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What is the Bowen Technique?

The Bowen Technique is a gentle, deeply relaxing, non-invasive physical therapy that frees the body to attain its natural balance and healing. It is effective as a structural treatment for specific pain, as well as for healing underlying causes of chronic illnesses.

Bowen is unique in the field of bodywork. Its relatively few, gentle moves over muscle and other soft tissue address the whole body, stimulating it to reset and heal itself. It sounds too good to be true, but it gives astounding results for most people. 

A Bowen session consists of several series of gentle moves through light-weight clothing or on skin. In a Bowen clinic, the client lies on a bodywork table. A session lasts 40-60 minutes and takes place at a 7-14 day interval from the previous session. A surprisingly few sessions are needed to alleviate complaints, whether structural or functional, even if long-standing. Often no more than two to five sessions are required for the treatment of most conditions. And the results hold for a long time, generally until there is a re-injury.

Bowen is generally safe and appropriate for everyone from newborns to the very elderly. There are no contraindications for a Bowen session, other than acute fracture.

Bowen originated in Australia and was developed by Tom Bowen.


Conditions that benefit

See the image below for a map of issues that can be treated with Bowen. Although no list of conditions can be complete, most conditions do respond. You may see improvements in conditions that you forgot to mention to your practitioner, even if they are located far from where the practitioner touches you.

See for a list and also a description of how Bowen works. It's the body's response to the Bowen, not the Bowen itself, that brings about the healing. Those who have had surgical procedures to alter joint structure, heavy smokers, and those with impaired healing (such as hypothyroid or fibromyalgia) often require more Bowen sessions and have a slower response.

A Bowen session
Bowen’s input to the nervous system is very subtle, and the body responds over time. For that reason, it’s best to avoid other manipulative therapies for several days before and after a Bowen session lest they interfere with the body’s response to the Bowen.

Before the session
The ideal time for a Bowen session is immediately after an injury. That way, your body can overcome the trauma before it begins to compensate for it. (The compensations often create more problems in the long run than the initial trauma itself.) Within three days is ideal for the quickest and most complete recovery.
Many people don’t find out about Bowen until weeks, months, or even years of trying other approaches or “learning to live with it.” If that’s the case with you, you’ll get the best results from your Bowen if you:
    •Don’t have any other forms of bodywork for four days beforehand.
    •Avoid heavy exercise on the day of your session.
    •Don’t use ice or heat on the site of injury for 3 days following the session.
    •Be prepared to be worked on in your underclothes, under sheets or blankets for modesty and     comfort. Or, wear or bring light-weight, loose-fitting clothing that your practitioner can work through.

During the session
The hands-on work usually lasts between 30 and 55 minutes. The pressure used by the practitioner is almost always less than you would expect. 
Application of the technique involves stimulation of precise points on the body, in groups of 2 - 8 points at a time. Your practitioner will leave the room for a few minutes between groups of moves, to allow your body time to assimilate the work.
Points generally progress from the torso/core of the body outward. In most first sessions the spine is balanced, the points used are on the back, buttocks, hamstrings, shoulder, neck, and knees. Additional points may be added in areas where you have symptoms and/or elsewhere throughout the body.
The most common reaction to Bowen is a deep sense of overall relaxation and lessening of muscular tension and pain. These result from the body’s balancing and improved flow of internal energy. The restorative process begins once the body is relaxed. It is common for people to fall asleep during a session.

After the session
Each person’s response to the Bowen continues for several hours or days, as his or her individual body allows. The benefits will be enhanced by following simple guidelines given by the practitioner. The most common include:
    •Not overdoing things for the rest of that day, with regard to exercise or exertion
    •When getting out of a bed or chair or car, having the weight transfer equally onto both feet
    •Increasing the intake of pure water, to encourage the body’s ability to eliminate toxins released by the muscles and connective tissue during and after the Bowen session
    •In some cases: not remaining seated for longer than half an hour at a time (in the case of lower back pain and other conditions related to lower back imbalance) or not overworking the jaw after jaw imbalance is addressed

How many sessions will I need?
This varies greatly from person to person. Many conditions are effectively changed in fewer than 3 - 5 sessions. Musculo-skeletal symptoms generally change the fastest, neurological symptoms the slowest. Some chronic or organic conditions may require ongoing maintenance sessions.
Many people choose to have monthly or quarterly maintenance sessions (“tune-ups”) once their initial complaints are addressed, especially those who are chronically reinjuring themselves with their occupation.

Detoxification reaction
Bowen encourages proper functioning of all body systems, including those responsible for eliminating toxins. If your body has stored unnecessary materials, you may experience one or more of these detoxification sensations for a day or two after a Bowen session:
    •aching muscles
    •mild nausea
    •mild headache
    •changes in sensation of temperature
    •minor changes in elimination (bowel movements)

Your body will function more effectively when the toxins have been released. During the detoxification, the best way to minimize discomfort is to stimulate the lymphatic system to increase the elimination of toxins. You can do this by:
    •increasing your water intake, and taking spring water
    • walking 30 minutes each day in fresh air


Dr. Heidi Rootes ND explains Bowen and demonstrates the techniques

Bowen Therapy can treat almost any chronic pain. Back pain, frozen shoulder, sciatica, TMJ, headaches, knee injuries, tennis elbow, and much more.

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