Bowen Therapy: A Form of Gentle Muscle Manipulation for Long Term Pain Relief

Often referred to as the “homeopathy” of bodywork modalities, practitioners use very few movements or pressure over the course of a session. Bowen therapy is based on several theories including the autonomic nervous system response, site-specific relaxation and Traditional Chinese Medicine’s acupuncture points and meridians.

A Brief History of Bowen

The Bowen Technique was developed by a man from Australia named Thomas (Tom) Ambrose Bowen in the 1950’s. Bowen did not receive any kind of formal training in any form of bodywork or medicine. He simply attributed his technique as a gift from God. Mr. Bowen’s work brought him many clients and he outgrew the home-clinic of his friend and moved into a clinic and full time practice.
Bowen never wrote a theory or description of his technique, he simply left his legacy to those who assisted him. For this reason multiple theories and styles of Bowen’s work exist today. Each are interpreted a little differently based on the backgrounds of the assistants’ training in massage, chiropractic, osteopathy and so forth.

What is a Session Like?

After completing a health intake form and discussing concerns and goals with the practitioner the client will lay on a table, fully clothed, for his session. The practitioner, specially trained in the Bowen technique, will have a protocol chosen specifically for this client’s needs and goals. Only points specific to these needs or goals will be used in the session and often it will be very few points that are addressed.
Bowen therapy is very different from a classical massage where the client removes most or all of her clothing and is massaged with oils or creams. The purpose of the Bowen session is to address a few points that may encourage the body to release pain or tension patterns kind of like having a neck massager massage you. The practitioner will use gentle pressure and manipulate the soft tissues on one point and then leave the room for several minutes. Upon returning the practitioner will work on a different area, using the same gentle pressure, and again leave the room.

The time between the soft tissue manipulations is a chance for the body to process the message it has received through the nervous system and acupuncture meridians. For those used to a classical body massage it can be quite puzzling to have the therapist leave the room. It is important in this modality of bodywork to not overstimulate the body so in this case, less is simply more.

How to Find a Practitioner

There are multiple training programs in Bowen therapy so the client seeking a practitioner trained in this form of bodywork has some options. For any type of bodywork advertised it is always advised to ask the therapist about her training in that modality. Some massage schools teach a myriad of introductions to other bodywork modalities that may require many more hours of advanced training to adeptly practice.

Some schools of the Bowen technique teach short classes offered over a period of time. The instructor may travel to various countries or regions to offer these workshops given over a two to three day period. After a certain amount of workshops attended the students are awarded certificates from the school. Practitioners may be looking for clients to practice on while taking their training and may offer a discount on one or more sessions to gain experience.
National level associations for this bodywork modality are limited but do include directories of their members.