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Bowen Studies & Research

There are a growing number of studies on the effectiveness of Bowen Therapy. Some of the study results and recent research is detailed below:

The Bowen Technique National Asthma Research Program

October 2002 to March 2004

Aim:

A National Research program was launched to determine the efficacy of The Bowen Technique in the treatment of the Asthma condition. The research was aiming to record any changes in their pattern Volunteer's symptoms in terms of:

  • frequency
  • severity of attacks, and
  • reliance on medication
over a period of 12 months whilst receiving Bowen treatments.

Selection of candidates: The Volunteer Group

The parameters set were as follows:

  • the volunteers had to be over 16 years of age
  • they must not have been hospitalised for their condition
  • they must have been diagnosed as an Asthma sufferer by a GP or hospital specialist
  • Asthma must be their main health concern

The Volunteer Group: Profile

Of the 24 Volunteers: 16 women, 8 men.
Length of time diagnosed as an Asthma sufferer:
1 to 5 yrs : 2 (8%) volunteers
5 to 10 yrs : 8 (33%) volunteers
10 to 15 yrs : 3 (13%) volunteers
15 yrs plus : 11 (46%) volunteers

The Therapists

All were fully qualified in the Bowen technique and fulfilled the qualifications set out by the governing body, The Bowen Therapists European Register (now the Bowen Therapy Professional Association, BTPA).

The Research Program:

The Program was carried out over a 12 month period. No treatment protocol was set for the Bowen therapist to follow. This is because Bowen is a holistic therapy and it was felt that the Bowen therapist should not be compromised in having to treat according to a set protocol as opposed to treating the Volunteer as a unique individual. The Asthma Volunteer kept a weekly diary throughout the 12 month period. Additionally, a diary was completed for every Asthma attack experienced during the Research Period.

The Results of the Bowen Technique National Asthma Research Program

Of the 24 participants who completed the 12 month program:
All 24 volunteers reported that Bowen had made a positive difference to their asthma condition.
7 registered "My asthma has improved dramatically"
14 reported "My asthma has improved substantially"
3 reported "My asthma has improved slightly"

    

20 (83%) reported a reduction in the frequency of their asthma attacks
18 (75%) reported a reduction in the severity of their attacks
18 (75%) were now using less medication than before starting the Bowen Research project
14 (58%) reported they were responding better to their medication
17 (71%) volunteers reported their sensitivity to triggers had reduced

Although only 15 of the 24 volunteers used Peak Flow meters at home, all 15 (100%) of them reported their readings had improved.

Volunteers were asked to rate their asthma condition on a scale of 0 to 10.
Before Bowen treatments were received:
Mild      :    3 replied (12.5%)
Moderate    :    12 replied (50%)
Severe    :    9 replied (37.5%)

After 12 months on the Research Program:
Mild      :   18 replied (75%)
Moderate    :    6 replied (25%)

Total number of Asthma attacks:
The total number of reported Asthma attacks for all the Volunteers as a group, showed a dramatic improvement in their second 6 months on the research program:
First 6 months    :    Total of 84 Asthma attacks recorded
Second 6 months   :    Total of 26 Asthma attacks recorded

This represents an improvement of 69% in the number of Asthma attacks over the first 6 months they were on the Research program.

Other Benefits:

Of the 24 Volunteers who completed the program, 22 reported that secondary health concerns had also improved within the 12 month Research period underlining the holistic nature of the Bowen Technique. These issues included:

Positive responses
Back, Neck & Shoulder problems    :     15
Knee problems & Other joint problems    :     4
Headaches & Migraine    :     3
Hayfever    :     8
Irritable Bowel Syndrome & Digestion    :     4
PMT & Circulation    :     2
Insomnia    :     4
Anxiety, Stress & Depression    :     13
Energy levels    :     8

Comments

Following the results, Nikke Ariff concluded:
"The Asthma Research is my second project and my thanks and appreciation go to the Volunteer Asthma suffers and the dedicated Bowen Therapists who took part over this 12 month programme. Asthma is a very individual condition, and a holistic therapy such as Bowen is ideally designed to address the individual according to his or her individual health needs.
I am very pleased with the results of the National Research Programme, which has recorded positive results for all 24 of the Asthma Volunteers. I trust that more people will be encouraged to approach complementary therapies with an open mind for the maintenance of their health and well being." 

