As I began to collect testimonies for the efficacy of this treatment modality, it struck me that the breadth and license of a blog allows us to simply solicit the testimonies first hand and encourage those who have been clients of Dr. Austin, who is a real treat by the way, to just post their own experience of his treatment sessions.
I am one of those beneficiaries and the potency of the Bowen method was felt throughout my body within in hours after the first treatment. I fell out of a helicopter in Vietnam during Operation Meade River in 1968. My back has been compromised ever since. There are times I am nearly paralyzed and cannot walk. On this particular visit, lasting 2 hours, I could feel some of the pain leaving my lower back. I was able to walk without my cane after the visit. I am always hesitant to use the word cure, but I can testify to the fact that any abatement of pain is at least a temporary cure. That is always heaven sent.
During the last session of Retreats for Combat Veterans that we conduct at the Merritt Center in Payson, Arizona, Dr. Michael was kind enough to come and spend the weekend with us and provide free treatments to all the veterans in the program. As one of the Mentors at the Center, I can testify to their experience being unanimously positive with all of them asking if he was returning for the next retreat.
Dr. Austin is an approved fee for service provider for the Veterans Administration.
Dr. Michael Austin
Chiropractor and Advanced Bowen Professional
What is Bowen Therapy
Bowen therapy is a soft tissue technique where the practitioner accomplishes small, gentle moves across a target tissue, be it muscle, ligament, or nerve. These moves, called “Bowen moves,” are done in sequences of three or four at a time. Sequences of moves are interspersed with crucial breaks where the patient is left on the table for two to five minutes. During these breaks, the nervous system initiates a healing response, or cascade, from the body, unlike any other technique. Subsequent moves done in sequence are further interspersed with these important breaks, with sessions lasting from one half-hour to one hour. Bowen sessions typically begin at the core (pelvis) of the body and work outward. Sequences of Bowen moves are utilized to treat a wide variety of conditions. Bowen therapy is a distinct technique. It is not massage, shiatsu, acupressure, or chiropractic.
Conditions that are improved with Bowen Therapy
Bowen Therapists have observed numerous effects of the therapy including detoxification of the body by increased lymphatic flow; normalization of muscular function through increased flexibility, decreased spasm, and pain; normalization of blood pressure; better sleep patterns; elimination of joint pain and inflammation; and normalization of bowel movements to name just a few. The healing responses experienced by patients include both a deep sense of relaxation and very often a drastic and sometimes total relief of pain following just one session. While the majority of Bowen practitioners treat musculoskeletal conditions, the Bowen procedures are named for the area treated, such as, neck, shoulder, TMJ (tempromandibular joint), pelvis, low back, hamstring, etc. Tom Bowen developed protocols for treating numerous internal disorders such as asthma, headache, and gallbladder. It has also been noted by practitioners that mild to moderate emotional conditions can also be positively effected with Bowen Therapy. There is even a protocol for infertility. Besides the treatment of pain there are many visserosomatic conditions that respond to Bowen Therapy including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, TMJ (jaw) pain, indigestion, reflux, PMS, carpal tunnel, bunions, and tennis elbow.
Tom Bowen (1916-1982), from Geelong Australia, developed Bowen Therapy. Tom Bowen had no specific medical training but had gifted diagnostic abilities. Tom referred to the technique as a “gift from God.” Being a man of few words, he gave little explanation for how Bowen worked or why he had chosen the moves he used to treat his patients. He would often comment to his apprentices “do it like this; it works.” Tom Bowen had a love for sports, particularly soccer. He would watch massage therapists and trainers, and it is believed this is how he began his informal studies. Tom referred to himself as an osteopath but was never recognized through licensure. In the late 1950s after helping Irene Horwood recover from a stroke, the Horwoods invited Tom to work from the front room of their home as an informal office. From these meager beginnings, Tom’s abilities as a healer spread through the region. As demand grew for Tom’s abilities, he outgrew the front room of the Horwood’s home and eventually practiced from three clinics, seeing upwards of 100 people per day.
During Tom’s lifetime, he trained six apprentices. Two of these apprentices, Ossie and Elaine Rentsch, began training with Tom in 1974. They further documented his work, and in 1976 opened their own clinic. Tom urged Ossie to teach this technique upon Tom’s passing. As promised, the Rentsch’s taught their first class in 1986 and have held a full-time teaching schedule since then. Through Ossie and Elaine’s efforts, approximately 75 instructors in 28 countries have been trained, who in turn have trained about 15,000 practitioners to date.
Effects of Bowen Technique
Common effects noted by Bowen practitioners include: 1. Improved muscle tone. As muscles relax and become less spasmodic, posture is improved. 2. The release of fascial restrictions. As the fascia becomes rehydrated, range of motion is increased reducing pain locally. 3. Stimulation of the central nervous system and balancing of the autonomic nervous system. Typically the sympathetic nervous system overrides the parasympathetic nervous system. When the body is in sympathetic overload it cannot heal its self. This is commonly seen in Western society’s type “A” personality with adrenal burnout. With the balancing of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, the patient experiences a profound sense of relaxation. This increased state of relaxation translates into increased energy, improved sleep patterns, and accelerated healing for the patient. Bowen practitioners have also observed an improvement or a normalizing of the lymphatic system and visceral function. This has been seen as a response of the body to rid itself of toxins through increased bowel function.
Cleansing reactions are not uncommon after Bowen Therapy. Cleansing reactions can occur on the structural level as the body seeks a new place of balance, on a biochemical level as toxins are released from the cells of the body, or on the emotional level, where patients experience a profound sense of relaxation or increased irritability as the emotions are being brought into balance. The symptoms most commonly experienced by patients are muscle aching, headache, and nausea. These are the reactions that can be seen more typically in patients with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue. So for these types of patients less is more in terms of the Bowen sequences performed during a session.
