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Banish Pain with Bowen Therapy


Bowen is a gentle manipulation of muscles at key points in the body to stimulate the flow of energy and fast-track the healing process. â??Letâ??s do it right here on the trail,â? suggested my hiking partner.

“Let’s do it right here on the trail,” suggested my hiking partner.

I glanced at the hikers and horseback riders coming toward us. “I suppose you want me to lie down?” I asked warily.

“That would be ideal, but let’s try it with you sitting on this rock.”

I perched myself on the rock. A few minutes later I got up, smiling, and declared incredulously, “The pain is gone!”

I had just had a Bowen therapy treatment on both knees. The familiar pain in the kneecaps had started soon after we started our descent during a hike in the Rockies. Avid hikers know that walking downhill can cause severe pain in the knees. After that simple, painless Bowen treatment I walked the rest of the way down with very happy knees.

I recall other times I witnessed the miracle of Bowen. My partner and husband, a Calgary naturopathic doctor, has a habit of accosting strangers who are in obvious pain and offering relief from their misery. With their permission, he presses and manipulates muscle tissue, banishing their pain to their amazement and gratitude. He’s done it in a mall, on a soccer field, in the gym, in friends’ homes, and, most commonly, in his office.

Ask anyone about their aches and pains and you’re sure to get an earful. So, I decided to investigate this technique called Bowen. Here is what I learned.

Bowen therapy is practised and taught in 15 countries. Internet sites abound with patient testimonials and clinical anecdotes. Bowen has obviously helped thousands around the world. But it seems no one really understands how it works. It’s easier to say what Bowen therapy is not. It is not chiropractic, nor massage, nor shiatsu, nor healing touch therapy, nor physiotherapy, nor any other physical modality. Everyone agrees, however, that Bowen’s mechanism has to do with triggering the body to rebalance itself. Bowen is a gentle manipulation of muscles at key points in the body to stimulate the flow of energy and promote the healing response.

Bowen therapy can safely be used on anyone from newborns to the elderly and infirm. It is drug-free, non-invasive, and without side-effects. A typical treatment involves a preliminary consultation. The patient then relaxes comfortably on a bed (not a table). To soothing music, the therapist will do some “moves” with the finger tips. A move is a gentle rolling motion over muscle and connective tissue at specific sites, usually on the back, neck, shoulders, buttocks, or hamstrings. Then, the move is allowed to “cook?that is, take effect, while the patient rests for about three minutes. The therapist will do a series of further moves with rests in between. Patients become very relaxed and may even fall asleep. A treatment costs between $40 and $60.

Besides chronic and acute pains, other conditions respond to Bowen such as migraines, carpal tunnel, sciatica, scoliosis, asthma, infant colic, and TMJ (jaw joint) problems. A quick treatment on a pregnant woman can chase away nausea. Often, there’s an unexpected bonus–a treatment for pain will improve other ailments as well. This happens because the whole body responds. Healing occurs systemically, not just in one spot.

Calgary patient, Sheilah, 77, had suffered from back pain all her life. Frequent childhood falls from a pony and poor eating habits resulting in rickets may have set the stage for chronic back pain in adulthood. For relief she tried chiropractic, exercise, massage, drugs, and acupuncture, with little success. Eventually she heard about Bowen therapy. After eight treatments, more than is usually required, she arose the next morning completely pain free for the first time in many years and, to her amazement, remained pain free for an entire year. She says, “Bowen is completely super and above anything I’ve ever had.”

It’s not hard to believe that millions suffer from back pain. All the body’s weight hangs on a single bony column which bends and twists, and is surrounded by nerves connected to your brain and extremities. There’s lots of opportunity for stress and injury. Barb, another Bowen patient, had chronic, severe pain in her coccyx (tailbone). X-rays showed that her tailbone did not have the normal curvature. It was straight. She had heard about Bowen from her husband whose foot pain disappeared with just one Bowen treatment. After a series of treatments Barb said of her therapist, “I’m a new person and I can’t thank him enough.”

The discovery and development of the Bowen technique is the work of an Australian, Tom Bowen. During the 1950’s, without any formal training, Tom worked with junior football leagues as a masseur. Quite accidentally, he discovered that his fingers were extremely sensitive to nerve vibrations. He could feel nerve and muscle blockages. Gradually he discovered a way to unblock them. His results were so dramatic that he began seeing patients privately during his time off. He treated 13,000 people per year until his death in 1982. In his later years, Tom trained osteopath Oswald Rentsch (Ossie) to document his work, teach it and introduce it to other countries. Ossie and his wife Elaine have done just that.

Today, Bowen therapy is practiced and taught worldwide. Ossie and Elaine Rentsch remain the driving force behind Bowen, travelling, teaching and managing the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia.

Lise Maltais, a naturopathic doctor in Comox, BC, and Bowen teacher since 1994, says more Bowen therapists are needed. Anyone who has taken anatomy and CPR first aid and has some business education or experience can apply for training. Many new students are chiropractors, naturopathic doctors, and massage therapists. Training involves seven modules, with practice allowed after completing module two, a four-day intensive course. The Bowen technique is easily learned because it is beautifully simple.

To find a Bowen therapist near you, visit and click on “practitioners.” To find Canadian practitioners, call Jonathan Damonte at 905-642-2933 or e-mail bowencanada@ To find US practitioners, call Alison Powers 303-665-2667 or e-mail



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