2021 Alternative Therapies Bowen Therapy

What Is The Bowen Technique? (Beginners Guide!)

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and am not offering medical advice. Please consult your doctor if you have any medical concerns.

What Is The Bowen Technique?


The Bowen Technique is a series of gentle massage-like movements that are designed to relax the body’s sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system. Bowen works on the fascia, a membrane that connects internal organs. When stressed, the fascia can become inflamed leading to aches and pains.


This video by NAT Education provides a video demonstration overview of what the Bowen Technique is:



How Does The Bowen Technique Work?


The Bowen Technique works by calming the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for fight or flight) and relaxing the fascia (soft connective tissue). A Bowen treatment is typically 30-60 minutes, and works through a sequence of gentle, massage-like movements. It can be done while fully clothed. 


To provide more context, this piece by Jessica Hertlein provides a video demonstration of exactly how Bowen Therapy works:



Who Invented The Bowen Technique?


Tom Ambrose Bowen (1916-1982) invented the Bowen Technique in Australia after WW2. He discovered a massage-like therapy that activated the body’s natural healing processes by stimulating and relaxing the soft connective tissue (fascia). Bowen worked tirelessly to share his gift with all who needed it. 


This short video by the Bowen Association Australia, celebrates the ‘These Two Hands’ mantra of Tom Bowen:



Where Was The Bowen Technique Invented?


The Bowen Technique was invented in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, located just outside of Melbourne, by the practitioner Tom Ambrose Bowen in the 1950’s. Tom was never licenced, however after serving in WW2, he wanted to help end human suffering by activating the body’s natural healing mechanisms


After extensive study, Bowen isolated certain moves on the body which had profound healing effects on his patients. He became obsessed, seeing upwards of 65 patients in a single day, specializing on children, but also working with athletes, the police and even Melbourne Cub racehorses. 


What Does A Bowen Therapist Do?


A Bowen Therapist, also known as a Bowen Practitioner does a gentle massage-like form of bodywork that gently stretches the body’s soft connective tissue (fascia). By relaxing and stretching this soft tissue, a Bowen Therapist is able to induce the body’s natural pain relief systems.   


Is Bowen Therapy Quackery?


While devout followers swear by the effectiveness of Bowen Therapy, the results are predominantly anecdotal, with little scientific evidence to back them up. Scientific studies were done in 2011, 2016 and 2017, and while the findings were conflicting, there was evidence Bowen helped increase flexibility and mobility


Bowen Therapy is a non-invasive massage-like therapy, activating the body’s soft connective tissue (fascia). Practitioners use gentle, rolling hand moves over the soft tissue, helping it to stretch and relax, dropping cortisol levels and allowing the body to enter a state of calm healing.


How Long Does Bowen Therapy Take To Work?


Depending on the severity of the condition, Bowen Therapy may start offering pain relief within the first 1-3 sessions. In more serious or chronic conditions, Bowen may take upwards of 6-12 sessions, with a one week break between each session. Avoiding strenuous activity between sessions is recommended. 


This short video by the Geelong Bowen & Remedial Therapies explains more in detail about how Bowen Therapy works, and specifically how long it takes to be effective:


What Can You Not Do After Bowen Therapy?


After a Bowen Therapy session, it is recommended to avoid excessive heat (hot tubs, hot showers, spas), excessive cold (cold showers, cold drinks), or excessive strenuous physical activity (the gym, martial arts, lifting heavy objects) for at least 7 days to avoid interfering with the Bowen Treatment


How Do You Feel After Bowen Therapy?


After a Bowen Treatment, patients have reported a number of feelings, ranging from mild relaxation, drowsiness, emotional release, and warmth, to more severe like headaches, nausea, and feeling the onset of fever. Some patients experience temporary aches and pains for a few days as their bodies adjust.


