How Does Bowen Therapy Work Physiologically?
Bowen Therapy 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. Most people today live in a constant state of high stress and sympathetic ANS over-stimulation (fight, flight or freeze mode).
Healing can occur only after the ANS shifts from sympathetic to parasympathetic dominance (rest, relax and repair mode). Bowen Therapy enables that shift.
During a session, the client often drops into deep relaxation or falls asleep, and loud peristalsis (tummy rumbles) may be heard. Both of these changes are indications of a profound release from stress and a shift towards parasympathetic influence. This shift could explain, in part, the common observation that a Bowen Therapy session seems to reactivate the recovery process in situations where healing from trauma, sickness or surgery has stalled or reached a plateau.
There are many theories about the physiological mechanisms of how Bowen Therapy brings about the results for which it is famous. In addition to the rebalancing of the ANS, described earlier, Bowen moves and procedures may reset the body to heal itself by activating, through the nervous and endocrine systems among others, the following mechanisms:
Most moves are done either at the origin, insertion or belly of muscles 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.
All moves done around a joint directly affect the joint capsule and ligaments that are richly innervated with proprioceptors. Here again, stimulus will be received by the nervous system, inviting normalization of the joint function without the need for forceful manipulation. Research (Carter, Bernie, 2002, ‘Clients experiences of frozen shoulder and its treatment with Bowen technique’, Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery, v. 8, pp. 204-210) has confirmed increases in the range of motion in restricted joints.
Each Bowen Therapy 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. All of these are negatively affected when the fascia stiffens, contracts, torques or dehydrates.
Following a Bowen Therapy 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 Bowen moves engage these reflexes. They produce referred reactions to the internal organs through stimulation of the skin, muscles and nerves.
Harmonic vibration or resonance model:
Bowen moves set up vibrational patterns which bring the body back into balance and harmony.
Some Bowen 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.
The continuity of muscles up the back and down the legs means that this relationship is given a lot of attention in Bowen sessions. Manipulation of these muscles can have a profound effect on the spine and posture.
So there you have it! An interesting scientific version to learn more about the mechanisms of a Bowen Therapy treatment and how the body responds.
Reference: The Original Bowen Technique by Ozzie and Elaine Rentsch (www.bowtech.com)