For as long as I can remember, I've suffered from back pain.
Although I have experienced some relief using heat, cold,
massage, chiropractic and acupuncture, invariably the pain
has always returned - until I visited a friend in California
who had similar back problems. She told me she had some body
work done called Bowen. Her back and hip pain were gone after
the first session! I was definitely intrigued. I couldn't
wait to find out more.
When I arrived back home I got on the internet and discovered
that the Bowen Technique originated in Australia and wasn't
that well known in the U.S. Hoping to find a practitioner,
I emailed close to 40 practitioners around the U.S. and asked
if they could refer me to someone nearby. After 39 "no's"
I got one "yes!" I arranged to have three Bowen
sessions. After the third session, my back pain and sciatica
were "history!" I was so excited, I decided to train
as a Bowen practitioner.
Where did the Bowen technique come from?
The Bowen Technique was developed in Australia in the 1950's
by Thomas Bowen, a gifted healer. Late in life he discovered
he had an unusual gift that allowed him to intuitively know
what was ailing people and how to help them relieve their
pain. His healing technique is unique in that it was developed
without him having had any previous medical or healthcare
He claimed he could feel tiny vibrations in people’s
muscles that helped him find the exact location to work on.
He spoke of his skill with great humility and frequently stated
that his work was “simply a gift from God.” Tom
had the capacity to quickly assess what was wrong with someone
and where they were out of balance. He could look into a room
full of people, glance at them for about 20 seconds, and know
what their problems were. Although he never advertised, it
was estimated that he treated over 13,000 people in the course
of one year, and he claimed a success rate of about 88%!
Like Palmer (Chiropractic), Rolf, (Rolfing), Feldenkrais
(Feldenkrais Technique) and Usui (Reiki), Tom Bowen had a
unique talent. He dedicated his life to turning his gift into
a practical application that has proven to be of great benefit
to thousands of people all over the world.
How does it work?
The gentle yet powerful Bowen moves send neurological impulses
to the brain resulting in immediate responses of muscle relaxation
and pain reduction. The moves create energy surges which are
concentrated in specific areas of the body using "blockers"
or "stoppers." These are released when you stand
The Bowen Technique helps the body remember how to heal itself.
Electrical impulses sent to the nervous system remind the
body to regain normal movement in joints, muscles and tendons.
This helps relieve muscle spasms and increase blood and lymph
flow. Several of the moves are located along acupuncture meridians
or on specific acupuncture points which are known to stimulate
and balance the body’s energy.
A Bowen Session
A Bowen treatment lasts about 30-45 minutes. No oils are used.
Treatment can be done through clothing or directly on the
skin. The practitioner "rolls" over the muscles
with her fingers, which causes the muscles to relax. The moves
are done in groups. Between sets, the practitioner leaves
the room for at least two minutes to allow the body to relax.
The moves send out signals which:
* stimulate energy flow;
* facilitate lymphatic drainage of toxins and waste;
* promote good circulation;
* release tension;
* increase mobility;
* encourage the body to relax, realign and heal itself.
Some people feel shifts in their bodies during and after
a Bowen session. While many experience immediate pain relief,
improvement is just as likely to unfold over the next few
days to a week. Two or three treatments are usually enough
to achieve long-lasting relief. Even long-term conditions
may respond very quickly. The ideal situation is to give the
Bowen Technique a try for 3 sessions, once per week, without
having any other kind of bodywork in between.
Bowen and Fibromyalgia Relief
There is compelling research that the Bowen Technique may
also be effective in relieving the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia.
American College of Rheumatology
In a study of twenty patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia
conducted by Jo Anne Whitaker, M.D., at the American College
of Rheumatology, almost all participants experienced various
degrees of relief which lasted from a few days to several
weeks. Most reported immediate relief following a Bowen treatment.
For some, repeated Bowen therapy maintained complete clinical
remission. The results were statistically significant and
correlated with improvement of clinical well-being.
