Bowen Technique or Bowenwork is a dynamic system of muscle and connective tissue therapy that was developed by late Tom Bowen in Australia in the 1950s. It utilizes small but measured inputs to the body stimulating the body to heal itself.
The Bowen Technique usually results in the relief of many specific injuries and other health problems, both acute and chronic. It does so holistically, by using the body’s innate healing mechanisms. With a hands-on technique, the practitioner delivers gentle, non invasive, and measured signals to the nervous system at particular points (on muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves), and the body does the rest, responding in its own time, as it is able.
Rather than focusing on a single complaint, the Bowen Technique addresses the entire body, by restoring balance via the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls over 80% of bodily functions and is very susceptible to external stressors.
Most people today live in a constant state of high stress and sympathetic ANS over-stimulation (fight, flight or freeze mode). Optimal healing occurs after the ANS shifts from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance (rest, relax and repair mode). This Technique seems to catalyze that shift – the patient may fall asleep or loud peristalsis is heard. These changes are indications of a profound release from stress and a shift towards parasympathetic dominance. This shift could explain, in part, that Bowen sessions seem to reactivate the recovery process.
Bowen Technique is not derived from or similar to other modalities:
→ Misalignments commonly correct themselves yet there is no manipulation of joints as with chiropractic.
→ Muscle tensions and strains are relieved and normal lympathatic flow is restored yet muscles are not squeezed as in massage.
→ Meridians show immediate improvement yet no work is based on meridians as in acupuncture.
→ Fascia rehydrates and scar tissue softens yet no Rolfing or deep tissue work takes place.
→ Internal psychological shifts are common yet it is not necessary to evoke emotional response.
Bowtech sessions can last from 15 – 50 minutes, are gentle, and can be done with the patient fully clothed, lying down, sitting or standing. The technique works from the lower to the upper body and then on the neck.
One or more procedures are involved, each consisting of several sets of moves. Between each set of moves, the practitioner pauses for as many minutes as are needed for the client’s body to begin responding.
After the nervous system begins to adjust the tension level in the muscles decreases and the client is then ready for the next set of moves.
In contrast to other hands-on disciplines, the Bowen Technique allows the body to heal itself with minimal intervention. Because of the body’s response to the moves, other forms of manipulative therapy performed within four days before or five days after a Bowen session may interfere with its effectiveness.
In addition to rebalancing the ANS, the Bowen moves may reset the body to heal itself by activating the following systems:
Most moves are done either at the origin, insertion or belly of muscles where receptors are located, informing the nervous system about the state of tension, length or stretch in the musculotendinous tissue. These receptors are stimulated during the ‘challenge’ and the ‘rolling’ part of the Bowen move which changes the stimulus by the nervous system. This can change a pain/muscle spasm loop.
All moves done around a joint affect the joint capsule and ligaments that are richly innervated with propriocepters. Here again, stimulus will be received by the nervous system, inviting normalization of the joint function without the need for forceful manipulation.
Each Bowen move is done at the level of the superficial fascia and affects the relationship between the fascia and the nerve, muscle or tendon being mobilized. The fascia plays a major role in muscle coordination, postural alignment and overall structural and functional integrity. All of these are negatively affected when fascia stiffens, contracts or dehydrates. Following a Bowtech session it is not uncommon to see adhesions loosen up, for scar tissue to soften and posture to improve without harsh mobilization or stretching.
Segmental viscerosomatic spinal reflex (internal organs)
Several Bowtech moves engage these reflexes. They produce referreed reactions to internal organs through stimulation of the skin, muscles and nerves.
Acupuncture points and meridians
Most moves overlap acupuncture points and some actually cross two or three acupuncture meridians at once. Accupuncturists have commented on the immediate changes of the acupuncture pulses in response to the Bowen moves.
Harmonic vibration or resonance model
Bowen work moves set up vibrational patterns which bring the body back into balance and harmony.
Some Bowen procedures activate draining of the lymphatic system, stimulating the immune system.
This is often initiated during Bowen sessions, thereby improving the body’s ability to function at a cellular level.
What can Bowtech be used for?
It can be used for traumatic to chronic illnesses depending on each individual’s capacity to heal.
Among conditions that often respond well to Bowen work are:
→ Back pain and sciatica
→ Digestive and bowel problems
→ Ear ache and TMJ problems
→ Migraines and headaches
→ Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
→ Hip, knee, ankle and foot problems
→ Menstrual and hormonal irregularities
→ Neck and shoulder problems
→ Groin pain, pelvic tilt and uneven leg length
→ Respiratory problems and hay fever
→ RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow
→ Sports and other traumatic injuries
Article by Else Vistisen, Occupational Therapist, Bowen Technique, and Emmet Technique Practitioner, of Else Vistisen Therapy.