Bowen Technique

Rear view of person rubbing nape of neck and lower back
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The Bowen Technique is a modern, intuitive form of therapeutic bodywork that uses precise movements, as few of them as possible, to achieve the desired result.  Skilled Bowen Technique practitioners will typically be able to sense the level of pressure appropriate for a particular individual as well as the number of moves that will be most effective.

This massage technique can be used to address the symptoms of many common neurological, musculoskeletal, digestive, and circulatory disorders, including asthma, TMJ, fibromyalgia, and migraines, among others.

What Is the Bowen Technique?

The Bowen Technique. a system of powerful but gentle soft tissue manipulation, was developed by Tom Bowen, an Australian who accidentally discovered his gift for healing while working in a cement factory. A self-taught individual who was described by many of those he treated as an “intuitive healer,” he expanded his knowledge and began a practice in remedial therapy in 1959. By the 1970s, Bowen was treating approximately 13,000 clients a year, relying only on word-of-mouth to establish his reputation. After Bowen’s death in 1982, his students further developed his methods under names like Neurostructural Integration Technique (NST), Bowtech, and others. Since the 1990s, the Bowen Technique has spread throughout Australasia and across the world. This practice bears many similarities to Kinesiology, which Bowen used to test his techniques.

Bowen believed the body could heal itself but that the self-healing response could be triggered by certain procedures, known as Bowen moves, applied throughout the body to affect certain systems or body parts. Skilled practitioners are able to develop their knowledge of tension’s buildup in the body in order to utilize the appropriate amount of pressure in the most effective location.

Benefits of the Bowen Technique

A number of medical experts have studied the effectiveness of the Bowen Technique and found it to be an effective and beneficial approach. One researcher conducted a pilot study involving 20 participants with adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), a condition in which people gradually lose their range of motion and experience an increasing amount of pain. This researcher found that the Bowen Technique “frozen shoulder procedure” not only dramatically reduced the pain of all 20 participants in the study, it also led to increased mobility, even in the participants who had lived with this condition for years. In another study, 70% of the participants regained complete mobility (as compared to their other, unaffected shoulders) after undergoing the Bowen Technique.

In addition to helping relieve pain and treat TMJ and fibromyalgia, the Bowen Technique has also been shown to help reduce insomnia and exhaustion, relieve stress and tension, improve mobility and balance, and improve symptoms of mood-related concerns such as depression. Some people with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders have also reported improvement with the Bowen Technique.

Many people who experience frequent migraines find relief from a self-help migraine procedure developed from the Bowen technique. This self-help procedure can be used daily, but it is advised to seek advice and instruction from a trained professional before attempting techniques alone.

What to Expect from a Bowen Technique Session

The Bowen Technique therapist will typically ask the client to lie on a massage table facing down. However, those who feel uncomfortable in these positions can experience the Bowen Technique lying face-up or sitting in a chair.

Skin-to-skin contact is the preferred delivery technique of most practitioners, but Bowen sessions can still be conducted with the client fully clothed. Those who would prefer not to disrobe partially are advised to wear loose, light clothing.

Bowen Technique therapists are likely to begin the session by rebalancing the client’s sacrum, lower back, upper back, and neck. These basic adjustments help realign the body and can address many common issues.

It’s considered normal for a client to fall asleep during a Bowen Technique session. In fact, practitioners often leave the room for short intervals to allow individuals to relax, release energy, and respond to the adjustments. While it is generally considered a good idea for people receiving treatment to discuss any questions or concerns with the practitioner before the session begins, clients are advised that it is best not to talk during a Bowen session unless absolutely necessary.

After the session, which might last anywhere between 20 and 50 minutes, the Bowen Technique practitioner will help the client get down from the table. Clients are advised to rest their bodies after a Bowen treatment for the remainder of the day by avoiding prolonged sitting, hot baths and showers, other types of massage, and hot/cold packs. Staying hydrated and getting enough rest will allow the body to grow accustomed to its new alignment and posture.

References:

  1. 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), 208-215.
  2. Diseases and conditions: frozen shoulder. (2015, March 10). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/frozen-shoulder/basics/definition/con-20022510
  3. Effectiveness of Bowen therapy (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.advancedhtc.com/cms/index.php?page=effectiveness-of-bowen-therapy
  4. Phelan, R. (2012, January 2). NST vs. Bowen therapy – Find out the difference. Retrieved from https://nsthealth.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/neurostructural-integration-technique-nst-vs-bowen-therapy
  5. Bowtech Research (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.bowen-technique.co.uk/research.php
  6. Rousselot, P. (n.d.) Bowen therapy technique. Retrieved from http://www.bowentherapytechnique.com/page7/page7.htmls
  7. Rousselot, P. (n.d.) History of the Bowen technique. Retrieved from http://www.bowentherapytechnique.com/page2/page2.html
  8. Short, P. (n.d.). Migraines – self help. Retrieved from http://www.bowen4life.com/migraines—self-help.html
  9. TMJ disorders. (2016, June 21). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tmj/home/ovc-20209398