While cleansing reactions do occur, they are typically in the minority of patients receiving Bowen. The majority of patients just feel better. By feeling better I mean that either they have no pain or they have significantly decreased pain in as few as three to four sessions. The speed in which Bowen achieves these results is one of the things that make it stand out from other alternative therapies.
Suggestions after Bowen therapy
Patients are directed to walk directly after a session for 20 to 30 minutes. This aids in pumping the lymphatic system and assists in detoxification of the body. Patients are also directed to drink eight to ten glasses of water daily. This also aids in flushing toxins from the body. While receiving Bowen therapy, it is recommended that the patient refrain from any other type of bodywork or energy work. Tom Bowen was of the opinion that these therapies interfered with the response of the body to Bowen therapy. Patients are also instructed not to take very hot baths or cold showers, as this will also interfere with the Bowen results. Subsequent Bowen sessions are spaced out anywhere from five to seven days, since Bowen therapy continues to work through the body’s nervous system subtly throughout that time period.
Possible mechanisms of action
While the exact mechanisms of action (meaning how does Bowen work) for Bowen therapy have yet to be determined, some theories have been postulated. One of these mechanisms already discussed is the balancing of the autonomic nervous system. It is theorized that this phenomenon occurs through stimulus of muscle cells called spindle cells and golgi tendon organs. These specialized cells tell the brain about muscle tension and tone. It is believed that these cells help to reset the resting length of the treated musculature through ganglion chains that communicate with the autonomic nervous system. It is further hypothesized that stimulation of proprioceptor cells inhibits pain. Proprioceptor cells tell the brain where your limbs are in space. A proprioceptor cell is a sensory receptor, found chiefly in muscles, tendons, joints, and the inner ear, that detects the motion or position of the body or a limb. Neurologically, proprioceptors override the pain nerves (nociceptors, which are sensory receptors that respond to pain) thereby inhibiting the sensation of pain.
A second mechanism of action thought to occur happens through stimulation of the fascia. Fascia is the most abundant tissue type in the body and its microscopic structure is crystalline. When a crystal is deformed it releases an electrical charge, this phenomena is called piezoelectric effect. This electrical charge has the ability to stimulate the acupuncture meridians. In addition, Bowen practitioners have observed in their patients the elimination of recruitment patterns. Recruitment patterns happen in the body as a result of an injury or trauma. For example, if an individual injures her knee or ankle and develops a limp, the nervous system learns how to limp. The longer this injury is maintained in the physical body, the more it is reinforced in the nervous system. Over time, more and more neurons will learn how to limp. Months down the road after the injury has long since been forgotten, the nervous system still remembers the limp. This results in an altered gait pattern. Altered gait patterns can create imbalance in the body as well as pain. It would take many months, sometimes years, of physical therapy to restore normal gait patterns and relearn walking, if at all possible. But even physical therapy will not eliminate the neurologic pathways that remember the limp. Bowen therapy appears to somehow eliminate or reduce the influence of the neurons that remember the limp. This is a remarkable process that is not seen in any other therapy.
55-year-old female with a greater than ten-year history of low back pain whose previous treatment included allopathic treatment (conventional western medical care such as pain medications), chiropractic care, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Her reported analog pain scale was eight out of ten. Initial Bowen treatment included the basic relaxation moves, hamstring, sacrum, and knee procedure. Follow-up visit one-week later patient reported no back pain. Patient related she went to a baseball game with her grandson the day after her initial treatment and didn’t realize that she had no back pain until she arrived home.
72-year-old female with history of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, bilateral knee and hip replacements. Her reported analog pain scale was nine out of ten. Previous treatment included allopathic treatment, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and physical therapy. Initial Bowen treatment included the basic relaxation moves, hamstring, sacrum, knee procedure, hammertoe, bunion, lung procedure, upper respiratory procedure, pelvic procedure. Upon completion of the Bowen session, the patient reported that she had no pain.
50-year-old male with history of bilateral knee pain. MRI results indicated partially torn meniscus in both knees. His reported analog pain scale was eight out of ten. His orthopedic surgeon had recommended surgery. The patient was informed that Bowen would not repair torn tissue; however, he should receive some relief from his pain. Bowen treatment included the basic relaxation moves, hamstring, knee procedure, ankle procedure, hammertoe procedure, and pelvis procedure. At a follow-up office visit one week later, the patient indicated his pain level was two out of ten. An over the counter homeopathic remedy was recommended with a repeat of the previous week’s Bowen session. At the follow-up office visit one week later, patient reported his pain level was zero out of ten.
44-year-old female with a history of bilateral shoulder pain and tendonitis. Previous treatments included allopathic care and physical therapy. Reported analog pain scale was seven out of ten. Initial Bowen treatment included basic relaxation moves lung procedure, upper respiratory procedure, shoulder and elbow procedure, and carpal tunnel procedure. At a follow-up visit one-week later patient reported a reduction of pain symptoms. A repeat of the previous week’s Bowen procedures was performed with the addition of one-half of an organic lemon juice added to each glass of water to alkalize her body’s chemistry. At the follow-up visit one week later, the patient no longer experienced pain in her shoulders with full range of motion restored.
There are currently sixteen instructors and about 1,200 certified practitioners in the United States.
Michael Austin D.C., a licensed chiropractor since 1994, is a certified Advanced Bowen Professional through the Bowen Academy of Australia. Dr. Austin is also a certified Reiki Master, Healing Touch Practitioner, and Craniosacral Therapist, with 13 years as an integrative medical practitioner. Dr. Austin may be reached through (520) 887-2428 by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Austin is an approved contract service provider for the Veterans Administration.