How can Bowen therapy nourish your soul?
Bowen therapy is a gentle, non-invasive manual therapy intended to relieve chronic and acute pain in muscles, joints, and other parts of the body. By manipulating connective tissue and muscles using a specific set of ‘moves’, practitioners aim to stimulate a natural healing response in the body. Bowen therapy has several unique characteristics not shared by other modalities, such as the ‘rolling’ motion of the moves, and the regular pauses that are taken during treatment.
The moves are believed to send signals to the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which responds by increasing parasympathetic activity -- relieving stress while promoting relaxation and tissue repair. Although the mechanism of action is not fully understood, it is hypothesised that the modality’s effectiveness may be associated with the unique way in which practitioners stimulate nerves within the joints and fascia.
The term ‘Bowen technique’ is often used to describe this modality, as are the trademarked words Bowtech® and Bowenwork®. It was originally developed by Tom Bowen, a self-taught Australian massage therapist, in the 1950s. His intuitive bodywork was systematically documented by his student and associate Oswald Rentsch, who went on to develop a structured training program educating other practitioners in the Bowen technique.
To ensure you receive Bowen treatment of the highest standard, choose a practitioner registered with a professional associations such as the Bowen Therapists Federation of Australia and Bowen Association Australia. This national organisation is committed to ensuring professional conduct and overseeing the educational standards of its members, who are obliged to uphold its Code of Ethics.
Benefits of Bowen therapy
Empirical research into Bowen therapy is ongoing, with the results of one study suggesting it may be an effective way to improve hamstring flexibility. There is evidence to suggest Bowen therapy may increase mobility and function in cases of frozen shoulder, but further study is recommended. There is research to suggest Bowen therapy may reduce stress, improve quality of sleep, increase energy levels and enhance general feelings of wellbeing. The results of a pilot study also indicate that Bowen therapy may be an effective way to support the rehabilitation of people who have suffered a stroke.
Conditions that are often treated using Bowen technique include carpal tunnel syndrome, planar fasciitis (foot pain), fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, although these have not been the subject of academic research. It is also reported that Bowen therapy may be an effective treatment for lateral epicondylitis (‘tennis elbow’), various types of headaches, and lower-back pain.
Bowen therapy may assist in relieving in symptoms related to:
- Back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
- Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
- Digestive and gastrointestinal issues
- Energy and vitality
- Foot, heel and ankle issues
- Frozen shoulder
- Hay fever/rhinitis
- Headaches and migraines
- Heart conditions and heart attack
- Hormonal issues
- IBS and bowel disorders
- Immunity issues
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Mobility and movement
- Muscle spasm, tightness and cramps
- Muscle strain and injury
- Neck pain
- Pain relief
- Plantar fasciitis
- PMT/PMS and menstural issues
- Respiratory and breathing issues
- Shoulder and elbow issues
- Sore throat and coughs
- Sports injuries
- Stress and tension
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Tennis elbow and repetitive strain injury (RSI)
What to expect from a Bowen therapy session
It is recommended that you avoid any bodywork for four days prior to receiving treatment. In the case of acute problems, it is advisable to commence treatment as soon as possible after you are injured or develop symptoms. This is believed to possibly prevent chronic problems developing as other areas of the body attempt to compensate for the compromised part.
To begin, your practitioner will ask you about your medical history and general wellbeing, as well as the health concern for which you are seeking treatment. After assessing the condition you are concerned about, your practitioner will invite you to lie on a massage table and use the Bowen technique to treat the area that is troubling you.
Bowen therapy practitioners use their thumbs and fingers to massage and stimulate carefully targeted areas using characteristic ‘rolling’ motions, rather than ‘gliding’ over the skin. Between sets of moves, your practitioner will pause for calculated periods of time and usually leave the room, giving your body space to initiate the healing process. Bowen massage can be performed through clothing, so you will not need to get undressed. However, it is recommended that you remove any bulky garments such as a jacket, which could impede the smooth, fluid movements your practitioner needs to carry out.
It is advised that you do not undertake any other bodywork for about five days after receiving Bowen therapy, as it may interfere with the ongoing healing effect. However, this modality is not intended to replace conventional medicine, so please consult your medical professional before commencing, and do not discontinue or delay medical treatment on account of receiving Bowen therapy.
Although there are some rare circumstances in which specific moves are not advisable, Bowen therapy is reported to be safe for everyone from newborns to the frail and elderly. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your Bowen therapist, who will be happy to address these and explore the option of personalising the session to your individual requirements.