The Bowen Technique or Bowen Therapy is a relatively new alternate therapy and as such is perhaps lesser known than for example acupuncture.
What is Bowen therapy
A Bowen Therapy session consists of a series of extremely precise, gentle 'moves' on skin (or through light clothing). My wife is a therapist and I have had several treatments, usually because for a bad back or muscle pain in my legs (sitting too long at a pc with bad posture!). Its very relaxing, yet despite the moves being gentle there is a real sense of good being done when the practitioner does the 'move'.
When did Bowen Therapy Originate?
The Bowen Technique was developed in the 1950's by Tom Bowen in Australia. He became interested in ways to alleviate human suffering and began to notice that certain moves on the body had particular effects. Over a period of several years he developed the system as it is used today.
According to Australian Government Statistics Bowen treated 13,000 people a year in 1975!
In 1974, while attending a National Health Conference in Adelaide, Australia, Tom Bowen was introduced to Osteopath and Natural Therapist, Oswald Rentsch. He invited them to study with him and document his work.
Since Bowen's death in 1982 that they began to teach the technique all over the world and founded the Bowen Academy of Australia in 1987. Since then they have taught over 9000 therapists worldwide.
Does Bowen Therapy Work?
It does for me and several of my professional (scientist/engineer) colleagues would also testify that it can be remarkably effective at treating even long term problems.
I've seen its effects on
- Back ache
- Shoulder injuries
- Headaches (which are often actually caused by back or neck injuries)
- Digestive problems
- Repetitive strain injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome
- Joint problems such as tennis elbow.
How does Bowen Therapy Work?
Well I had not read a decent explanation until recently. I don't go for the all 'teaching the body to heal itself' or re-aligning ones bio-magnetic field rubbish that associated with so many alternate therapies. I'm a real skeptic. I just know it works for many, even for hardened skeptics. The explanation I buy is partly from experience.
My wife got into Bowen after fracturing a bone in her spine many years ago. At the time she did not realise, but later got worse and worse back ache. She tried physio, yoga, conventional massage and other treatments but none worked. Bowen did. The reason her back hurt years after the break was because the muscles around the injured location had tensed up to support the injury and weren't letting go. This is what the doctors said, not me. The latest thinking, that I believe, is that the bowen 'move', which targets the nerves around the base of the muscle basically allows it to relax. It's that simple, but it really does work!
What happens in a Bowen treatment?
You have an initial consultation, where the therapist asks whats wrong with you, how you did it, what else you have tried and about your general health and physical activity.
After taking appropriate notes, you will be asked if you feel comfortable taking off your top and maybe bottoms (underwear is kept on and you can do this is in private if you like). If you don't you can keep them on, but the technique is best done if contact can easily be made with the skin to get a better feel for the muscle underneath.
You will probably then lay on a physio table and warm towels laid over you to make you feel comfortable and relaxed. The treatment can also be done in a chair if you are not comfortable laying down.
Before each move the Bowen Therapist will ask you to breath in and out, the move being performed on the exhalation. This is to help you relax your muscles prior to the move being applied. Initially the therapist will focus on 'blocking' moves on your lower back and spine and then treat areas of the body that are associated with the injury you have. Don't be surprised if your legs get treated for lower back problems as muscle problems in your legs can pull on your lower back muscles causing pain there.
In between each move or set of moves the therapist will pause for a minute or two and may even leave the room. This is to allow the move to work on the body, before starting another move or set of moves.
After the treatment you will gently get off the bed, if you don't feel a little dizzy, and the therapist will fill you in with the after treatment care. If you wish to book another Bowen treatment then you can, or simply so how you feel at a later date. There should be no pressure.
Are there any side effects?
Some people may feel off colour the next day or two, like mild flu or a cold. This is it working. Another 'side effect' is that you shouldn't do serious physical exercise or take hot baths or showers for about a week. This can cause the problem to reset itself, especially if the issue has been out of place for many years.
How many Bowen treatments will you need?
Varies depending on the problem(s) and length of time it has gone of for. On average most problems can be treated by having between 1 and 3 Bowen sessions. For long term problems (such as chronic recurring back pain) you may then need to come back every 3 or 6 months for a single top-up session.
How much will each treatment session cost?
A Bowen treatment costs between £30 and £50 depending on what part of the country you live. Each treatment lasts up to an hour, but may be less as there is only so much Bowen therapy the body can take without making you feel quite poorly (post-session) and reducing the chances of a successful session.
How much will it cost me to get better?
Anywhere between £30 and £150 typically. One thing to point out is that many people feel a startling amount of benefit after just one treatment. It's not something that you have to blindly throw money at week after week in the hope you will get better.
Bowen Therapy Conclusions
Maybe I'm biased, but I am genuinely amazed at some of positive effects on peoples LONG term (some people have had problems for 20 years who felt significant benefit during the first treatment) problems Bowen therapy has had on people my wife has treated. It doesn't work for everybody, but I would say a large majority of her clients have felt a lot better, not just a day or so after the session, but for weeks and weeks. So, much so its a problem getting repeat clients when you completely fixed them the first time around!
Date Added: Saturday 26th February 2011
"Thanks for the interesting article. It seems that the theory "you don't go for" has actually provided your solution: "I don't go for the all 'teaching the body to heal itself' or re-aligning ones bio-magnetic field rubbish that associated with so many alternate therapies." "The latest thinking, that I believe, is that the bowen 'move', which targets the nerves around the base of the muscle basically allows it to relax." In other words "re-programming" the muscualr/nerve system. It's same/same isn't it. The great thing is it's worked for you & many others. Thanks again."
Date Added: Monday 27th October 2008
"Causing relaxation may be a good explanation in the case of straigtforward muscular pain / spasm. However, it does not explain how numerous other Bowen procedures work, e.g. how a small move next to the coccyx brings about relief of migraine."