Bowen therapy

Bowen Therapy

In Health and Healing by Sharon Hopkins2 Comments

What is Bowen Therapy, and how effective is it?


Bowen Therapy has positive results with people of all ages and with most cases of chronic or acute pain, from mild to severe.

Bowen Therapy addresses and affects the whole body. While a Bowen therapist might address a particular part of the body, benefits occur throughout, bringing your body back into balance so you can heal yourself. Benefits include a speedy recovery, better posture, freer joints, relief of physical and emotional stress, and improved overall health and energy levels.

This amazing technique was developed by the hard work and enormous study done by the late Tom Bowen. He was born in Brunswick, Melbourne in 1916, brought up in Geelong, Victoria, and became a highly skilled, self-taught osteopath. Bowen died in 1982.

To date, Bowen Therapy is practised in 36 countries and taught in over 25. In 1975, the Australian Government inquiry into alternative health practices determined that Bowen was successfully treating an astonishing 13,000 patients a year using Bowen Therapy. The therapy was yielding results of an amazing 80 to 85% success rate, often with only one or two sessions.

You and your Bowen treatment

A Bowen session normally consists of the therapist performing small sequential moves that cross fibres, muscles, tendons and ligaments at specific points on your body, releasing muscle tension. Some therapists will perform moves on the skin whilst others will choose to work through light clothing. These small moves generate a resonance/vibration through the tissue/fascia, clearing blocks that are creating your issue.

Intermittent wait periods of two to five minutes between each sequence allow your body time to take up the instruction given; the total Bowen session usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes. Treatments may continue to work on your body for up to three days. Improvement may be felt after the first session, but the optimum regime is to return five to ten days later for a follow-up treatment.

Many inroads have been made in recent years to start research projects evaluating the effectiveness of the Bowen Technique.

Bowen Technique and pain relief

A study by Amy Norman in 1998 at the University of North Carolina found that practitioners rated the Bowen Technique effective in:

  • 85% of back pain complaints, with an average of 4.3 sessions,
  • 88% for neck pain with 4.5 sessions,
  • 83% for stress & tension with 4 sessions,
  • 83% for other conditions with 5.8 sessions and
  • 80% for fibromyalgia requiring longer treatments.

Effectiveness rated by patients was:

  • 85% for back pain,
  • 80% for stress & tension,
  • 95% for TMJ,
  • 80% for hip pain and
  • 76% for other conditions.

I would say that from my own experience, efficacy averages 80% and usually relief is experienced  immediately in about 75% of the cases; if not, it will gradually happen in the days following treatment. Most often, conditions can be improved if not resolved in a few sessions. Complex chronic conditions may require longer treatment, but not always.

Psychological effects

Ashley Pritchard, at the Swinburne University department of Psychophysiology, Melbourne, showed that the Bowen Technique consistently reduced subjects’ level of anxiety, and enhanced individuals’ positive feelings by reducing tension, anger, depression, fatigue and confusion. Objective measures of decrease in heart rate variability and muscle tension correlated with subjective feelings of relaxation.


A study by Dr. Whitaker showed the positive effect of the Bowen Technique on patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Participants experienced various degrees of relief which lasted from a few days to several weeks. Measurements of shifts in the autonomic nervous system by heart rate variability studies complemented the clinical assessments.


Dr. John Bauman, DDS, assessed masseter muscle tension and found that immediately after the first treatment, one-third of patients felt dramatic relief in some of their symptoms. And 20 out of the 22 patients showed significant improvement.

Blood chemistry

Dr. Whitaker, using microscopic live cell analysis, has shown blood chemistry changes following treatment. These changes corroborate the reports by certain patients, about experiencing transient flu-like symptoms, due to detox reactions lasting up to 5 days following a session.

Frozen shoulder

A recently published study on frozen shoulders, by Dr. Bernie Carter, Rick Minnery & Bran Clarke at the Metropolitan University of Manchester, involved 20 participants diagnosed with frozen shoulder and treated by the Bowen Technique. Participants claimed a high level of satisfaction with the therapy, a commitment to using Bowen in the future in case of relapse or for other conditions, and the intention to recommend the therapy to friends and family. 70% of participants regained full mobility (equal to the non affected side) by the end of the treatment. The other participants showed significant improvement in shoulder mobility and associated function. And none reported any of the intense pain they experienced before receiving Bowen. This shows that with only 3 to 6 visits, Bowen was a very effective treatment. Even with people who had a long standing condition.

How safe is it?

Evidence shows the Bowen Technique is safe to use on anyone, no matter their age or physical condition; from the new-born to the elderly, from those with disabilities or chronic illness to the competitive athlete. Bowen treated 13,000 patients per year, and is backed up by the experience of thousands of other practitioners since.

Bowen therapy is a safe, gentle and non-invasive modality for patients, to help them feel better and find a possible solution. Select a therapist from a professional Bowen association to ensure your therapist retains their qualifications and meets all professional regulations required by legislation and your health fund.

About the author
Sharon Hopkins

Sharon Hopkins

Sharon Hopkins is a Bowen Therapist and member of the Bowen Therapists’ Federation of Australia.

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