Dr Claire Pickin, Warwickshire GP wrote:
I am pleased though not surprised to see the patients in this trial benefiting from the Bowen Technique. I use the Bowen Technique frequently in my GP practice, mainly for musculoskeletal problems, but notice that patients' general health improves as well.

Asthma is a cause of much morbidity and sadly, still mortality, in this country. Its incidence has increased by 250% in the last 20 years and the latest figures show 1 child in 8 is being treated for asthma. The fact that such a simple, gentle, non-invasive technique can reduce the distressing symptoms of asthma deserves attention. The results of the trial are impressive.

Asthma can be life threatening, so it is important that medication is not stopped suddenly. The Bowen Therapists European Register code of practice states that the therapist will never advise patients to alter prescribed medication without first consulting with their doctor. A doctor will be happy to reduce medication gradually as symptoms improve in the long term.

Conclusion:

The results are very positive, evidenced also by the fact that every Volunteer replied they would recommend the Bowen Technique to a fellow Asthma sufferer. Bowen addresses the individual as an integrated biodynamic system as opposed to his or her isolated ailment. The Asthma condition has a myriad of triggers ranging from emotional trauma, stress levels of the individual, exercise, food and environmental allergens. These factors are so varied, that a holistic therapy like Bowen should be considered as a valid option for the health of an Asthma sufferer.

Clearly this is the result of only 24 volunteers, but the overwhelming positive results are very encouraging.

A study into the effects of Bowen Therapy on Back Pain was conducted in June 2007. The outcome was on the whole very satisfying, not to mention revealing, with almost 90% of treatments given resulting in either a complete or partial recovery.

By triggering a re-balancing of the muscles around the lumbar and pelvic areas, Bowen Therapy may help to stabilise a weak area, reduce compression around the nerve roots or improve circulation to the spinal discs, muscles and joints.

Bowen therapy helps to reduce pain and also improve range of movement throughout the body.

Of the 351 volunteers, 124 (35.3%) reported a "Full Recovery", 191 (54.4%) reported a "Partial Recovery", whilst 32 (9.1%) reported "No Change". The course of treatment was not completed by 4 (1.1%) of the participants.

A pilot study to investigate the use of The Bowen Technique as a treatment for people who live with chronic, non-specific Lower Back Pain.

© Copyright Michael Morris (Contact: m.f.morris@warwick.ac.uk) - this article should not be reproduced without permission.

1st October 2012

Abstract

Almost half the adult population of the UK (49%) report low back pain (LBP). Most cases of lower back pain are known as 'non-specific' because they are not caused by serious damage or disease, but by sprains, muscle strains, minor injuries or a pinched or irritated nerve. 

The Bowen Technique is a soft tissue remedial therapy, which involves the therapist using fingers or thumbs to move over muscle, ligament, tendon and fascia in various parts of the body.

The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the feasibility of conducting a trial into the effectiveness of the Bowen Technique as a treatment for the management of Chronic, non-specific low back pain (CNSLBP), using a Randomised Control Trial approach.

Thirty-seven participants, 21 female, with a mean age of 44.5 years took part in the study. Nineteen were allocated to the experimental, Bowen, group, and 18 to a control 'Sham Bowen' group. Participants were blinded to their group allocation. Each participant received three weekly treatments, and were asked to complete a questionnaire comprising six different measures before treatment, one week after their final treatment, and four weeks later.

Measuring pain and functioning levels, psychosocial/somatic changes and general health, 24 'categories' were created from the measures. The Bowen group recorded a positive change by the second follow up in 20 of these categories. By contrast the control group showed an improvement in twelve at the same time point.

Pain and functioning - the data takes in results from 12 categories. At the first follow-up, the Bowen group showed healthy changes in 3 categories, and the control group showing changes in 6 categories. By the second follow-up, the Bowen group showed healthy changes in eleven of the categories, compared to five categories in the control group.

Psychosocial/somatic changes - there were 9 categories. The Bowen group failed to register any healthy change after the first follow-up, compared to 3 in the control group. At the second follow up, the Bowen group showed a healthy change in eight, compared to five healthy changes in the control group.

General Health - 3 categories. The Bowen group showed a healthy change in 1 category by the first follow up, compared with 2 from the control group. The Bowen and control groups showed 2 healthy changes at the second follow up.

