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Bowen Therapy to Manage Pain

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 27 Feb 2012 | comments*Discuss
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Also known as the Bowen Technique, Bowen Therapy is a hands-on healing system that works to provide pain relief to anyone, from newborn babies to pensioners. Although some people mistakenly think it’s a type of osteopathy or massage, it actually is a unique alternative therapy that is unlike any other.

Bowen Therapy relies on short thumb-and-finger massages, which the practitioner supplies to the patient in short bursts. In between such moves, the practitioner will leave the room, allowing the patient to be alone for a short period of time.

Bowen Therapy advocates believe that the alternating of short bursts and long pauses is what makes the technique work, as well as the precision in which each move is carried out. Most patients, they say, get long-lasting pain relief after just two or three sessions.

Bowen Therapy History

Bowen Therapy was founded by an Australian, Tom Bowen. In the 1950’s he announced that he could sense vibrations in a person’s soft tissues, ligaments and muscles. Although he had no medical background whatsoever, he said he could dissipate tension using his fingers and thumbs.

Mr. Bowen claimed that the vibrations in those areas led his fingers to sense which part of the body to manipulate, and soon he found that his manipulation brought incredible tension relief. He called his discovery a “gift from God” and set up a clinic to bring it to the people.

Bowen kept on treating patients until his death, when a disciple called Oswald Rentsch, decided to bring the Bowen Technique out of Australia. Eventually he came to North America, and the rest is history.

How it Works

Followers of the Bowen Technique say its beauty lies in the fact that it can teach the body how to heal itself. It is thought to send messages to the brain which teach it how to relax, and thus dissipate unwanted tension. Accompanying energy surges teach the body to regain normal movement, and it thus brings comfort to muscles, joints and tendons.

Practitioners of the Bowen Therapy say they are treating the whole person, not a specific ailment or disease. Many people try this technique for back pain, for example, but the practitioner will concentrate not only on the back but also the neck, knees and shoulders.

Four Key Elements

There are four main elements which define Bowen Therapy. They are:
  • 1. The Bowen Move. Manipulating the soft tissue in the body is a specific way, one that is not too hard or too soft. The idea is to both disturb the tissue and focus the brain at the same time.
  • 2. Stoppers, or Blockers. Having moves in specific areas that are designed to be used as reference points for other areas in the body. They do not actually stop of block anything, but create a sense of focus.
  • 3. The Breaks. The practitioner will leave the room in between moves, allowing the patient to rest undisturbed and for a reassessment to take place upon re-entering. Breaks also allow more than one patient to be treated at one time.
  • 4. One Treatment Only. Bowen was adamant that the brain can only interpret specific signals at one time, so no other type of alternative therapy is allowed while you are having a course of Bowen Therapy. If you want to have other treatments, you have to wait at least a week until your last Bowen treatment has finished.

Bowen Therapy should not be used in place of traditional medicine and is not intended to be a cure for disease. But if you have tried massage, physiotherapy, osteopathy or other types of alternative medicine to relieve pain and to no avail, you might want to give Bowen Therapy a try. It’s safe, and for some people it really works!

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