Bowen Technique is a unique therapy that is both completely safe and very gentle, yet can be successful working with virtually any condition. Because Bowen stimulates the body’s ability to balance and heal, it can affect a wide range of problems such as back pain, fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel, headaches, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and many others. Sessions usually last from 30 to 60 minutes. Bowen work can be done either through light clothing or with the client unclothed under sheet and blanket. Please read the sections regarding Bowen in relation to other treatments and Scheduling Tips.
About Bowen Technique
Developed in Australia by the late Tom Bowen (1916-1982), a very gifted self-taught healer, Bowen Technique applies gentle pressure to soft tissue to stimulate the body’s ability to balance and heal. There is no deep tissue work or massage, nor any high velocity thrust movements as in chiropractic work. As a therapy, it is incredibly gentle--often perplexing that such dramatic results come from such seemingly simple moves.
Tom Bowen modestly estimated his own success rate to be about 88%, usually with recovery after only two or three sessions. He claimed he could sense minute vibrations in the soft tissues and tension in the muscles that helped him find the precise places to mobilize. Once he began correcting the imbalances, Bowen would leave the client alone in the treatment room, returning some minutes later to re-assess and apply further moves. This element of allowing the body to rest, which starts the process of repair, continues to be a mark of Bowen Therapy.
With a strong following in Europe and Australia, Bowen Technique is finally gaining recognition in the United States. I have been studying with Peg and Don Robbins of South Deerfield, Massachusetts; both are students of Ossie Rentsch, who first brought Bowen Therapy to the United States in 1989.
The technique itself seems very simple, and a casual observer might note that the Bowen practitioner is doing very little actual hands-on work. The practitioner uses thumbs and forefingers to make small, rolling-type movements across muscle and tendons at very precise points on the body.
During a Bowen treatment, the therapist will make a couple of moves and then leave the room for a few minutes. Breaks are essential. They give the body time to respond and start the work. Some clients report feeling tingling or movement during the breaks, and others report “nothing” or relaxation. The body’s adjustments, started during the treatment, will go on for at least a week and sometimes longer. Often a client experiences dramatic relief immediately following a session, but it is also not unusual for a client to report that on day three the condition was a bit better and by day five it had disappeared.
The time between treatments is 5-10 days, with seven days being optimal.
Many problems can be successfully resolved in 2-3 treatments. Once
the client feels a condition is resolved, an additional session helps “set”
the changes in the body.
Bowen Therapy works best in the absence of other bodywork, such as massage, chiropractic or acupuncture. Apparently, it is important not to confuse the brain by mixing up the signals it is being asked to interpret. The Bowen practitioner does not force a change on the body but, rather, sends a message to the body. While the body sorts itself out, it needs time and to be left alone. This is not to say that other treatments are in some way less valid or powerful than Bowen, only that Bowen needs to work alone if it is to be effective.
Mixing treatments will not cause any harm, but will probably disrupt the Bowen Therapy’s progress and may even undo gains the body achieved in the previous session. The space of a week is recommended between different modalities. Because Bowen treatments build on the previous session’s work, a client would ideally receive Bowen for two or three weeks in a row before returning to massage or other therapy.
Heat and cold also confuse Bowen signals, so clients should also avoid use of hot tubs, saunas, cold packs and heating pads following their Bowen sessions.
Responses to Bowen sessions vary and occasionally include temporary stiffness, soreness or headache. These will pass and are good signs that your body is listening and adjusting. But until you know which way your body typically responds, it is best not to schedule Bowen the day before an important event.
In most cases, Bowen treatments will be most effective when scheduled about a week apart.
Treatments immediately following an acute injury would be brief and more frequent. In the event of re-injury, it is best to schedule another session as soon as possible instead of waiting the full seven days. (A re-injury can occur from strain to a weakened area or even as a result of postural injury such as sitting in an awkward position for a long time. This would manifest as sudden relapse of a seemingly recovered area.)
Following a Bowen session, you will be instructed not to sit for long periods for the remainder of the day. Schedule your appointment with this in mind. This doesn’t mean you can’t sit at all. But, get up and move around at least every 30 minutes. Better yet, go for a walk after your treatment.
Click here to view or print my Bowen After-Care guide.
To assure space in your calendar and mine, consider scheduling your second appointment at the same time you call for your first Bowen appointment. As with massage appointments with me, feel free to call my home at 338-2886 if you cannot get what you need from my receptionist service. My schedule is sometimes flexible, and I am still learning about fitting Bowen Therapy into my practice.
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