The data highlights that the Bowen treatment group changes occur mostly following a four-week interval after the treatment, potentially highlighting the longer term effects the Bowen treatment may be having on the body, and gives rise to the idea suggested by many in the profession that the body takes time to adjust to the treatment, and that following treatment, therapists should allow time for the body to 'rest' with no further treatment being applied for a period of time.

We should remember that this was a pilot study, and as the subject matter involved common and very prevalent symptoms, as such any study which would look to reach an 'effectiveness' score, would require a much larger sample size, and most importantly a much larger budget! For example, the UK BEAM study recruited from 181 general practices in Medical Research Council General Practice Research Framework; 63 community settings around 14 centres across the United Kingdom. In total, there were 1334 patients consulting their general practices about LBP!

However, it was felt that due to the commonality of the symptoms, and the prevalence seen within the clinics of Bowen therapists throughout the world, that this was a subject worth investigating further and would hopefully provide the catalyst for future research into Bowen.

A study was performed in Poland in 2018 using a sample of the population with lumbar pain. The results were published in the "World Scientific News" journal - http://www.worldscientificnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/WSN-93-2018-81-94.pdf

The study made the following conclusions:

Pain in the lumbosacral spine affects an estimated 80% of the population at some point in their lives, and chronic back pain is the reason for a third of that population to visit a treatment clinic. A significant reduction in physical activity is a major factor, a problem that will continue to increase. Ideally, we aim to prevent injuries but if they do occur, getting treatment sooner rather than later will help to prevent compensatory mechanisms that cause additional problems.

Bowen Technique is significantly different from many other therapies on offer. The difficulty in designing a research project about the effectiveness of Bowen Technique is the need for each patient to be treated holistically, tailoring the treatment approach according to their individual needs.

One explanation of the effectiveness of Bowen Therapy procedures relates to the response of fascia to the treatment of the body's connective tissues. Bowen technique procedures affect the body's alignment of the pelvis, helping to balance the forces of gravity, restoring the integrity of the tissues and reducing the sensitivity of the nerve pathways. The normalisation of proprioception plays a major role too.

This study is the first in Poland that investigates the results of Bowen Technique procedures for low back pain. Further research (with a larger sample group) is needed but initial findings suggest that Bowen Technique is effective for helping people with non-specific low back pain. In general, we noticed the greatest improvement in health after the first treatment. There was clearly noticeable results in the severity of pain, the range of motion and the degree of disability of respondents (measured using the Owestry standardized scale).

We believe that subsequent treatments continue to reduce pain and improve the health of patients whose symptoms have not yet completely resolved. When comparing the subjective opinion of patients, it can be concluded that although most of the respondents saw a significant improvement in health after the first treatment, their symptoms had changed even more after the third treatment.

In 2004 Catherine Vivian conducted a pilot study of the perceived effects of Bowen Therapy on children with Cerebral Palsy.

The study concluded that there were a number of perceived improvements. Improvements in co-ordination and flexibility had the largest number of changes. The changes to behaviour demonstrated that Bowen therapy affects more than isolated muscles and connective tissue.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS PILOT STUDY

Research Success into Treating Boys with Dyspraxia/DCD by Dr Melanie Morgan-Jones

Extract from Penny Post website.

Melanie Morgan-Jones runs a Bowen Therapy practice and children’s clinic in East Garston. Her study related specifically to an investigation into whether an improvement could be made to the neuromuscular function of children with Dyspraxia/Developmental coordination disorder (DCD). The study involved children from the counties of Berkshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire, specifically boys between the ages of 8-11. (N.B. 50% of children with Dyspraxia/DCD also have other conditions such as ASD, ADD, ADHD).

Over a 6 week period the children received a non-invasive therapy once a week and the data gathered showed statistically significant improvements in their balance, manual dexterity, aiming and catching, but also in the children’s general control of movement. Importantly, by the conclusion of the study, most of the children, were found to be no longer classified as having the motor coordination difficulties classification. This was according to an internationally recognised diagnostic tool called the MABC-2 (Motor Assessment Battery test-2 for children) which was used to test the children before and after the 6 weeks of Fascia Bowen therapy. Importantly, for these children, their quality of life in terms of performing everyday tasks, improved.

