For as long as I can remember, I've suffered from back pain. Although I have experienced some relief using heat, cold, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture, invariably the pain has always returned. Until one day I visited a friend in California who had similar back problems. She told me she had some body work done called Bowen. Her back and hip pain were gone after just one session!

I was definitely intrigued. I couldn't wait to find out more. When I arrived back home I got on the internet and learned that the Bowen Technique involves a series of very gentle rolling moves on the body using thumbs and fingers. It was developed in Australia in the 1950's by Thomas Bowen, a gifted healer who devised a simple but powerful method for releasing pain.

Hoping to find a Bowen practitioner near me, I emailed close to 40 practitioners around the U.S. and asked if they could refer me to someone. After 39 "no's" I got one "yes!" I arranged to have three Bowen sessions. After the third session, my back pain and sciatica were "history!" I got so excited I decided to train to become a Bowen practitioner.

The Amazing Tom Bowen
Tom Bowen was a gifted natural healer from Australia. Late in life he discovered he had an unusual gift that allowed him to intuitively know what was ailing people and how to help them relieve their pain. His healing technique is unique in that it was developed without him having had any previous medical or healthcare training.

He claimed he could feel tiny vibrations in people’s muscles that helped him find the exact location to work on. He spoke of his skill with great humility and frequently stated that his work was “simply a gift from God.”

Tom had the capacity to quickly assess what was wrong with someone and where they were out of balance. He could look into a room full of people, glance at them for about 20 seconds, and know what their problems were. Although he never advertised, it was estimated that he treated over 13,000 people in the course of one year, and he claimed a success rate of about 88%!

A Unique Technique
The Bowen Technique is quite unique. There are several features that set it apart from other modalities

It is so gentle that you hardly notice you’re being touched. People usually become very relaxed right away, and often fall asleep during a session.

Rapid pain relief is common. Most pain and injury will respond within two or three sessions.

Long-Lasting Relief
People often experience a deep and long-lasting relief. Two to three sessions spaced one week apart are usually enough to achieve lasting relief, even from long-standing pain or injury.

There is no one who cannot be treated safely with Bowen. It is so gentle, it can be used on babies, pregnant women, the elderly and the disabled. It is not dangerous to those suffering from chronic illness and it is ideal for treating children because it is non-invasive and non-threatening.

Two Minute Pauses
It is a unique feature of the Bowen Technique that there are two minute breaks in which the practitioner actually leaves the room. These pauses are crucial as they allow the body time to absorb the “messages” presented by the moves.

There is no cracking, no force and no needles. There is little discomfort or pain involved because there is no heavy pressure or hard probing into sensitive muscles or joints.

Less Is More
The practitioner does the minimum needed to bring about a healing response in the body. The more acute the pain, the less they do. The less they do, the more profound the effect on the body.

Great First Aid Tool
When you apply the Bowen Technique right after a fall, injury or accident, the release of tension acts in a preventive way to help correct any imbalance before it can adversely affect the body.

Easy To Learn
The technique is easy to learn. There is only one basic move.

How Does Bowen Work?
The gentle yet powerful Bowen moves send neurological impulses to the brain resulting in immediate responses of muscle relaxation and pain reduction. The moves create energy surges which are concentrated in specific areas of the body using "blockers" or "stoppers." These are released when you stand up.

The Bowen Technique helps the body remember how to heal itself. Electrical impulses sent to the nervous system remind the body to regain normal movement in joints, muscles and tendons. This helps relieve muscle spasms and increase blood and lymph flow. Several of the moves are located along acupuncture meridians or on specific acupuncture points which are known to stimulate and balance the body’s energy.

A Bowen Session
A Bowen treatment lasts about 30-45 minutes. No oils are used. Treatment can be done through clothing or directly on the skin. The practitioner "rolls" over the muscles with her fingers, which causes the muscles to relax. The moves are done in groups. Between sets, the practitioner leaves the room for at least two minutes to allow the body to relax and make its own adjustments.

The moves send out signals which:

* stimulate energy flow;

* facilitate lymphatic drainage of toxins and waste;

* promote good circulation;

* release tension;

* increase mobility;

* encourage the body to relax, realign and heal itself.

Some people feel shifts in their bodies during and after a Bowen session. While many experience immediate pain relief, improvement is just as likely to unfold over the next few days to a week. Two or three treatments are usually enough to achieve long-lasting relief. Even long-term conditions may respond very quickly.

The ideal situation is to give the Bowen Technique a try for 3 sessions, once per week, without having any other kind of bodywork in between.

After A Session

1. Move Your Body
Do not sit too long. Get up every 30 minutes and move around. Walk at least 20 minutes a day for the next week.

2. Drink Water
Drink 8-10 glasses of water each day to flush the toxins out of your body.

3. Take It Easy
Avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise.

4. Avoid Extreme Heat or Cold
No heating pads, ice packs, hot showers or hot baths.

5. Keep Your Feet Together
Put your weight on BOTH FEET when you stand up, get out out of bed, a chair or a car. This will help bring balance back into your body.

6. Avoid Body Work
Your body will continue to heal during the next week. Any form of bodywork, even a backrub, can "short-circuit" the healing process.

7. Eat Lots of Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables "soothe" the body and help reduce pain.

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Success Stories

My eighty year old mother suffers from severe arthritis. After just one Bowen session, she slept through the entire night for the first time in six years. The next morning she was able to walk without her walker.

Frozen Shoulder
A woman who suffered from severe pain in her shoulder couldn't lift her arm. Her hands and fingers felt numb. The night after her second session she called from a restaurant and said that during dinner she heard a "popping" sound. Her shoulder had popped itself back in place. She's been pain-free ever since.

Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue
A woman with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue lived in a constant state of severe pain (a "10" on a scale of 1-10). After two sessions her pain level dropped to a "4". She slept through the night and was able to go through an entire day without having to rest constantly.

The main difference between Bowen and other modalities is how fast it works, how gentle it feels and how long the pain relief lasts. Anyone can learn how to do the Bowen Technique: there is only one basic move. (see self-help video below).

The technique has been successful in treating back pain, sciatica, headaches, migraines, arthritis, fibromyalgia, sports injuries and much more. For me, the miracle lies in the fact that doing so little produces such long-lasting relief.

Author's Bio: 

Gerri Shapiro, MS Ed, is a Bowen practitioner and leading health educator who has worked with the World Health Organization, Asian Development Bank, USAID and Management Sciences for Health in the areas of alternative and traditional medicine. She is a member of the American Massage Therapy and American Holistic Health Associations, and is the editor of a Bowen resource site which includes training schools, practitioners, articles, books, videos and related Bowen links. She has also produced a self-help video entitled Miracle Pain Relief - The Gentle Power of Bowen for Family and Friends For more information about the Bowen Technique: ( For more information about the self-help video (