The Bowen technique (also known as Bowtech or Bowenwork) is a dynamic system of muscle and connective tissue therapy that was developed by the late Tom Bowen in Australia. It is sometimes called the 'homoeopathy of bodywork'. It utilizes small but measured inputs to the body stimulating the body to heal itself, often profoundly.
The practitioner delivers signals to the nervous system at specific locations (on muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves), and the body does the rest, responding in its own time, as it is able.
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% of bodily functions and is very susceptible to external stressors. Healing can occur only after the ANS shifts from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance (rest, relaxation and repair mode). The Bowen technique seems to catalyze this shift. During sessions, clients often quickly drop into deep relaxation or fall asleep and loud peristalsis or stomach sounds are often heard. Both of these changes are indications of a profound release from stress and a shift towards parasympathetic dominance.
Bowtech sessions generally last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes and involve one or more 'procedures', each of which consists of several sets of 'moves'. Between each set of moves, the practitioner pauses for as many minutes as are needed for the patient’s body to begin responding. The practitioner stimulates the points and then leaves the room for 2-5 minutes while the patient relaxes. After the nervous system begins to adjust the tension level in the muscles, the patient is ready for the next set of moves.
In contrast to other hands-on disciplines where the practitioner imposes correction on the patient through the technique performed, the Bowen technique allows the body to heal itself with minimal intervention. Because of the subtlety of this technique and the body's continuing response to it, other forms of manipulative therapy performed up to four days before or five days after a Bowtech session may interfere with its effectiveness.
There are many theories about the physiological mechanisms by which the Bowen technique brings about the results for which it is famous. In addition to the rebalancing of the ANS, Bowtech moves and procedures may reset the body to heal itself by activating, through the nervous and endocrine systems among others, the following mechanisms:
• Stretch reflex: Most moves are done either at the origin, insertion or belly of muscle where receptors are located, informing the nervous system on the state of tension, length or stretch in the musculotendinous tissue. These receptors are stimulated during the 'challenge' and the 'rolling' part of the Bowen move which changes the stimulus received by the nervous system. This can change a pain/muscle spasm loop.
• Joint proprioceptors: All moves done around a joint directly affect the joint capsule and ligaments that are richly innervated with proprioceptors.
• Fascia: Each Bowen move is done at the level of the superficial fascia and affects the relationship between the fascia and the nerve, muscle or tendon being mobilized. Fascia plays a major role in muscle co-ordination, postural alignment and overall structural and functional integrity. Following a Bowtech session it is not uncommon to see adhesions loosen up, scar tissue soften and posture and mobility improve without harsh mobilization or stretching.
• Segmental viscerosomatic spinal reflexes: Several Bowtech moves engage these reflexes and produce referred reactions to the internal organs through stimulation of the skin, muscles and nerves.
• Acupuncture points and meridians: Most moves overlap acupuncture points and some actually cross two or three acupuncture meridians at once. The overlap of these two systems could explain the very strong vibrational component of the technique and its effect on the internal organs.
• Harmonic vibration or resonance model: Bowenwork moves set up vibrational patterns which bring the body back into balance and harmony.
• Lymphatics: Some Bowtech procedures activate draining of the lymphatic system, stimulating the immune system.
• Detoxification is often initiated during a Bowen session, thereby improving the body's ability to function at a cellular level.