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What Is the Bowen Technique?

The Bowen Technique is a pain-relief technique developed by Tom Bowen of Australia. Practitioners use gentle rolling movements over muscle and other soft tissue to stimulate your body to heal itself.

Bowen taught his technique to only a few people, and the only person to go on to train other people was Oswald Rentsch. He called the work Bowtech and still directs The Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia.

The Bowen Technique Book

Only instructors accredited by Bowtech can offer the training directly passed on by Tom Bowen. This training includes seven modules of basic training and two courses in specialized Bowen procedures.

The technique, also called Bowenwork, has reportedly helped people resolve arthritis pain, back pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, sciatica, sports injuries, and more.

Features of Bowenwork

The unique features of Bowenwork that make it different from other forms of bodywork, such as Swedish massage, include:

  • The practitioner uses a very gentle and painless touch, with no deep pressure or probing, and does only the minimum needed to elicit a healing response in your body.

  • Results are fast; the technique often brings significant relief to pain and injury within two or three sessions.

  • The relief is usually deep and long-lasting.

  • The technique is safe for everyone.

  • During a Bowen session, the practitioner takes two-minute breaks and leaves the room. These pauses are an essential part of a session because they give your body time to adjust to the information it has received from the work. 

  • The technique is easy to learn and has only one basic move. However, Bowen does have specific sequences and requires practitioner sensitivity that can take time to develop.

How Bowen Technique Works

Bowen has a basic "move" that "distorts a muscle or tendon that is not under load and then rolls over it at a precise location without sliding on the skin," according to The Bowen Technique by Vicki Mechner from the November/December 2003 issue of Massage Magazine.

A Bowen practitioner can perform the technique through clothing or directly on the skin and never uses oil or lotion. The practitioner does the moves in sets and leaves the room for at least two minutes between sets to let your body relax and make its own adjustments.

Exactly how the technique works on your body isn't clear. Theories include:

  • Mechner says the moves cause the spindle cells and Golgi tendon organs to down-regulate a muscle’s resting tension through the central nervous system.

  • In the article Gentle Touch Produces Miracles, practitioner Gerri Shapiro describes how the Bowen moves create energy surges that relieve tension and pain and improve movement by sending neurological impulses to the brain.

  • Bowtech describes the technique in terms of the stretch reflex, joint proprioceptors, fascia, segmental viscerosomatic spinal reflexes, the harmonic vibration or resonance model, and lymphatics.

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