The Benefits of Bowen Technique Massage Therapy

“I suffered from chronic back pain and sciatica for a number of years. I tried everything from surgery to complementary medicine, all to no avail. I was astounded when I got off the table after only 45 minutes and my pain was gone.”

This from a client of Lisa Cannon’s Galway Bowen Therapy Clinic in Galway, Ireland.

Cannon established the clinic after completing her studies at the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia. The Bowen massage technique is a holistic approach to nervous system stimulation – focusing on the entire physiological system.

“Rather than focusing on a single complaint, the Bowen technique addresses the entire body, by restoring balance via the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls over 80 per cent of bodily functions and is very susceptible to external stressors. Most people today live in a constant state of high stress and sympathetic ANS over-stimulation – fight, flight or freeze mode.”

Cannon works with individuals experiencing various forms of injury, athletic strain and health issues. Bowen Massage Therapy is effective for acute and chronic back and neck pain; arthritis; shoulder pain: including adhesive capsulitis (or frozen shoulder – a condition affecting the shoulder joint involving pain and stiffness) and rotator cuff injuries; knee pain; headaches; muscular tension; fibromyalgia pain and digestive concerns.

“Between each set of moves [to the muscle groups] the practitioner pauses for as many minutes as are needed for the client’s body to respond, enabling the body to incorporate the benefits of the massage. Relief is regularly felt immediately and most cases respond within 48 hours.”

The technique is safe for anyone experiencing muscular-skeletal problems, regardless of age, and has been successfully used across the world. Studies show practitioners have rated the technique as 85 per cent effect in providing immediate and long-lasting relief of back and neck pain. It can also be very effective for those in post-surgical recovery, as this client will attest.

“I was introduced to Bowen Therapy [through Cancer Care]. I suffered a lot of pain on my left shoulder as a result of surgery. I experienced relief after my first session and further relief after three more sessions. I can now move my arm and shoulder freely and have no pain. My sleep pattern has also improved immensely.”

The Bowen massage technique is a gentle, targeted soft tissue activation – a combination of muscle and connective tissue therapy. The practitioner utilizes subtle inputs to the body to deliver signals to the nervous system at specific locations – on muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves.

What makes the Bowen technique effective is the specificity of the massage. It triggers the body’s reflexive relation response – producing neural reactions which send messages to the brain for relaxation of the spinal muscles.

This is a form of reprogramming of our internal circuitry and the therapy can be thought of as a nervous system reboot. The use of these nervous system connections – a communication between the body and brain – arrests our repetitive pain patterns, providing relief.

In contrast to other hands-on disciplines, where the practitioner imposes corrections to our physical alignment through body manipulation, the Bowen technique stimulates our body’s natural inclination to make its own adjustments that help to relax, reset, realign and repair itself, with minimal intervention.

“Healing can occur only after the ANS shifts from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance (rest, relax and repair mode). The Bowen technique enables that shift. This can result in greater blood flow, oxygen delivery and restoration of cellular activity in the whole distribution of that segment of the ANS.”

A typical Bowen therapy session lasts approximately 45 minutes. Clients lie on a massage table, or are seated in a chair. The massage can be performed through light clothing.

According to the Galway Clinic, regular mild stretching, walking and increased water intake are suggested after a session. It is also recommended that a client refrain from having other bodywork for approximately five days following a treatment.

Catherine Knott is a journalist, health professional and reiki councillor. You can reach her at catherineskyeknott@gmail.com.