Bowen therapy, also known as The Bowen Technique, is a soft tissue therapy which uses a gentle rolling massage to alleviate a wide range of conditions.
What is Bowen Therapy?
It works by stimulating the soft connective tissues and fascia of the body. Fascia is important for keeping the muscle integrity in our skeletal system. Over time our muscles can become strained and unbalanced from repetitive movements. Particularly from bad posture habits building up over time. Bowen therapy addresses these tensions with a light massage technique – where the therapist uses their fingers and thumbs to apply gentle pressure to the targeted areas.
Therapists work on small patches of the body one at a time. The typical Bowen movements consist of three phases:
- Taking the skin of the affected area slack
- Challenging the soft tissue
- Rolling the skin over the muscle
The pressure applied is generally quite light, which makes it safe for all ages and bodies. The theory is that the massage technique prompts the body to start its own healing process, rather than from the direct action of the therapy.
A unique part of the therapy is that there are breaks during the session, in which the therapist will wait a few minutes before performing the next movement. This is to allow the patient to relax and give the body time to react to the movements just performed. This begins the repairing phase of the treatment.
Who is Bowen therapy suitable for?
Because the Bowen technique is a gentle therapy, it is suitable for newborn babies with colic or feeding difficulties right through to elderly arthritis sufferers. Midwives even work with Bowen therapists during labour if a baby is in the breech position and needs to be turned.
Bowen therapy is also suitable for people with injuries. Especially sports injuries where repetitive movements cause micro-tears in the muscle fibres. Anyone going through trauma can also benefit, as the therapy works on balancing the body’s autonomic nervous system – taking the body out of your fight or flight response, into a calmer rest and digest state.
What are the proven benefits of Bowen therapy?
Like with many alternative therapies, the number of clinical investigations into the effectiveness of Bowen therapy is limited. However, from anecdotal evidence, Bowen therapy has helped to treat a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions and pain relief. Often people try the treatment if they have a chronic condition which has not responded to other common treatments.
A systematic review of Bowen therapy trials found over half concluded it was effective for pain reduction and 33% reported improved mobility. The consensus is it may offer improvements in pain reduction for various conditions but further research is needed before widespread recommendations can be given.
A study using the Bowen technique to treat people with a loss of shoulder range found to have varying degrees of effectiveness in recovery. Even people with long-standing frozen shoulder experienced improvements in their shoulder mobility and associated function.
Improved mental wellbeing
A six-week study of hospital staff found Bowen therapy helped to reduce stress and improve physical and mental wellbeing. Data indicated that the Bowen technique was successful in reducing pain and stress, improved mobility, and improved overall energy, wellbeing and sleep.
A pilot study of Bowen therapy for boys with developmental coordination disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia found to have a positive physical impact. Results showed significant improvement in motor function post-intervention. With 60% of the children no longer clinically being classified as having a movement difficulty.
What does a typical Bowen Therapy session look like?
A typical Bowen therapy session can last from 30 minutes to an hour. In the initial consultation, your therapist will discuss your problems and piece together your health background.
In the session, you will typically lie on a massage table or can sit on a chair if required. You will typically wear light clothing during the treatment. Depending on your focus area, your therapist will either work directly on the skin or through your clothing.
Some people have reported only needing one session. However, you will typically have a few follow up sessions depending on the severity of your condition.
A Bowen therapy session is considered relaxing and helps to relieve stress. Because of this, it can be maintained as a regular treatment for overall good health and wellbeing.
How to find a therapist
You may want to consider a Bowen therapist who specialises in a particular area (i.e. sports injuries or pregnancies) if you have something you want to focus on. The Bowen Therapy Professional Association (BTPA) has a list of registered UK therapists on its website. From Spring 2020, you will be able to search and book Bowen therapists in your area on the Holistify website.