The Bowen Technique

by Joanne Figov BA RGN BTAA

Racked with five years of pain, his face grey with suffering, the car accident victim’s last resort before surgery was the Bowen Technique. After a few gentle finger movements across his muscles by Bowen therapist Suzanne Payne of Dorset, the patient felt an energy surge through his body. The chronic neck disorder, which had blocked all his movement, was suddenly freed.

Emotional with the joy of his release, he said: “It was absolutely wonderful. I fell asleep on the couch and then stood up and was able to see the ceiling for the first time in five years!” His recovery is no surprise to therapists world-wide practising this dynamic system of muscle and connective tissue therapy developed in the 1950s by the late Tom Bowen of Australia.

Oswald (Ossie) Rentsch, director and founder of the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia, and his wife Elaine worked directly with Tom Bowen. Ossie said: “The Bowen Technique is possibly the greatest discovery ever in health care. Bowen training is attracting medical doctors as well as chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists and acupuncturists, all who praise the technique for its power”.

How Australian Tom Bowen came by his remarkable technique and put it into action is the stuff of legend. Tom claimed his discovery that tiny movements across muscles effecting remarkable recoveries, was a “gift from God”.

In the small town where he worked in an industrial plant he treated his work colleagues at home in the evenings. He became so busy he had to give up his day job and opened a clinic which was soon attracting patients from all over Australia. Eventually he was seeing over 13,000 a year – more than 80 per cent recovering after only two treatments.

As Ossie always says at the seminars he holds all over the world: “The man was a genius – he was the Mozart of healing.”

Researcher Dan Amato from New York calls it the “feed back loop”. And like many others, New Zealand therapist Lou Hassik believes: “The body-mind is one. It’s a complex lawful system of interactive processes from head to toe. “ In other words the Bowen Technique empowers the body to heal itself – the gentle precise moves on specific areas could be said to ‘reset’ the body’s ‘computer’.

Registered nurse and Bowen therapist Joanne Figov of Dorset says: “I’ve treated patients with ME who regain much energy after a couple of treatments and I’m currently treating a lady recovering after chemotherapy, who has found relief from her aches and pains and depression.”

An example of Bowen’s ability to help difficult and obscure conditions is Joanne’s pilot study on a small section of patients diagnosed with a form of Dystonia called Blepharospasm. This neurological condition is characterised by involuntary muscular eyelid spasms causing forceful contraction of the eyes. The condition can be mild to severe ranging from twitching to excessive blinking of the eyelids to severe cases where the patient is functionally blind as the spasm forces the eyes shut. Consequently the sufferers are in great emotional distress.

The standard hospital treatment is Botulinum toxin injections that temporarily lessen the spasm by weakening the muscles around the eye. With the permission and encouragement of a hospital consultant, Joanne began treating his patients.

She explained “Through my work as an ophthalmic nurse and working with these patients I realised that as Blepharospasm is primarily a neurological disorder, surely Bowen which works along those principles, could help reset the signal to the brain.”

Joanne has a waiting list for patients in the small pilot study which is still in its early stages. The results so far she describes as “very encouraging”.

“Because I have to fit the study group around my private practice and my nursing, I’ve so far been able to work with only eight patients” explained Joanne. “One has recovered completely in four treatments – all the rest have had relief for a couple of days following each treatment session. The lady who recovered completely had suffered the condition for three months – the shortest time, whereas the others were long term sufferers of up to 50 years and they may need many treatments to unlock the deep rooted patterning.

What’s exciting is that such gentle Bowen moves are obviously addressing a condition which mainstream medical science is finding difficult to resolve.

A 75 year old woman in the study wanted to continue Bowen treatments after her sessions ended. Asked why, she replied: “The sense of relaxation and well being are adding so much to my quality of life.”

Another woman was able, with her doctor’s permission, to come off her anti-depressants.

