Bowen therapy uses a holistic technique to stretch the soft connective tissue in the body. This gentle stretching can promote pain relief in the muscles and alleviate related neurological conditions.
Bowen therapy, also known as Bowtech or Bowenwork, originated in Australia. This holistic therapy may provide some relief, but evidence of its effectiveness is limited and mixed.
This article reviews what Bowen therapy is, what people use it for, its effectiveness, and more.
Bowen therapy is a form of holistic care. Holistic therapies take into account the whole person, the underlying causes of symptoms, and how mental and physical health relate.
Bowen therapy focuses on the underlying issue, not the symptoms.
The therapy involves gently stretching and manipulating the soft connective tissue in the body, known as the fascia. Therapists can use the technique to address a variety of neurological and musculoskeletal disorders.
A therapist can use the technique either on deep or superficial fascia to promote pain relief and alleviate other symptoms by addressing the underlying cause.
People often seek Bowen therapy to help treat pain associated with muscles and movement. It can treat either acute or long-term issues.
According to the Bowen Therapists Federation of Australia, conditions and symptoms that people commonly use Bowen therapy to treat include:
- acute and chronic pain associated with musculoskeletal or neurological issues
- neck pain
- back pain
- stress, anxiety, and depression
- lower back pain
- general joint pain
- sport injuries
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- pain in the feet or legs
- arm pain and carpal tunnel syndrome
- TMJ syndrome, which refers to pain in the jaw or ear
- shoulder pain
- traumatic injuries
Proponents of Bowen therapy report good results from the therapy. The therapy is safe for everyone, from newborns to older adults.
However, high quality scientific data regarding the effectiveness of Bowen therapy are limited. Data from existing research show mixed, though mostly positive results.
Despite noting the positive results in several studies, the researchers state that the current evidence is not well-documented and that more research is necessary to draw conclusions.
A more recent 2020 study looked at how effective Bowen therapy is for treating lower back pain. The researchers found that people experienced a short-term reduction in pain compared with a control group.
In a 2018 study, researchers looked at how Bowen therapy affects back pain. The authors write that about 66% of the participants reported very good results following their third session, with most respondents describing the first treatment as “mostly good.”
There is limited information available on the side effects related to Bowen therapy, but experts state that the therapy is safe for newborns, older adults, and everyone in between.
However, some therapists advise their clients to avoid other muscle-manipulation therapies for at least 1 week after the session to allow the body to adjust.
A person should talk with a doctor if they experience side effects related to the therapy.
A person does not need to do anything special to prepare for a Bowen therapy session. Although the sessions may vary among practices, a person can typically expect the therapist to use their thumbs and fingers to apply gentle, precise pressure to the treatment area.
A therapist will often perform a Bowen move and then let the body rest for 2–5 minutes.
A person may need between one and three sessions to see the full benefits of the therapy.
If the symptoms persist, the person should talk with a doctor.
Bowen therapy is a type of holistic approach that people often use to help with muscular and joint health, as well as other potential health issues.
Although proponents argue that the therapy works well, limited high quality studies exist. Information on the benefits is largely anecdotal or comes from smaller studies.
However, Bowen therapy is generally noninvasive and not likely to cause major side effects. A person interested in trying the therapy may wish to discuss it with a doctor.