Some patients have compared the feelings after a Bowen session as being similar to the soreness and inflammation after strenuous physical activity, like running or lifting heavy weights at the gym. While none of these side-effects are permanent, they may linger for a day or two. 


What Is The Bowen Technique? A Beginners Guide


The Bowen Technique is a type of bodywork that is similar to receiving a massage. While technically not a medical treatment, many users around the world seek it out for pain relief. 


The practice involves gently moving and stretching the bodies fascia, which is the thin casing of connective tissue that holds every piece of our body in place – from muscles to nerve fibers, to organs, to blood vessels and to bones. 


But the fascia tissue does more than just hold us together, it also has its own connected nerve network, making it nearly as sensitive as skin to the touch, and when it gets stressed, it tightens up. 


The Bowen Therapy is designed to use gentle, almost massage like hand movements, which are designed to relax the bodies ligaments, tendons, muscles as well as the fascia and surrounding skin. 


The intention of Bowen Therapy is to reduce pain and inflammation by activating the bodies nervous system. 


The practice was discovered in Australia by Tom Ambrose Bowen (1916-1982). Bowen was never licenced as a medical practitioner, however he claimed that his technique was able to reset the body’s pain response, and patients were able to live happier and freer lives. 


The aim of Bowen is to work on the bodies autonomic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that supplies the bodies internal organs, including stomach, intestines, lungs, heart and blood vessels.


The goal of Bowen Therapy is to block and inhibit the sympathetic nervous system (which controls our fight-or-flight response), and instead, bring to life the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest-and-digest response). 


Effectively, Bowen Therapy heals by allowing the body to de-stress, drop cortisol levels, and enter a state of calm and relaxation. 


Bowen Therapy has a lot in common with massage. Technically it is not a medical treatment. 


While there are many people who swear by the results of Bowen, the reported responses are highly anecdotal, and has had little scientific back to prove its effectiveness. 


However there are people all over the world who continue to seek out Bowen Treatments for a diverse range of ailments, and love it because of the very nature that it ‘goes against traditional medicine’. 


Let’s dive deeper and explore more about what Bowen is reported to be able to accomplish:


What Conditions Is Bowen Typically Used For?


The Bowen Technique is used for a wide range of conditions, but it’s core function is around pain relief and increasing mobility. 


Depending on the types of symptoms being experienced, Bowen may be used to complement other therapies, or as an alternative to traditional western medicine. 


The technique is generally used for the following:


  • Joint pain
  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches & migraines
  • Colic in babies

This short video by NaturalColicRelief shows exactly how Bowen Therapy can be used as a natural colic relief for babies:



Similarly it can also be used as a ‘pain killer’ for conditions related to:

  • Cancer treatments
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Asthma


And in more general cases, can be used for the following:


  • Increased mobility
  • Increased flexibility
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Calming anxiety
  • Lessening depression
  • Eliminating fatigue and increasing energy
  • And helping to de-stress


Has Bowen Therapy Been Proven To Work?


Unfortunately there has been limited scientific evidence to date that Bowen Therapy is medically effective. In fairness, the treatment has not yet been widely researched, and while there have been some studies, the results have been inconclusive. 


As an example, back in 2016 there was a 66 year old woman who, after being in a car crash and developed migraines, neck and jaw injuries, had received 14 Bowen treatments within a 4 month period. 


The treatments were done by a professional Bowen therapist who also authored the report. They’d used a tool to track the patient’s symptoms, including changes in pain and their overall enjoyment of life. 


During the final two sessions, the patient had reported they no longer had any symptoms of pain. 10 months later, the Bowen Practitioner followed up, and the client was still free from neck pain and migraines. 


In 2017 a study found conflicting results related to Bowen effectiveness. This study included 34 participants who had received either a Bowen Treatment, or had received a placebo fake treatment. 


The researchers then measured the participants pain threshold on 10 different locations on the body, and concluded that Bowen had given inconsistent effects on the participants pain response. 


