A Closer Look - F.A.Q. Print E-mail

Why and how does Bowen Therapy work?


We all know that our body consists of 60-80% of water – yet what do we feed our body? Tea, coffee, Coke, beer, wine (alcohol in general), soft drinks, juices etc. Many of these are diuretics! They dehydrate us even more! As we grow older, a gradual loss of thirst perception occurs, so we drink less water and our body becomes drier still. Is it coincidence then, that many of us become also less and less flexible as we age? Could dehydration perhaps contribute to stiffer joints?


There is a theory which explains why Bowen Therapy works. It makes good sense to me. Even though, as far as I can gather, nobody really knows why it works, this theory suggests that Bowen Therapy assists in rehydrating the body.

Consider the following thoughts:



The importance of water


The body functions optimally with the appropriate amount of water. Why?


I see it this way: Throughout the body we have connective tissue (fascia). Between every single cell in our body there is connective tissue and it keeps things in their rightful place. If the connective tissue is fully hydrated, it is stretchable and slippery – not unlike the chicken pieces we may prepare for dinner: The slippery, "slimy ", clear tissue which feels wet – that’s connective tissue. It encases muscles, organs and structures and is present throughout the body.


When connective tissue is wet, it is slippery. However, when it dries up, it behaves like "Glad Wrap" or "Cling Wrap": Allow two sheets of dry Glad Wrap to touch and they cling to each other, you cannot shift them. But: If one of them is a little wet, they will not stick; because of the water the two sheets slip and slide as though you might have "oiled and greased" them.


Our fascia behaves just like that: water makes it flexible and slippery. Arms and legs move easily and effortlessly, because they are well "oiled and greased" – with water! With too little water, the fascia adheres to surrounding tissue and movements become harder to make, are more labour-intensive; any movements require more energy (like a car that needs a service!).



How does Bowen Therapy create greater flexibility/mobility?


 Making a Bowen Move

Making a Bowen Move

When we practice Bowen Therapy, we make "Bowen Moves" over muscles, tendons or ligaments and move them sideways, i.e. across the muscle, not with the direction of the muscle as is usually done in massage. These moves going across the fibre are called "Bowen Moves". By going across, we move not only the muscles, tendons or ligaments, but also the connective tissue that is connected to them. By going across, we also stretch it – and that is our intention. Thus those muscles etc become a tool to stretch fascia!

I believe that it is at the point of the greatest stretch, that the connective tissue is able to take on the greatest amount of water. Water softens all sorts of things, including connective tissue! Once it has become able to take up water, rehydration has commenced.


The wick in a burning candle draws up the wax and the candle continues to burn. Likewise, a tea towel hanging with one corner in a glass of water will soak up the water by means of capillary action.  It seems logical to me, that the connective tissue will draw or soak up water in the same way – – – provided the water is there... Therefore it does not seem unreasonable to presume that Bowen Therapy is a Rehydration Therapy.


So what would be a smart thing to do?

Of course!! – – You guessed it:

Drink water!! 


                              Drink water


If rehydration  makes tissue more slippery, would it not be reasonable to presume, that a movement of an arm or a leg will then require less energy? Instead of having to spend, say 100% of energy to pick up that cup of tea with a stiff arm, now we may only have to spend 80% of that energy! Would that not mean, that we have 20% "to play with"?

Based on priority (and not on our conscious intentions), our body will decide where it is going to spend that extra energy: perhaps in repairs, or maintenance, perhaps in being happier, being more patient or more creative, who knows?



What is Bowen Therapy used for?


A lot of my clients use Bowen Therapy for "Body Maintenance", but most of them come with a specific issue to start with. For example:

Most complain of some stiffness or pain in either joints, limbs or the back. They almost always feel relief after treatment.

Many feel tension in the neck and shoulders. They may suffer from headaches and migraines and in this regard I find Bowen Therapy particularly effective.


People with replacement hips or knees are often somewhat reluctant to have treatments, but so often I have heard them report after Bowen Therapy that they can move just so much more easily now. Ted, well into his seventies, had had both hips replaced and could hardly walk up the drive way when he first came. After a few treatments he reported: "I have improved out of sight!" Again, this does not always happen, but often enough!