Fibromyalgia Pilot Study
A pilot study on the effect of Bowen treatments on fibromyalgia
sufferers was carried out by Tim Willcocks (Bowen Practitioner
and Trainer). Four participants (aged 39-52) who were diagnosed
with fibromyalgia from 3 to 5 years, were given four Bowen
treatments over a five week period. All four participants
experienced improvement, including better sleep, ease in walking,
cessation of vertigo, eased neck pain, improved balance and
Effects of the Bowen Technique on the Autonomic Nervous
System and Heart Rate Variability
By measuring changes in the value and pattern in heart rate
variability before and after a Bowen treatment, this study
by Jo Anne Whitaker, M.D., demonstrated that the Bowen Technique
affects the autonomic nervous system (ANS). By using Heart
Rate Variability to study the autonomic nervous system, early
findings demonstrated that Bowen treatments balanced the ANS.
The control group consisted of subjects with all types of
Audrey Butko, M.D., considers the Bowen
Technique to be a blessing in her practice because of its
simplicity, results and patient satisfaction. It has nearly
eliminated her need to use cortisone injections.
Dr. Christine Staub, a family physician
with a special interest in the treatment of chronic pain,
has seen the Bowen Technique "unlock the door" for
patients who reached an impasse in their pain treatment. "I
am thrilled to have Bowen Therapy as a resource for myself,
family, friends and patients," she said.
Surprising and Unexpected Recoveries
People with chronic disabilities such as chronic fatigue syndrome,
MS, fibromyalgia, cerebal palsy, muscular dystrophy and arthritis
have been known to show a gradual improvement in the condition
and quality of life. If someone has not responded to other
forms of treatment, it is always worth trying the Bowen Technique
because in many cases it has been known to trigger sometimes
surprising and unexpected recoveries when nothing else has
Fibromyalgia - One Woman's Story
Exhaustion had become a stable part of her life, as had the
pain. During a visit to a new doctor, a brief mention of the
Bowen Technique was made and she was referred to a practitioner.
She had no idea what to expect and she was very nervous during
her first visit. The therapy was explained in a very reassuring
way, even though she didn't really understand the part about
"energy flow" and she found the whole thing a little
weird. But she had come this far, so she thought she might
as well give it a try.
The treatment itself was very relaxing. In fact, she almost
fell asleep several times. Since she was accustomed to a life
of conventional drug therapy, she tried to rationalize how
Bowen could possibly help, especially after nothing else had
worked. The week after her first session she remained skeptical,
and so it was to her surprise that within a few days she began
to feel different. Her pain was still there, but she felt
different. Like she could do more. She decided it was probably
Over the next few weeks she began to take regular walks and
without even noticing it, she slowly developed less reliance
on pain killers. Gradually the time between Bowen treatments
grew longer. It is now months since her last treatment and
she still doesn't understand the whole process, but what does
that matter? When did she ever understand how conventional
medicine worked? All she knows is that without the aid of
prescription drugs, she is slowly regaining much of the life
she had lost for so long.
The main difference between Bowen and other modalities is
how fast it works, how gentle it feels and how long the pain
relief lasts. Anyone can learn how to do the Bowen Technique:
there is only one basic move.
The technique has been successful in treating back pain,
sciatica, headaches, migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia, sports
injuries and much more. For me, the miracle lies in the fact
that doing so little produces such long-lasting relief.
Gerri Shapiro, MS Ed, is a leading health
educator and Bowen practitioner who has worked with the World
Health Organization, Asian Development Bank, USAID and Management
Sciences for Health in the areas of alternative and traditional
medicine. She is a member of the American Massage Therapy
and American Holistic Health Associations. She is the editor
a Bowen information and resource site, and is the producer
of the self-help video Miracle Pain Relief - The Gentle Power
of Bowen For Family and Friends,
http://www.miraclepainrelief.com, designed for lay people
who do not have access to a Bowen practitioner.
To learn more about Fibromyalgia
and how to deal with it the Wise Woman Way
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