Bowen Therapy or Advanced Bowen Therapy is also known as the Neurostructural Integration Technique (NST). It is a dynamic and skilful professional bodywork technique, which activates the body’s innate healing wisdom. This results in a comprehensive reorganization of the body’s muscles, characterised by lasting pain relief and functioning plus an increase in energy levels. The response is most often profoundly effective and sometimes miraculous.
NST is essentially a soft tissue therapy designed to release muscles and fascia in a manner, which is safe for all ages, from newborns to the elderly. It is often called contextual healing, as its main aim is to reintegrate the body as a whole (e.g. reboots the whole system). It is for this reason that there are no contraindications, essentially rendering the technique useful for a wide range of conditions from acute pain to chronic conditions.
A treatment consists of the use of sequences of specialised moved on the body, carried out in a very specific and systematic manner. There is no forceful manipulation, rather a cross-fibre manoeuvering of muscle, tendon, ligament or nerve, using varying pressure and incorporating resting periods to allow the body to respond. Treatment can be done either through clothing or directly on the skin.
Throughout the session the client experiences deep relaxation, essentially providing the body with a window of opportunity: to comprehensively reorganise itself via the natural activation of various nerve reflexes.
Substantial relief is frequently attained after the first three sessions; however a reduction in symptoms is most often noted after the first sessions. Long term resolution is generally attained after the fourth or fifth sessions. A session normally lasts 45 minutes to 1 hour.
It is common for individuals receiving this work to experience a wide range of reactions such as shifting body aches, hot and cold flushes, sweating and, at times, emotional releases, however these are a positive sign that the individual is returning to a better state of well being.
The real secret of why NST/Bowen works is because of its underpinning philosophy. Put simply, the philosophy is that the body is a self regulating bioenergetic and biomechanical phenomena which will continue to regulate itslef for as long as it has the reserve energy necessary to sustain life, by the ongoing process of biological adaptation.
The body automatically reorganises itself under certain circumstances via an energy conservation mechanism, called biological adaptation, which is mediated through its most powerful programme of all-the survival response.
The Australian bodywork genius, Thomas Ambrose Bowen (1916-1982), the original developer of the method, realised that the body would regulate itself and return to balance if the appropirate neurological and neuromuscular context was created so that it could. There was never the question of if it could, this was implicit in the fact that the person was alive! This was evidence enough that it could!
He discovered that there is a particular cycle in the body (variously referred to in other methods as the Craniosacral system) which must be free to operate unimpeded, if the individual is to enjoy good health and balance.
Whilst he discovered that this cycle was perceptible at an energetic level, he was equally aware of its physical components namely the sacrum, coccyx, cranium and temporormandibular joint (TMJ) complex and the dural membrane, which connects them to make them a functional unit.
Over and above the importance of recognising the need for this system to remain unimpeded, was his emphasis and insistence on releasing the neuromuscular imbalances throughout the body, which have such a direct impact on the proper functioning of the cycle and consequently the health of the whole body.
It is this point alone which sets NST/Bowen apart from all other forms of Physiotherapy, Osteopathic, Chiropractic and Cranio-Sacral approaches.
In summary, he postulated that if all muscular imbalances could be released that the body would regulate itself, and in this process pain and symptoms would vanish and energy levels would increase. Furthermore, the problematic condition would not return, because it had been addressed at its origin.
Bowen’s real brilliance however lies in the actual system he devised to enable this automatic systematic reintegration to take place.
He recognized that when the body was stimulated in a very particular fashion that the intelligence of the body would be alerted (as he put it) and the process of unraveling neuromuscular compensations (unwinding) would begin.
Depending on the extent to compensation in the body, this unraveling (unwinding) process could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 7 days at which time the body would go into a holding pattern. A reassessment would be required to evaluate the client again, then another session carried out to restart the unraveling process once again if necessary.
In Practice and Application
In clinical practice, on average, it is common to receive reports from clients that they can feel the body going through the unraveling (unwinding) process for approximately 2 to 4 days.
There is often a very similar pattern experienced with body aches which move from one location to another (e.g. shoulder to knee), some sweating, emotional releases which some clients, but above all, a very deep sense of relaxation and change taking place. In addition many clients report noticing their symptoms leaving their bodies in the reverse order to which they arrived.
While this may appear to be just semantics, the distinction is very important to keep in mind. NST/Bowen is synonymous with contextual healing–a lost art which is now having a resurgence in many forms, and gaining popularity with both practitioners and clients alike. Another well-known example of a contextual healing approach is homeopathy. Interestingly, many individuals have dubbed NST/Bowen as tactile homeopathy.
Firstly, using a combination of neurological and energetic blockage points, an initial temporary natural sedation is applied to the body. Then using specific rolling motions (called moves) across designated muscle, tendon, nerve and ligament points, a three part integrated body balance is applied, which is partly performed with the client in a prone position and then finished with the client in a supine position. This is generally comprised of a combination of further blockage and release points.
The moves are unique to Bowen Therapy, resembling neither massage, shiatsu, acupressure, osteopathic, or any other therapy’s activation, stimulation or releases.
Basically, the skin is lightly drawn over the designated points in either a lateral or medial direction, prior to executing the move. After this, a little pressure is momentarily applied to the underlying structure, in the opposite direction, therefore finally crossing the structure (i.e. muscle, tendon, nerve or ligament) with a gentle pressure, back in the direction from where the skin was initially drawn.
Typically, the moves are executed without slipping, thus producing a gentle bump as the underlying structure is crossed. In each session, the whole body will be treated commencing with a general body balance and progressing to specifics in line with what issues the patient presents.
Conditions NST/Bowen Can Help With:
The question is often asked: “will NST cure this condition or that condition?” The response is always the same: NST/Bowen will cure nothing! It is simply a process that enables the body to regulate itself, and throughout this process many symptoms disappear.
NST/Bowen is a contextual approach to healing and can be applied to any condition the human body is capable of manifesting.
The following list of symptoms frequently disappear in response to NST/Bowen Therapy:
- Cranial, Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders.
- Head injuries and headaches including migraines
- Neck problems including whiplash, shoulder and arm pains.
- Back problems in both the lumbar and thoracic spine.
- Leg problems including hamstrings, knee and ankles.
- Sciatic and pelvic problems.
- Accidents and sporting injuries (acute or chronic).
- Musculoskeletal disorders, rheumatism, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Digestive, bowel and urinary problems.
- Respiratory problems including asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis
- Menstrual, reproductive and menopausal disorders
- Baby colic, gastric reflux and feeding problems
- Acute and chronic fatigue syndrome
- Stress conditions, emotional depression and learning difficulties.
Note: In Fred Samorodin’s experience, the conditions above may benefit from his bodywork techniques including Cranio-sacral Therapy and/or NST/Bowen Therapy. While the above list of conditions are the most typical that respond to an NST or Craniosacral session, there are many other more serious condtions which may respond favourably as well, e.g. Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Lyme’s Disease, just to name a few.
Typically, results are extremely good, requiring just a few sessions to bring about some stability in the condition. Current international statistics consistently verify that in general clinical practice 80-85% of symptoms disappear after 3 to 4 sessions. The remaining 15-20% of symptoms many require additional treatments (or advanced or blended procedures) to address core issues. Many clients use NST/Bowen or Craniosacral Therapy preventatively.
Sessions are generally structured one to two weeks apart, depending on individual circumstances.
Fredric T. Samorodin, Registered Physical Therapist
Acknowledgements to www.physicalogic.com