How effective is Bowen? – A personal account

No matter how much academic research you undertake, no matter how much other people tell, no matter how much you want to believe, there is no substitute for experiencing things yourself.

Sadly, it is not always possible to experience what others do for a variety of reasons, such as time, cost, or indeed good fortune. Yes you read that correctly, good fortune. To experience the pain that someone else feels is just not possible unless you are suffering the same injury or illness. Even then, we all have different levels of tolerable pain, which makes exact comparisons impossible, but close approximations are possible. What is more consistent and to a degree more measurable, is how any of us react to treatment for our ailments. In this case, specifically the Bowen Fascial Release Technique.

Let me explain a little more. For some weeks, I have been experiencing a swollen Achilles’ tendon in my right leg. This ebbed and flowed, and I managed it by applying an Apple Cider Vinegar compress to reduce the swelling and painkillers to manage the pain. However, as with any injury, the body needs to compensate if there is any change to the weight distribution. The body is a remarkable thing and makes these compensations without us even being aware of them, or the need to make them. In my case, to protect the Achilles’ tendon, more of my weight had moved to the left leg. This was something I had not noticed, until a couple of weeks ago on a sunny Friday in March.

I was on the way to my clinic, walking from the car park when I felt a strange click in my left knee, I remember thinking “that was strange.” Not giving it the care and attention I now realise with hindsight I should have; I continued on my merry way. Payback from my knee was not a long time coming. Within three further steps, my left knee decided it didn’t like supporting me anymore and decided to buckle. Fortunately, I didn’t hit the ground too hard as a wall next to me gave me a chance to support myself and slow the graceful fall. I immediately looked around for the judges holding up their scorecards for artistic impression, or perhaps Len Goodman shouting “7.” Although I can now make light of it, at the time it was anything but amusing and more than a little worrying, as I was unsure if I could move forwards or backwards. My question was soon answered, as I got up and tried to take another step. One step it was gentle and fearful step, but the knee held, another step and again no repetition. Perhaps it was a one-off, a twist or something similar, not to be repeated. It wasn’t though as the next step the pain returned with gusto, and again I felt the knee buckle and tried to give way. This time as I was expecting it, I managed not to crumble and fall, but instead felt the pain course through my knee and made me extend upwards. Although I had not collapsed it was extremely painful to step forwards, or backwards and the fear of it happening again was palpable.

Another two steps and it happened again, and then again, and again. By now I was halfway to the clinic but also halfway to getting back to the car park. Which way should I go, back to the car and go home, letting clients down, or pushing forward to the clinic to waiting clients. For right or wrong, there was no choice for me. I pushed onto the clinic, clenching my thigh muscles tight to lock the leg straight, and then swing the leg around instead of the more normal flexing through the hip joint straight.

The clinic is up two flights of stairs, and the last half a flight was on my hands and knees. Yet, I made it before my first client of the day. I had just enough time to rub some pain relief gel into the knee before my first client appeared. I still had to work out in my head how I could stand and move around the therapy couch, let alone actually do it.

As the phrase goes ,”necessity is the mother of invention” and somehow I found a way. Part of me wanted to get to the pharmacist to get painkillers and advice, yet I knew that would have to wait until lunchtime and would involve descending the stairs and then coming back up, something that filled me with concern and fear.

After a couple of hours I had a break for lunch, so nervously I ventured down the stairs, one at a time. I made it, but then had to try to walk the albeit short distance to the pharmacy. Thinking about each step and locking the leg I made it there and back with pills and potions. Once back up the two flights of stairs, extremely slowly and gingerly, I took stock of my situation and how I was feeling. I had two more clients to see, I had to descend the stairs again, and then walk to the car park. Many dangers and pitfalls lay in those seemly simple actions that I would normally have taken for granted.

Breaking these down, I dealt with each one in turn and concentrated on the task in front of me. If I had thought to far ahead, it would have been too daunting.

The clients were treated, I was almost getting confident in my movements, although every now and then I was reminded not to get ahead of myself as the shooting pain returned with a frequency that was concerning.

After descending the stairs once again, I limped to the car which took 25 minutes rather than the normal 2 minutes, but once there, I could drive home and for the first time in 6 hours I felt vaguely calm and safe.

So there I am home, safe but walking is extremely difficult and fear of the knee collapsing again is only surpassed by the warning pain that it shoots through my knee with every step.

But what next? Well it will come as no surprise to you that a little self diagnosis went on, and feeling confident that the nature and occurrence of the pain indicated that no structural bone damage by way of break or dislocation. Therefore, it had to be soft tissue, yes fascia that had been damaged.

I waited for my wife, the amazing talented Beth who has almost completed her training as a Bowen Fascial Release Technique therapist, to return home so she could treat me.

It was immediately apparent to Beth that my hamstring had tightened to an extreme extent and just above the knee had no flexibility at all. She then treated me with, and almost immediately the pain was reduced a little. As with this amazing technique, it takes time to heal, but I could start to feel the improvement. Within four days, I could walk confidently although going up and down stairs still provided a challenge. After a second treatment, my knee felt stronger and the pain remaining was minimal. The need for the painkillers (naproxen) was negated and none have been taken since.

Now 8 days after the event, I am walking with no strapping or support, no painkillers, no ibuprofen or volterol ointments.

Clear proof that Bowen worked for me, and more proof in my mind of just how much this can help in so many ways. It also reinforced the knowledge of how important it is to treat a new injury, before compensatory actions and motions are developed. If they have developed, don’t worry they can be fixed too, but it just takes a bit longer.

So if it help me, imagine how it can help you. You don’t need to be in pain, give Bowen a try, and feel the benefits for yourself.