Young people who have caught Glandular Fever attend school only irregularly for at least a term, because of exhaustion. In my experience, Bowen Therapy works excellently to get them back on track in a very short period of time. Many of them are largely "back to their own selves" within 2-4 treatments!! The same applies to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or to those who are constantly tired and exhausted. Many of these clients report significant improvement after only a handful of treatments, at times even after only ONE treatment!!


Asthma can be treated with Bowen Therapy very well. Drinking more water will help the situation also, and since Bowen Therapy is likely to assist in rehydrating the body, Bowen Therapy and additional water (perhaps with a pinch of salt) go hand in hand. The Bowen Moves often instigate immediate relief.


Hay fever and sinus congestion are treated in a very similar fashion to asthma. I’ll never forget a young man, suffering from hay fever at the time, exclaiming after a treatment: "Yipee, I can breathe again!"


A very old Bowen Therapy colleague from Western Australia, Mr Max Walker, showed me how to effectively deal with haemorrhoids. The treatment only takes 25 minutes. One of my clients came to me with haemorrhoid trouble –– he had three treatments and since then he has not suffered from them again.


I am constantly surprised at the results Bowen Therapy can achieve. A woman called me, saying she had been told by her friend: "You have to go and see Wilma!". She was going through a most difficult stretch in life, with obstacles in many areas of her life: She had no physical problems, but she appeared to have the feeling that everything in life was going wrong and she just couldn’t get on top of it any more, she was very teary. When I asked her, why specifically she had come, she replied: "I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know anything any more. I don’t know what I want any more." How and why Bowen Therapy helped her, perhaps only Tom Bowen himself will know, but when she came for the second treatment, I could clearly see that she was "a different woman". She had presence and she had direction again. She was regaining her dignity. Thank you, Tom!!



What is Lymphatic Drainage?


When my clients come for their "Maintenance" or when they feel "out of sorts", I often perform a full-body lymphatic drainage. I believe a lot of doctors don’t really know how useful lymph drainage can be. In Germany it is quite a common form of treatment, but here in Australia we still struggle to understand it. This is how I see it:


The Lymph System in our body is our "rubbish-removal-system". When we carry too much rubbish, too many toxins and waste products and/or do not exercise our body sufficiently to flush these out – we begin to feel tired easily, we may feel exhausted, don't have a lot of energy and become prone to catching colds easily. In times like these, lymph drainage is very helpful.

The Lymphatic System has filter stations much like sponges, called "Lymph Nodes". The lymph fluid flows through these and the nodes retain "bits" that need to be dealt with and broken down, e.g. bacteria, waste products etc. When the nodes become congested, they need to be cleared. In the laundry we would squeeze a sponge to clean it. In Bowen Therapy many of the Bowen Moves are made near those lymph nodes. The moves work on structural realignments of the body and, at the same time, placed in a particular sequence, they initiate lymphatic drainage. The way the client perceives it, the Moves are exactly the same.

Lymphatic Drainage helps us to "get up and going" again. It is such a relief for the body, NOT to have to deal with every-day-life and all the "rubbish" any more!


One client, Helen, rang me to make an appointment. She declared: " I need my rubbish taken out!" Funny and very apt!



What is Bowen Therapy like?


Bowen Therapy is best applied to the skin, rather than through clothing. For most of the treatment clients will lie on the treatment table. Generally, clients disrobe to their underwear and will be covered by towels at all times. This way they feel warm and comfortable. Moves, which are made standing or seated are generally carried out fully dressed (or wearing light clothing).

If, for one reason or another, a client is reluctant to take off his or her clothes, Bowen Therapy can be applied through clothing, however, I would ask clients to wear thin and non-slippery clothes (not silky). A bikini or bathers are very practical for the purpose, too. Applying the moves directly to the skin is best, since I can feel in more detail what is going on under the skin.



Does it hurt?


Generally it does not. And it should not, either. As you now know, the aim of the Bowen Moves appears to be to stretch the connective tissue by moving muscles, tendons or ligaments across the fibre. If it should hurt, what would you do? You’d protect that area by tightening up. The result would be that we cannot stretch the connective tissue in that area as easily and as far. The move would probably be less effective. Therefore, during the treatment, we want a relaxed body, a pain-free body. Some tenderness cannot always be avoided, but we do want to avoid pain. If it hurts, tell me – don’t put up with it, thinking: "I’m tough, I can stand it!" – My motto is: "Bowen and heroes don’t mix!"



