A to Z of the Bowen Technique

A to Z of the Bowen Technique

The Bowen Technique is still fairly unknown to most people, though those who have experienced it tend to quickly become advocates for this amazing therapy! I didn’t want this particular post to be an in depth explanation of how it works (have a look at my website for some more information, plus there is a blog post coming soon which will explore some of the science behind it… watch this space, it’s fascinating!), but I did want to focus on Bowen in a different way.

When I started this post, I hadn’t envisaged it would take so long to compile! For some letters, I was spoilt for choice. A couple had me stumped. Apologies for Y. I also got distracted by an anatomy quiz I stumbled upon (not far off top marks – but honestly, Yellow Bone Marrow? They got stuck too!)

So, here’s my A to Z of the Bowen Technique!


Bowen treatments are great for helping your body gently move back into alignment, ridding the associated aches and pains that coincide with the subtle muscular skeletal changes that can occur as a result of bad posture, a sedentary lifestyle or sports injury.

Bowen Technique

Named after Tom Bowen, who first developed the techniques, Bowen is a holistic therapy, which can be effective for physical, structural and emotional issues.  Treatment consists of the characteristic rolling move – where the skin slack is moved, challenged, before a rolling movement is made over the underlying structures.


Located at the base of the spine, the coccyx procedure is a powerful one which is great for a whole host of different problems, including hormonal issues, lower back pain, digestive problems, and even TMJ disorders (see T)!


The separation of a whole into its parts in order to study the parts and their relations. Dissection of the human body has been, and continues to be, a crucial tool in further developing our understanding of how the body works, and how Bowen works. Fascinating dissections have been led by leading Bowen practitioners who have massively contributed to our understanding of fascia and how the body is connected. (I won’t publish any gory pictures here, as I suspect not all my clients share my interest in this!)

Epsom Salts

A fantastic natural remedy that can help where there is calcification in the joints, or stiffness / soreness after physical activity.  It also reduces acid build up in the body and helps restore natural acid/alkaline balance;  reduces and prevents muscle cramps; and aids relaxation.


The thin layer of connective tissue situated underneath the skin, which binds it to underlying tissue, and surrounds every muscle in our body.  Think of the thin layer surrounding a chicken breast, or the layer of fat on a leg of lamb.  Healthy fascia has a wavy configuration which allows us to move freely, whilst providing support and structure.


Gentle but precise moves are made over muscles, ligaments, tendons and soft tissue to stimulate a healing and adjustment response.


One of my favourite procedures, and the one you might recognise where I smack the bottom of your foot like it is a ketchup bottle (according to one of my clients!). This procedure is great for anything hamstring related, as well as being great for lower back pain.


Soft tissue injuries, such as muscle tears as a result of sports injury, have been shown to heal up to 40% more quickly with regular Bowen treatments.


The framework of the mouth consisting of the maxilla and mandibles, and surrounding structures. Why is this so important in Bowen? The temporomandibular joint is the hinge connecting your jaw to the temporal bones of your skull, which enables you to talk, chew and yawn. TMJ disorders include not only issues such as teeth grinding and facial pain, but also headaches, neck pain, sinus problems, tinnitus and even ankle issues.  Work around the jaw can have a massive effect on the rest of the body.


Knee problems are a common reason why many of my clients seek treatment with me. Bowen can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. It can also help restore normal function post surgery too and speed up recovery time.

Leaving the room!

A Bowen treatment consists of a number of moves, then a break, during which the therapist may leave the room, before returning to perform further moves. These short breaks, often around two minutes, are a fundamental part of the treatment which allow the brain time and space to respond to the moves that have been made. It is during these breaks that the work starts to take effect and changes are implemented.


All our muscles are surrounded in fascia, like a sausage skin covering the meat inside (I really must think of a vegetarian friendly metaphor)! The majority of the moves during a Bowen treatment are made over different muscles, to gently realign, release tension, reduce pain and increase normal function.


Neck pain is another common reason that many of my clients seek treatment. With all the modern technology that we use both at home and at work, plus time spent sat at our desks or driving, there is no wonder that so many of us regularly suffer from tension at the sides and back of our neck, and struggle to turn our heads comfortably from side to side.  Tension in the neck can lead to pain, headaches, upper back pain, shoulder problems and poor sleep.


The back of the head and skull. Moves made over the muscles in this area can help with headaches, neck tension, whiplash and upper back pain.

Parasympathetic Nervous System

Bowen aims to calm down the body’s stress response (governed by the Sympathetic Nervous System). The SNS is activated when in pain, and the body is on high alert waiting for the next pain response. Bowen encourages the parasympathetic nervous system to take over instead.  This is the part of the nervous system which governs rest, digest and repair.  The body will not successfully heal until it is in parasympathetic mode.

Quadratus Lumborum

The QL muscle is often unfamiliar to people, but we’ve probably all experienced pain in this muscle before. The QL is located in the lower part of the back, either side of the spine between the lowest rib and the top of the pelvis.


The aim of treatment! If your body is able to respond to the moves being made, it can and it will start the process of repair.


The perhaps misnamed opening moves on the areas of the spine which are most load bearing; those curves at the highest point of your thoracic spine, the dip in your lumbar spine, and the glutes. Rather than stopping energy, these moves open up the potential for energy to move to where it is directed in the body. Similar to pushing down on a coiled spring – the energy will be released when further Bowen moves are made.

Tom Bowen 

The man himself, where it all started! Tom Bowen (1916 – 1982), born in Australia, began developing his technique in the 1950s. He became interested in ways to alleviate human suffering and began to notice that certain moves on the body had particular effects. He developed his technique without having previous formal training in any modality or discipline, and ran a very busy, and successful clinic which treated 13,000 patients a year. ‘Bowen’ is now practised all over the world, and modern science continues to explore and validate the technique, including how and why it works.


Ultrasound technology has shown how far reaching a move can be, with a soliton wave effect being seen disturbing layers of fascia and muscle tissue far below the outer layers of skin.

Vagus Nerve

An essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system (see P), the name vagus comes from the Latin term for ‘wandering’, as the nerve wanders from the brain into organs in the neck, chest and abdomen. The longest and most complex of the cranial nerves that emanate from the brain, it transmits information to and from the brain to tissues and organs elsewhere in the body.  It is involved with digestion, the heart, speech, eye contact and even your ability to recognise other people’s voices, among many other things.

Water, Walk and Week – the 3 W’s

Post treatment, drink lots of water to hydrate the cells and keep that lovely fascia gliding around; get up and walk around regularly (every half an hour) to help assist the flow of lymph which is getting rid of toxins from the body; a week between visits when having a course of treatments is ideal as those little Bowen moves keep on working for a few days after the treatment has finished!


Have a look at this short video for a fascinating look at the body in motion via x-ray and MRI scans – drinking is fascinating, and kissing looks disgusting!

Y-shaped cartilage

Located in the hip joint.  Nothing hugely interesting to say about this.  Y was the most difficult letter.  If you’ve got any better suggestions, I’d love to hear them!


Ok, best I could do for Z! Clients often feel very relaxed during a treatment, and it’s common for them to fall asleep on the couch. Many often report a better night’s sleep following a treatment too!

Did I miss anything?  What would you have included in your A-Z?

If you would like to try a Bowen treatment, please do get in touch!

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