You are never too young for Bowen, therapists report, even babies in the womb can benefit. Registered midwife and Bowen practitioner, Rick Minnery runs workshops to teach Bowen therapists how to help mums-to-be cope with pregnancy and baby care. Rick, from Lancashire, is working towards getting Bowen recognised in hospitals as a gentle technique for pre-natal and post-natal health care.

He explained: “I’ve trained five midwives to be Bowen practitioners – it’s tailor made for them as midwifery is a hands-on activity. With Bowen they can give on the spot help with minor problems of pregnancy. I’m getting increased interest about Bowen among colleagues in mainstream medicine.”

Recently Rick and his Bowen colleague Alastair McLoughlin lectured and demonstrated the technique to doctors and midwives in Italy where they received a standing ovation – especially from a doctor whose frozen shoulder was freed with two simple moves!

“You can’t solve this – it’s an arthritic problem” the doctor had told Rick as he prepared to do the frozen shoulder procedure. After a couple of minutes the shoulder was freed and the astonished doctor was able to lift his arm right up touching his ear, a feat formerly impossible.

Another amazed and satisfied ‘patient’ at the talk was a professor of obstetrics whose long term neck restriction was freed in an instant. The professor told Rick he would recommend that the midwives at his hospital be funded to learn Bowen.

Incidentally, Bernie Carter, PhD of Manchester Metropolitan University is currently conducting research into the Bowen frozen shoulder procedure for the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia.

One therapist who has successfully added Bowen to his repertoire of already successful modalities is Michael Burgess from Devon. An acupuncturist and herbal practitioner for 16 years, he says:

“The Bowen Technique has had a huge impact on my practice as the results are so effective and so profound. It’s very rewarding. Being a truly holistic modality, it has broad application and can be used safely on anyone from the new born to the aged. Many people who experience Bowen as a patient are enthusiastic to learn this simple non-invasive technique for themselves.”

He added: “I have seen people with problems of 10 to 20 years resolved in one or two treatments. I also frequently see long standing muscular skeletal problems, migraine, insomnia and sports injuries resolved in remarkably few sessions. I even treated a five year old child for bed-wetting which stopped after three treatments.”

Michael has experienced a perfect example of the scope and possibilities of Bowen.

A patient of his with full blown AIDS presented with many symptoms, the most pressing being extreme muscular pain all over his body. His sensitivity to touch was such that no other hands-on modality could have been tried except for so-gentle Bowen. After two treatments all pain had vanished and for a year he came for weekly treatments which helped him cope with everyday life.

Like all Bowen therapists Michael finds children respond particularly well and rapidly. Michael explained: “Because Bowen has such gentle moves they feel completely safe and relaxed and this may help the energetic response.”

He added “One five year old child asthmatic I treated was on the usual inhalers and was quite unhappy and withdrawn. After three treatments the mother reported that not only was the asthma and wheezing gone but he had turned into a happy child.”

As remedial sports therapist Craig Mattimoe from California has written in a Bowen magazine: “After five years of treating and preventing athletic injuries I can confidently report that no other broad based modality in all of North America comes close to Bowen. Nothing else compares. I work mostly with athletes, particularly football players who are big business in America, and Bowen literally outshines all of the current accepted sports medicine techniques, both traditional and alternative.”

As Bowen becomes increasingly popular, teaching programmes are already established in Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A, Canada, Israel, Italy, France, Austria, Norway and the UK. It will soon be taught in South America and South Africa. Because two hands are the only practical tools needed for Bowen it is envisaged the technique will be taught in the Third World to relieve suffering without major expense or technology. And still the full potential of the Bowen Technique is to be realised.

Ossie and Elaine Rentsch learned advanced moves from founder Tom Bowen before he died in 1982. These procedures are being included in advanced seminars now being taught in Britain and around the world.

Ossie explained: “We have waited to release this material as the fundamentals have first had to be fully understood. We are now drawing on a treasure of vital knowledge which we trust will bring new hope and health to the world.”

Further Information

For full details of Bowen courses, therapists and instructors contact: The Bowen Association UK.

This article was originally published in Positive Health Issue 44 (Sept ’99)

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