Can I use Bowen Therapy for "Body Maintenance"?


Yes. Once people feel okay and the initial problem has largely been solved, many choose to continue with maintenance visits. Often I hear them say: "I feel good and I’d like to keep it that way!"

The frequency of maintenance visits could be 6 or 8 times a year. Some clients choose monthly visits. It is an individual choice.

When they come in and declare: "Yeah, everything still feels quite good, no problems to write home about, no great dramas," – to me, that is the best story of all! It shows that their body has been able to deal with all the shocks and knocks of every-day-life.



... and after a Bowen Therapy treatment?


After a treatment most people feel good and notice improvement. "Cross-fibre-moves" don’t generally happen to our body in every-day-life. They create changes in our body according to priority, regardless of our conscious wants and wishes. Consequently, we can never predict how you will feel after a Bowen Therapy session. It may well be different from treatment to treatment. Yes, it has to be said that occasionally, people feel sore or "washed out" or they may feel they have had a real work-out. If that does occur, it usually happens only after the first or second treatment. After that, the body "knows" how to respond to Bowen Therapy and people generally feel positive effects only.


The effect of Bowen Therapy can be immediate and continual. (Refer to section: "How does Bowen Therapy create greater flexibility/mobility?"). Perhaps an analogy with syphoning water is not too far fetched: if we syphon water from one vessel into another it will continue to flow –– until there is an interruption, an air-lock, i.e. air enters into the hose. Then the flow stops. Could this apply to our body, also? I think that perhaps for this reason it seems important to make sure water is always available in our body. How do we do that? By drinking it, of course!!



How many treatments are necessary?


Initial results are often felt even after the first treatment. In my experience, quite often one treatment is sufficient. It is recommended, though, to reinforce that first treatment, like you would "drive home" a nail which you have hammered into a plank. Certainly, after 2, 3 or 4 treatments we should know if Bowen Therapy is making a difference in your particular case.

If there is no change after three or four treatments, then either Bowen Therapy is not the right way or I am not the right Bowen Therapist for you. (Just like a chiropractor or a masseur may be great for one, but totally ineffective for another person.)

In most cases – about 80% in my experience – Bowen Therapy contributes to solving a problem significantly. Contributing to your own recovery and not repeatedly re-injuring yourself by continuing with old habits, is also going to help – and your contribution is most helpful for success.


I will do my best to raise your awareness with regard to your particular condition – it is your choice what you do with the information received.



What about "Dorn" and "Emmett"?


Approximately 80% of my treatments consist of Bowen Therapy (more precisely: mostly ISBT-Bowen Therapy). The remaining 20% are largely made up of Dorn Spinal Therapy or Emmett Technique.


Emmett Technique is a useful adjunct to the way I operate. In some ways it is like Bowen Therapy (Ross Emmett used to be a Bowen Therapy teacher!), in other ways it appears to be more like acupressure, i.e. when certain points are "held" repeatedly without performing a "move". The results, however, can be most staggering.


Dorn Spinal Therapy can be very effective in re-aligning the spine. It is not as gentle as Bowen Therapy and it requires client paricitation. I like it for its simplicity.


Running my fingers along both sides of the spine, I look for immobility, misalignment, tenderness, heat etc. When such a spot is located, I arrest that particular vertebra by applying pressure to it while the client will (depending on which part of the spine) swing either an arm or a leg or turn his/her head. That movement creates stretches in the tissues surrounding and affecting that particular vertebra, giving it a little "wriggle room", creating a little "space", so that the vertebra can move back into a more appropriate position. If we give the body the opprotunity for realignment, chances are it will take it.


Having realigned the spine, it makes good sense to re-hydrate and soften the surrounding tissue by applying Bowen Therapy. I like the combination of first aligning, then softening the body, so that the realignment will hold.




How much does it cost?


Tom Bowen wanted to make his treatments available to many and, based on this, my fee is $60 per treatment. This way more people can benefit from Bowen Therapy, even if they don’t have private health cover.

I have a Provider Registration with many private health insurance companies. Many private health funds cover Bowen Therapy, but not all.


You, yourself, might not need Bowen Therapy, but perhaps you know someone who you think could benefit from it.


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