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Article on Bowen Therapy as it appeared in the Townsend Newsletter

Bowen Therapy
 
An Innovative Modality that Completes Our Holistic Practice by Eugene F. Hummel, N.M.D. and Barbara Eaton, M.Ed.
 
Bodywork has traditionally been a cornerstone of any complete holistic practice in naturopathy offering patients assistance with relaxation, immediate improvements in injury-induced pain and diminished mobility, and sometimes even restructuring of the bodys energy dynamics. In our clinic, all patients receive bodywork treatments with every visit in addition to their homeopathic, herbal and nutritional offerings.
 
  When we began assessing the myriad forms of bodywork and massage that are available in an effort to choose which would best serve our patients, we were truly astounded at the breadth of modalities that are offered. For a small clinic or sole practitioner, hiring well-seasoned massage therapists with many modalities in their repertoire may not be an option. Thus, it is quite a task to choose just one or two that will offer the practitioner the greatest scope of applications and the patient the greatest therapeutic benefits. When we discovered Bowen Therapy, we found the answer to this quandary.
 
  The benefits of Bowen Therapy include its wide application to many specific injuries and medical conditions, its holistic design which causes it to act as a catalyst to the bodys natural healing mechanisms, the relative ease of acquiring mastery of the technique, and that it can be administered through clothing. Also, the amount of time one touches the patient is very minimal allowing for less stress on the therapist and the ability to service up to three patients at a time. Research, of which we will speak soon, has validated many of the claims that patients and practitioners have been extolling. There are virtually no situations where Bowen therapy would be contraindicated as it is safe for patients of all ages including infants.
 
  The technique was designed to be holistic in the sense that it does not focus on a single issue or specific presentation of pain or dysfunction. Rather, it is designed to treat the whole body by restoring balance primarily through the autonomic nervous system, and allowing the body to engage its own healing in optimal fashion. In this way it is a form of homeopathic touch where the body is given information and the practitioner waits for the body to respond. (Baker.) The practitioner does not rely on diagnoses, but instead facilitates the body to restore its own balance and health.
 
  Milton Albrecht, director of Bowen Therapy International states that this basic principle of Bowen Therapy can be achieved as the body adjusts itself with a very minimal amount of manipulation. Also, experienced practitioners can adapt the treatment as they assess the degree and character of the bodys response.
 
  According to Peter Kassner, N.M.D. of Alabama, who has trained in craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, NMT, and many other modalities, Bowen Therapy is his most valuable bodywork tool. He finds it most useful for conditions of chronic and severe pain. Bowen gives the results of highly technical modalities that require years of training and practice.
 
  The History of Bowen Therapy
 
  Bowen is unique. It is not a derivative of other therapies, and bears little resemblance to other body work modalities. It is noninvasive, soft-touch therapy that was developed by an Australian named Tom Bowen. Bowen started his career in bodywork by volunteering at football clubs in the 1950s. In 1959 he began a full-time practice and called himself an osteopath. He called his therapy soft tissue manipulation. He drew on his self-education in shiatsu, acupuncture and massage, but it appears that the core of his work is an original method that is a product of his many years of personal experience and extraordinary personal talent. At the height of his practice in the mid 1970s, he testified before an investigative hearing of the Australian government that he was treating as many as 280 patients each week. It is believed that Tom Bowen continuously refined and adapted his methods right up to his death in 1984,
 
  The first Bowen seminar in the United States was sponsored by Milton Albrecht in 1989. In 1997, Albrecht founded Bowen Therapy International, an organization dedicated to the promotion, practice, and instruction of the method. Albrecht, who is a highly experienced massage therapist, has developed beginning and advanced seminars that are a synthesis of Tom Bowen's work and his own personal experience using Bowen Therapy with over 50,000 clients. For a relatively new therapy, Bowen has seen rapid acceptance with 1200 practitioners worldwide. It is more widely accepted in Australia and in Europe, where in Great Britain it is now used in hospitals (Baker.) .
 
  The Basic Bowen Treatment
 
  A basic Bowen Treatment takes about 30-40 minutes to administer. Patients are usually treated by lying on a table, although they may be seated in a chair if that is necessary. The treatment begins with a series of precise manipulations of the major muscle groups, usually in sets of two or three moves with wait periods after each set. The classic Bowen move begins when the therapist pulls skin slack backwards away from the muscle, then applies appropriate pressure laterally, challenging the muscle for a few seconds. Then the muscle is abruptly released creating a vibration much as one would pluck the string of a guitar.
 
  During the wait periods, which are approximately two minutes in length, the body processes the information and resets the tension in the muscles. It is theorized that this feedback loop operates via the autonomic nervous system possibly by stimulating the golgi tendon organs within the muscles (Kassner).
 
  The treatment continues with sets of moves punctuated by wait periods, first while the patient is prone and then with the patient supine. The primary muscle groups are manipulated first, then the secondary groups, and finally the structures below these muscles. There are specific manipulations for specific injuries such as TMJ, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome, etc., but many of these are not administered with a patients first treatment.
 
