ‘Frozen Shoulder Research Programme’, UK. published on the internet only.
- Biorac M, 2000, The effect of Bowen Therapy on Restless Leg Syndrome, Private research not published.
- Carter, B., 2002, The effect of using Bowen therapy on the frozen shoulder. Accepted for publication in
- Complementary Therapies in Medicine vol 9 no 4.
- Pritchard, A.G, (1993),’ The Psychophysiological Effects of Bowen Therapy Therapy’, Swinburne University, Melbourne. Psychophysiology Major research Project.
- Rayment, J., 1997, Reclaiming a sense of wellbeing as a result of receiving Bowen Therapy. (A study of the effects of Bowen Therapy on chronic lower back pain.) Thesis for Master HSc Victoria University of Technology (unpublished).
- Whitaker,J.A., Gilliam,P.P., Seba, D.B. (1997). ‘The Bowen Technique: a Gentle Hands-on Method That Affects the Autonomic Nervous System as Measured by Heart Rate Variability and Clinical Assessment’. Abstract presentation American Academy of Environmental Medicine 32nd Annual Conference La Jolla California.
- Bowen Therapy National Migraine Research Program Oct 2001-April 2002 (review pending)
- Amato, D., ‘Accelerated Healing Response’ (review pending)
- Lambeth, B., ‘An Examination of the Bowen Bunion Treatment’ (review pending)
- Sheedy, G., (2000) ‘Bowen Therapy as an alternate treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome’ (review pending)
- Victorian Government. Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Osteopathy, Naturopathy and Chiropractic. 1975
- Russell, J,K., (1994), ‘Bodywork-The Art of Touch’, Nurse Practitioner Forum, 5:2, pp 85-90.
- Stammers,G., (1996) ‘Bowen Therapeutic Technique’, Journal of Australian Traditional-Medicine Society, 2:3, 85-86
- Rappaport, S., (1997), ‘Clinical Experiences of a Bowen Therapist’, Positive Health, 18, pp 62-64.
- Whitaker,J.A., Gilliam,P.P., Seba,D.B. (1997). ‘The Bowen Technique: a Gentle Hands-on Method That Effects the -Autonomic Nervous System as Measured by Heart Rate Variability and Clinical Assessment’. Abstract presentation American Academy of Environmental Medicine 32nd Annual Conference La Jolla California
- Whitaker, J.A., Marlowe, S.,(1998) ‘The Bowen Technique: A healing modality, alleviates
- Myofacial pain of Fibromyalgia and Balances the Dysfunctional changes of the Autonomic Nervous System as measured by clinical assessment and Heart Rate Variability’. Abstract presentation at MYOPAIN ‘98, Silvi Marina, Italy.
- Nixon-Livy,M.J., (1999) ‘ Neurostructural integration Technique (Advanced Bowen Therapy)’, Positive Health, Aug 1999, 48-51
- Figov, J., (1999) ‘Gentle Touch Bowen Therapy’ Positive Health. (44):47-9 1999 Sept
- Lund, E., (1999) ‘Bowen and Lymphatic Drainage’, British Lymphology Society Newsletter, 24, pp 10-13.
- Hodgson, K., (2000) ‘Bowen:simplicity in movement’ Physiotherapy Frontline. 6(19):22
- Rousselot, P., (2000) ‘Bowen Technique’, Clinicians Complete reference to Complementary/Alternative Medicine, Mosby, Missouri, 371-380.
- Carter, B., (2001) ‘A pilot study to evaluate the effectiveness of Bowen Technique in the management of clients with frozen shoulder’, Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 9(4):280-15
- Dicker, A., (2001) ‘Using Bowen Therapy to improve staff health’ The Australian Journal of Holistic Nursing. 8(1):38-42.
- Dicker, A., (2001) ‘Bowen Therapy’, Nursing Aust The Journal @ The New South Wales College of Nursing’, 2(3) 7
- Carter, B., (2002) ‘Clients’ experience of frozen shoulder and its treatment with Bowen Technique’ Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery. 8(4):204-10
- Akkermans, G., (2002) ‘Physio recommends Bowen for facial palsy, Physiotherapy Frontline. 8(10):30
- Potter, R., (2002), ‘Evidence points to effectiveness of Bowen for frozen shoulder’ Physiotherapy Frontline. 8(7):16
- Olafiminhan,K., Hall, S., (2002) ‘Bowen- moving blocked energy: Bowen is a gentle but highly effective technique for the treatment of many conditions’. Positive Health. (74):51-4 2002 Mar