What is the Bowen Technique?

The Bowen Technique is a remedial, hands-on therapy that is applied using very gentle pressure. Thumbs and fingers are used on precise points of the body to perform Bowen’s unique set of rolling-type moves which stimulate the muscles and soft tissue of the body.

There is no manipulation or adjustment of hard tissue, and no force is used. The experience of a treatment is gentle, subtle, and relaxing.

It is believed that the Bowen Technique prompts the body to reset, repair and balance itself. Clients report the experience of pain relief, improvement of function, and recovery of energy.

Most of the moves can be performed through light clothing such as T-shirts or leggings.

How does Bowen Technique work?

There have been many theories put forward in the past about why Bowen Technique works, and there are many people who, conversely, believe that we don’t need to know. They may have a point, but these days there is much more that we can understand, and acceptance from the medical community and wider use of the technique by health professionals will come from a better understanding of what happens during a Bowen Technique treatment.

The Bowen Technique aims to balance the whole person, not just the symptoms. One of the most interesting areas of the body is the brain. The basic function of the brain is to receive information from our sensory organs and interpret this information, such as light, sound, pain, movement. This enables conscious communication within our body. Neuroplasticity which is the brains ability to recognise itself by forming new neural connections, allows the nerve cells in the brain to adjust their activities in response to new situations or changes in their environment. This includes a stimulus through touch. There is something like 600,000 signals that travel from the brain into the body every second and these in turn come back to the brain with information which is then interpreted and sent back out. Whenever we feel, hear, see or even think something, the brain brings in past experience in order to categorise the sensation and create an appropriate response.

In the case of the Bowen move, the brain is unable to do this instantly and needs more information to form a response. As it is, just when the brain is asking for more information, the therapist has left the room, and therefore the brain has to send specific signals to the area in order to gauge a response. If the client is lying down, the immediate response is nearly always rapid and deep relaxation. The client will also often report that they feel a tingling sensation or warmth in the area just worked on. “It felt like your hands were still on me,” is a common comment.

One of the more difficult elements to come to terms with is how little ‘hands on work’ is done during a session. In addition, the client may well walk out of the treatment room having felt little or no improvement over and above a sense of relaxation.

However, the reactions to Bowen in the days following a treatment can often belie its soft and gentle approach. Stiffness, soreness, headache and feeling like “I’ve been run over by a bus!” are common, demonstrating that the brain and body have started the process of repair. This process, when started, is generally rapid and it is not uncommon for even longstanding pain to be reduced or resolved in two or three treatments.

Although musculoskeletal problems such as frozen shoulder, back and neck pain account for the majority of conditions brought for Bowen treatment, it can also be helpful with more organic problems.

What happens during a treatment?

At the first session, a full medical history including current medication will be required.

Normally, the treatment will take place on a therapy table. Initially, this will begin with you laying face down, and during the treatment you will need to turn over on to your back only once.

As described earlier, gentle precise movements across specific muscles and soft tissue are undertaken. Between sets of moves, breaks of between 2 and 5 minutes occur. These are essential to the treatment as this allows the body to process the information it has just received and how to respond.

A session is likely to last for approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Bowen Technique follows the philosophy of “less is more.” Therefore, the length of the session bears no relationship to its effectiveness.

How many treatments will I need?

There are no guarantees because everyone responds differently to the treatment. However, the average number of treatment sessions is around three, each a week apart, with a follow up session four weeks later to allow the work undertaken to embed and take effect. However, some problems need more treatments and equally some fewer.

Whatever your needs are, you can be confident that you won’t be required to have a long course of treatment only to find it has not helped. There can never be any promises or guarantees, but in most cases, you should notice a change in a fairly quickly.