  Many conditions of chronic pain and impaired mobility or chronic illnesses such as asthma, lympoedama, and fibromyalgia are completely resolved or greatly improved with just one or two treatments. Psychological effects of improved concentration, improved sleep, and lessened fatigue have also been frequently reported.
 
  Research on Bowen Therapy
 
  Research on the effects of Bowen Therapy has been conducted in both formal and informal settings in locations around the world. At the Bowen Research and Training Institute in Palm Harbor Florida, Dr. Jo Anne Whitaker has conducted tests of Bowens effect on patients in controlled experiments. In one such completed study, Whitaker measured patients heart-rate variability (HRV) before and after Bowen Therapy treatments along with patients self-reports of symptom improvement.
 
  Twenty subjects presenting with Fibromyalgia were chosen using the American College of Rheumatology criteria, and controls were chosen who were matched for age and gender. Evaluations of HRV measurements taken immediately before and after Bowen treatments revealed a marked shift. Results revealed a lowering of the sympathetic response and an increase in the parasympathetic, indicating a positive response in the autonomic nervous system. Using this objective measure, Dr. Whitaker was able to show that despite the very limited and gentle touch that is done in a Bowen Treatment, the relaxation response in the patient was significant. The Fibromyalgia patient group showed greater improvements than the controls.
 
  In addition to these objective findings, all of the Fibromyalgia patients in this study reported improvements in their pain with many reporting the improvements lasting for days, and in some cases, even months. For some individuals, regular Bowen treatments provided ongoing remission of their condition (Whitaker.) Research on the effects of Bowen Therapy on conditions such as TMJ, shoulder injury and others is ongoing under Whitakers direction.
 
  In another study conducted by Julian Baker and Helen Kinnear at the European College of Bowen Studies, two groups of patients who presented with nonspecific, chronic shoulder stiffness and pain were treated. One hundred patients were evaluated, and each was pre-assessed and post-assessed to measure their degree of reduced range of motion.
 
  Subjects were equally divided among experienced Bowen therapists and each received four treatment sessions. Half received Bowen Therapy and the control group subjects received manipulations that were not Bowen Therapy as a placebo.
 
  The Bowen treated group reported a significant improvement in shoulder range of motion and in pain reduction. The greatest improvement was seen in shoulder abduction and horizontal abduction, and these were statistically significant increases as confirmed by actually clinical measurement. Although improvements in the placebo group were greater than expected with half reporting some improvement, the rate and degree of improvement was not statistically significant (Baker.)
 
  Theories of Causal Mechanisms
 
  Bowen addresses asymmetrical tensions in corresponding muscle groups and attempts to get left and right sides of the body balanced. Thus, just this balancing of the two halves of the fascia may contribute to its effectiveness. Dysfunctions in the temporo-mandibular joint and in the sacral-coccygeal-inomate system are also addressed with specific manipulations. It is well accepted in many other bodywork disciplines, that these are areas where sources of major chronic conditions can reside. Some of the Bowen moves do involve reflex points that are a part of many reflexology practices, so the action of these reflexes may also be at work.
 
  Julian Baker has theorized that changes in the patients energy flow during the Bowen treatment may be a major mechanism by which healing occurs. He states that the practitioner is not creating energy nor destroying energy but facilitates its direction and flow. Yet, there is no intentional channeling or directing of energy during Bowen as there is in Reiki or Healing Touch.
 
  Dr. Whitaker has theorized that the harmonic frequencies created when the muscles are quickly released in the classic Bowen move may be another mechanism that the body responds via the autonomic nervous system. Other therapists believe that the therapy stimulates the bodys detoxification processes as well.
 
  Bowen Therapy is a highly versatile and safe procedure. Its only drawback is in the area of believability. Patients find it hard to accept that such mild manipulations can effect such profound changes. In this way it is very much like other naturopathic methods. Indeed very much as Dr. Baker implied, it may be a form of homeopathic touch.
 
    Information about future seminars in Bowen Therapy is available from:
 
  Bowen Therapy Training
1188 Wooster Rd. W
Barberton, OH 44203 330-825-6167
    web site: www.bowentherapytraining.com
 
  Sources
Albrecht, M., CMT: Director of Bowen Therapy International, Auburn, California; December 6, 2002, personal phone conversation.
 
  Albrecht, M., Bowen Therapy Manual Levels 1& 2, Bowen Therapy International, 1991.
 
  Baker, J., The Bowen Technique: What Is It? retrieved January 5, 2003,
 
  Baker, J. and Kinnear, H., Frozen Shoulder Research Programme, The European College of Bowen Studies; Somerset, UK, 1999.
 
  Kassner, P., N.M.D., Northport, Alabama; personal phone conversation, December 15, 2002.
 
  Whitaker, J., M.D., F.A.A.P., Fibromyalgia and other connective tissue type diseases, retrieved January 10, 2003,
 
  About the authors:
  Eugene F. Hummel is a practicing naturopath and certified Bowen Instructor in Barberton, Ohio. He also was an instructor at the First National University of Naturopathy in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. He can be contacted at info@bowentherapytraining.com or 330-825-6167 . Barbara Eaton is a freelance writer and a fledgling Bowen practitioner.  

 

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is for reference and educational use only.

        

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