The Bowen Technique

The Bowen Technique is a remedial therapy tool. That is, it is used by therapists mainly to help people who are in pain or discomfort for one reason or another. It is a gentle therapy that works over the soft tissue of the client and features lots of rests in between moves to allow the body to start working with the information. Developed by Tom Bowen, many valid forms of his work exist in the world today.

How does it work?

The brain emits in the region of 600,000 signals per second, all of which both send out signals and in turn receive information from the body. A muscular movement for example begins from the primary motor cortex at the front of the brain and is sent, via the spinal cord, to the arm or leg where it is translated into movement. In order to gauge this, however, the brain needs to receive a signal telling it what is happening and what to do next and this it does via the parietal lobe of the brain.

The effect is a kind of looping circuit travelling at massive speeds, sending and receiving information. A Bowen move which is a series of gentle rolling moves, followed by breaks at certain intervals, interferes with this signal and creates another set of parameters for the brain to examine. Once the brain starts to reorder the signals it is also able to reinterpret the information coming from other areas, an example of why Bowen will often set off reactions in areas that haven’t been treated.

How is it different from other therapies, such as chiropractic, osteopathy or physiotherapy?

All these therapies are excellent therapies, but Bowen differs in several respects. Osteopaths and chiropractors often use adjustments or ‘cracks’ to realign the structure of the body. They will make a diagnosis of the patient and treat the area of concern. With Bowen therapy, the approach is rather different. The therapist will take a case history but the treatment does not set out to treat specific conditions or ailments. Instead, the body is treated as a whole unit, without referral to named disease. For instance, if someone came to a Bowen therapist with cancer, we would not claim to be able to help the cancer or even to treat it. Instead we are trying to help the person.

Does Bowen work on meridians or acupuncture points?

While one can see that there are points that are on or very close to acupuncture points, this is not the approach that we teach. Many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine comment on the moves and their relationship to meridian points but there is nothing consistent enough to draw comparisons. Tom Bowen drew much of his knowledge from books and an understanding of meridian points seems quite probable.

Is Bowen a form of massage?

No, not really. The treatment can be performed through light clothing and no oils or prolonged pressure is used. Also, there is no rubbing or friction in the move, which uses the movement of skin to effect a rolling type of action over the muscle.

How many treatments will I need to have?

There are no guarantees here because everyone responds differently but, on average, the number of treatments required for, say, a stiff neck or back is around three. Some problems need more treatments and some even fewer, but what won’t happen is that you will be required to have a long course of treatment, only to find that it hasn’t helped. Although there are never any promises, you should in most cases start to see change fairly quickly.

What can it treat?

Although we say that we do not treat specific conditions, we know that many common complaints are helped by the Bowen Technique’s holistic approach. There is no condition for which Bowen therapists would not offer treatment. Even in very serious or acute conditions, where an injury has just occurred, Bowen can be used to very good effect. As well as bad backs and necks, Bowen also is extremely effective on more complex or organic problems such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and stress.

Who offers treatment?

There are hundreds of therapists around the UK and Europe who offer treatment. Some of these are people are experienced in other forms of treatment such as reflexology, aromatherapy, sports injury or massage. In addition there are a number of chiropractors, chartered physiotherapists, osteopaths, GPs and surgeons who have learned and practice the technique. Bowen is not limited to health professionals however and many people come to learn Bowen in order to effectively help family and friends.

Can Bowen be used to treat clients who have cancer?

In terms of treating clients with cancer there are no contra indications at all, apart from what is obvious in terms of not causing pain, not being heavy handed and not doing too much. There are some ideas that you shouldn’t do lymphatic work with cancer patients, but this is not borne out by evidence or by the many lymphoedema nurses and physios working with cancer patients day in day out.

Remember that we are not treating the cancer but the person, who may be presenting with other issues that don’t relate to the cancer at all. Someone might be sleeping poorly, have back pain, mental fatigue or any number of issues surrounding a diagnosis or be issues that they have had for years.