The Bowen technique, also known as Bowen therapy, is a holistic, hands-on, non-manipulative therapy that encourages the body to heal, realign and relax. The therapist uses their fingers and thumbs in precise areas to gently move your muscles, tendons or ligaments. These light movements aim to:
- stimulate energy flow
- enhance the body’s natural healing processes to restore balance
- encourage the elimination of toxins and waste products
- improve circulation
- release tension
- increase mobility.
The Bowen technique is not massage, acupressure or chiropractic. There is no manipulation, adjustment or hard or prolonged pressure. It is a subtle and relaxing treatment, gently moving the muscles and soft tissues. It is believed that by relaxing you physically, Bowen therapy allows emotional blocks to be released, as well as treating a much wider range of conditions including asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and migraine.
How can it help in Parkinson’s?
There has so far been little academic research into the benefits of the Bowen Technique in Parkinson’s and further studies are required to establish if it is beneficial. Clinical evidence has shown it to be helpful more generally, in particular in relieving pain, stiffness, stress, anxiety and sleep problem. Many people with Parkinson’s say that they find the technique helpful in reducing their symptoms and promoting a sense of wellbeing and relaxation.
Like many other complementary therapies, the treatment does not set out to treat specific conditions or ailments. Instead, it treats the body as a whole, helping it to function better rather than overcoming a specific illness such as Parkinson’s. It is believed that the sequences of Bowen movements stimulate the body to heal itself.
To this end, family members or carers may find that the Bowen Technique can also help them with various ailments:
- relieving stress, anxiety or depression
- easing back, neck or shoulder pain caused by physically assisting the person they care for
- help with moving the person with Parkinson's as the effort involved can be reduced.
What should I expect at an appointment?
Bowen technique is not regulated in many countries. It is therefore a good idea to ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for recommendations. Friends, family, other people with Parkinson’s or your national Parkinson’s association may also be able to advise based on personal experience.
The Bowen Therapy Professional Association (BTPA) is the main association of Bowen therapists. Its website provides an online therapist search facility.
It is advisable to see a therapist who has experience of Parkinson’s so do ask about their experience of the condition as well as their qualifications.
The therapist will first take a medical history, asking about your general health and symptoms. Treatment is usually given when you are lying down, with an initial session addressing the whole body, to include the lower and mid-back, the legs, the upper back and shoulders, and finally the neck.
Most therapists perform their moves through light clothing, although some prefer to work directly on the skin, but you should be able to choose which method you prefer. They use their fingers and thumbs to make light, subtle rolling manoeuvres on the muscles and connective tissues at specific points, many of which correspond to the points used in massage and acupressure. These manoeuvres aim to trigger a response in the body rather than altering it directly.
One important feature of the Bowen Technique is that the therapist will leave the room between sets of movements so that you can rest and absorb the benefits of the therapy, allowing your body to make the subtle adjustments to heal and rebalance. This is very important as, during this rest time, the body can react to the movements and respond in an appropriate way.
Each session will last generally between 30 minutes to an hour, with treatments approximately five to seven days apart. A course of three to four treatments is generally suggested in order to determine if the technique is effective for you or not. Follow up sessions may then be required and some suggest regular treatment for six to eight weeks so as to maintain optimum health.
Generally you should feel a sense of wellbeing and relaxation at the end of the session, although it is not uncommon to feel tired or have a slight headache. Occasionally your original symptoms may temporarily worsen. Your therapist will be able to explain such possible reactions to you and give you advice for aftercare. Don’t be put off if you do have such reactions as this does not necessarily mean that you should discontinue treatment – in fact this is a sign of how deep the effects can be and further treatments should help you achieve the full, desired results.
Note: It has been found that receiving other therapies within a few days of a Bowen treatment may cancel out the very subtle work Bowen is doing in the body. It is therefore advisable to leave approximately one week either side of a Bowen treatment before having any other treatment.
We would like to thank the Bowen Therapy Professional Association, UK, for help in reviewing this information