Bowen Therapy is a form of massage based on the principle that changes to the internal workings of the body affect the skin and muscles – and vice versa. A feedback loop, essentially. (What is a feedback loop? You tend to smile when you feel happy. So the next time you feel down, force yourself to smile – you’ll find yourself feeling more uplifted. That’s feedback.)
The Bowen Technique was pioneered by Tom Bowen of Australia in the 1950s. Although he lacked formal training, Bowen became known for his gentle massage methods. By 1973 he was treating approximately 280 patients each week, and claimed 88 percent of his treatments were successful.
Bowen Therapy involves carefully and gently manipulating muscle tissue through several repeated procedures, separated by breaks in which the patient is left alone to relax. You may be surprised at how often pauses are integrated between muscle manipulations with Bowen. A Bowen therapist will work muscles, pause, move to another part of the body and gently work the muscles there, pause, and move on yet again. This allows the body to let the manipulations do their work for a brief time before the therapist focuses on another body part.
Bowen Therapy: Alternative Treatment or Complementary Therapy?
Bowen Therapy is not intended as a replacement for other treatments. Rather, it is a complementary treatment designed for relaxation and healing. Bowen has been applied to numerous, focusing on pain reduction.
Migraines. Bowen Practitioner Nikki Ariff in London, England completed a study of 39 migraine sufferers. Thirty-one reported changes in the severity of migraines and the frequency of attacks.
Frozen shoulder syndrome. A study conducted at the Clinical Nursing Practice Research Unit of the University of Central Lancashire in England found that all participants saw some improvement in their shoulders, with 70 percent experiencing a return to mobility equivalent to their working side.
Ankle and knee research. The Bowen Therapists’ European Register, or BTER, has studied success rates of Bowen treatments on various issues from back pain to joint problems. In 2014, BTER focused on ankle and knee pain. Their research found that only 12 percent reported no change in their condition; 19 percent reported full recovery, and 69 percent reported at least partial recovery.
Flexibility. Strained or pulled hamstrings are a common problem in sports, often involving long periods of recovery. The College of Bowen Studies conducted a study of 116 volunteers, and found that even a single treatment using Bowen therapy improved flexibility, reducing the risk of overstraining the hamstring tendons.
Back pain. A study in 1998 at the University of North Carolina reported 85 percent effectiveness in treating back pain. The study also looked at neck pain and stress, with similar results.
Is Bowen Right for You?
Bowen therapy isn’t typically meant to replace other forms of treatment. Instead, it is a complement. Consult your therapist for advice on which techniques are best for your condition. You may find that a combination of therapies work best for you. Often a single method appears to work only some of the time, while a combination of treatments gives you more consistent results.