One caveat however, is that these participants did not have any specific conditions they were being treated for, and the technique was only performed twice. 


To fully comprehend the effectiveness of Bowen, more studies are needed to truly understand its therapeutic effects on the body, and specifically to pain response over a longer period of time. 


There has however been some research which has supported the use of Bowen for improving flexibility and mobility, allowing patients to better able move around and live active and healthy lives. 


In 2011, a study was performed with 120 participants, and it was found that Bowen Therapy had improved participants flexibility in their hamstrings after just one session. 


Also in 2011, another study had found that after 13 Bowen sessions, participants suffering from chronic strokes, had improved motor function. 


More studies are obviously needed, however initial results tend to suggest that Bowen could be useful in the treatment of mobility, flexibility and pain management. And while there is not yet definitive evidence to prove it is effective as a medical treatment, anecdotally there are still people all over the world, who have sword to the healing power of Bowen Therapy. 


Side Effects Of Bowen Therapy


Due to a lack of proper research and study, the full range of side effects of Bowen Therapy are not abundantly clear. It is reported by practitioners to have zero side effects, however, according to participant reports, the following side effects have been observed:


  • Headaches
  • Sore joints
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Tingling sensations
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • New pains in different parts of the body


According to Bowen Practitioners, the presence of these symptoms is simply a part of the healing process, and that the body needs to go a little backwards before it can start moving forwards. 


As always, more extensive research is required to understand fully all of the side effects and what causes them. 


Preparing For Your First Bowen Session


The first step is to connect with a professional Bowen Practitioner. They can be called either Bowen Therapists or Bowenworkers. 


A session typically lasts between 30 minutes and 1 hour, and here are some basic guidelines:


  • Wear light and loose-fitting clothing. You will stay fully clothed for your session, but your practitioner will need to do their moves through your clothes
  • You will typically be lying down, however sometimes sitting depending on the areas they are working on
  • Similar to a massage, they’ll use their fingers to work gentle, rolling movements on specific areas of your body. Typically just their thumbs and index fingers
  • They will move and stretch your skin, but all moves are generally quite gentle, and the pressure won’t be forceful.
  • Each set of moves lasts about 1-2 minutes, and then the practitioner will leave the room for 3-5 minutes while your body responds. 
  • If necessary, the practitioner will repeat the moves to ensure they ‘lock in’
  • After your session, your practitioner will provide some lifestyle and self-care advice, specifically laying out the types of activities to avoid. While you’re undergoing Bowen Therapy, it is generally best to avoid any strenuous exercise, as this can nullify the treatments.


Keep in mind, the total number of treatments required is typically 4-8, however may vary based on the type of work being done, and the severity of the symptoms, as well as your bodies response to the treatments. 


Your practitioner will work to understand your unique bodie’s needs and provide customized therapy plans. 


To give a demonstration, this video IntegratedBowenTherapy shows exactly how a typical Bowen Therapy session is run, and how it can be used to alleviate lower back pain:



Is Bowen Therapy Right For You?


While there is still limited conclusive scientific research on the effectiveness of Bowen Therapy, there are devout followers around the world who swear by it. And while that isn’t conclusive proof that it works, it is anecdotally very exciting news. 


Patients have reported better mobility, as well as reduced aches and pains. Bowen Therapy is believed to work by simply helping the body to relax, and in that state of deep relaxation, it is able to trigger its own natural healing mechanisms. 


To find out more, it is recommended to consult with a professional Bowen Practitioner, to find out whether Bowen is right for you or not. Ask plenty of questions and be sure to voice any concerns you may have before getting started, so they’re properly able to put you at ease.


PS – if you’re a Bowen Therapist, you’ll want to check out these articles on the complete Bowen Therapy Marketing guide to create successful marketing campaigns to grow your practice:


Bowen Therapy Instagram Ads

Bowen Therapy Facebook Ads

Bowen Therapy YouTube Ads

Bowen Therapy SEO

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *