What is Bowen Therapy?

Bowen Therapy was first devised by the late Thomas Bowen of Geelong, Australia in the 1950's. Bowen Therapy has grown in popularity since its inception and is now used in over thirty countries to treat conditions, including chronic back pain and neck pain. There are various interpretations of Bowen Therapy, including "Bowen Technique".
Broadly, Bowen Therapy is a holistic form of bodywork involving gentle, precise movements of the fingers or thumbs over the muscles and fascia (the web-like connective tissue over the muscles). Bowen Therapy differs from massage in that there is no intense rubbing, but rather a series of gentle rolling movements. Bowen Therapy also differs from chiropractic as the focus of the therapist’s movements is not the spine or joints, but the muscles and fascia.
Bowen Therapy Research
There have been various experimental studies performed involving Bowen. Some of these studies include the following.
In 1998 a study was conducted at the University of North Carolina, Department of Physical Education, Exercise and Sport Science1. This study compared practitioner and patient responses in a survey evaluating the efficacy of the Bowen Technique in the treatment of pain.
Practitioners rated the Bowen Technique effectiveness as 85% for back pain 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 included 85% for back pain, 80% for stress & tension, 80% for hip pain and 75.6% for other conditions.
In October 2007 a study relating to the Bowen Technique was accepted for presentation at the First International Fascia Research Congress in Boston in October 20072. This study examined the effect of The Bowen Technique on hamstring flexibility in asymptomatic individuals and was conducted by Michelle Marr BSc (Hons) PT MCSP, senior lecturer at Coventry University, Nicky Lambon MA MCSP SRP DipTP Principal Lecturer at Coventry University, UK and Julian Baker, Principal Instructor of The European College of Bowen Studies.
The study was performed using 116 volunteers, with subjects being randomly allocated to a control group or Bowen intervention group.
The study concluded that a single treatment of the Bowen Technique significantly improved the flexibility of the hamstring muscles in healthy subjects and that it maintained this increased flexibility for one week.
A further study looked at the effects of myofacial release on scoliosis and back pain3. Myofacial release techniques are used in Bowen Therapy. The study, conducted at Elon University in North Carolina USA, involved testing one person who received 6 weeks of myofacial release treatment.
According to the study results, the subject improved in most measures, especially with pain, combined thoracic/ lumbar rotation and posture. The information was to some extent based on self-reported questionnaires.
There have been other Bowen Therapy studies, dealing with such conditions frozen should, diabetes and other conditions.