This was the first study of its kind using this particular therapy, namely Fascia Bowen therapy but it was also the first study to test the therapy with children diagnosed with Dyspraxia/DCD. Melanie conducted the research with ethical approval from the University of Bath and was granted her doctorate on April 21st 2015.

A randomised controlled trial, by Michelle Marr, Julian Baker, Nicky Lambon and Jo Perry. Published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, July 2011 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2010.07.008)

The hamstring muscles are regularly implicated in recurrent injuries, movement dysfunction and low back pain. Links between limited flexibility and development of neuromusculoskeletal symptoms are frequently reported. The Bowen Technique is used to treat many conditions including lack of flexibility. The study set out to investigate the effect of the Bowen Technique on hamstring flexibility over time.

An assessor-blind, prospective, randomised controlled trial was performed on 120 asymptomatic volunteers. Participants were randomly allocated into a control group or Bowen group. Three flexibility measurements occurred over one week, using an active knee extension test. The intervention group received a single Bowen treatment. A repeated measures univariate analysis of variance, across both groups for the three time periods, revealed significant within-subject and between-subject differences for the Bowen group. Continuing increases in flexibility levels were observed over one week. No significant change over time was noted for the control group.

A study into the effects of Bowen Technique on Knee Pain and Ankle Pain was conducted between June and August 2009, in which 110 clients received treatments.

The cause of ankle joint pain is often associated with an imbalance in the muscle tensions around the leg or foot. Bowen Therapy is thought to provide a trigger that the body uses to reset muscle spindle length, reducing the tightness within the muscles and tendons, and easing compression on surrounding tissues, such as blood vessels and nerves. Pain relief occurs as the body's natural healing mechanisms are stimulated.

People affected by knee pain or ankle pain were given the chance to try out a natural therapy that has shown remarkable success in treating all kinds of joint and muscle problems - the Bowen Technique. During Summer 2009, Bowen practitioners from across the UK took part in a national study. It was designed to provide testimonial evidence of how Bowen can help with knee pain and ankle pain, a common cause of lack of mobility and in some cases, time off work.

RESULTS OF THE STUDY:

Participants had three treatments and gave a subjective score as to their change after receiving the course of treatment. In summary, 19% of clients were "Fully recovered", 69% of clients reported a "Partial recovery", leaving 12% reporting "No change".

The Bowen Technique National Migraine Research Program

October 2001 to April 2002

Aim:

The National Research program was launched by Nikke Ariff, MBTER, in response to results obtained in an earlier Pilot Scheme conducted by her between February – April 2001.

The National Research program was launched to determine the efficacy of The Bowen Technique in the treatment of the Migraine condition.

Selection of candidates: The Volunteer Group

No parameters were set before the research program to attract a certain 'profile' of Migraine sufferer. This was deliberate to ensure that the Volunteer Group was random but united by the fact that they were willing to try something new in the treatment of their Migraine condition.

The Research Group was recruited from the members of the Migraine Action Association and based on a considered selection of participants on the basis:

  • They were diagnosed as a migraine sufferer by a GP or hospital specialist
  • The women were well represented at different stages of their menstrual life ie. Regular periods, pre-menopausal, menopausal with / without hormone therapy, post-menopausal, hysterectomy.

The Volunteer Group: Profile

Total of 39 volunteers: 37 women, 2 men

Length of time participant had been a Migraine sufferer:
1 to 15 years : 13 volunteers
16 to 30 years: 17 volunteers
over 30 years: 9 volunteers

The Therapists

All were fully qualified in the Bowen Technique and fulfilled the qualifications set out by the governing body, the Bowen Therapists' European Register – now the Bowen Therapy Professional Association (BTPA).

The Research Program:

The Program was carried out over a 6 week period. This was comprised of a two week treatment period during which the Volunteer received three Bowen treatments in the first two weeks of the program, followed by a four week observational period. The Migraine Volunteer kept a migraine diary throughout the 6 week period, which was completed after every Migraine attack experienced during the Research Period.

The Results of the Bowen Technique National Migraine Research Program

Of the 39 participants:

  • 7 registered no change in their Migraine condition
  • 11 experienced a decrease in frequency of attacks
  • 9 experienced a decrease in severity of their Migraine
  • 11 experienced a decrease in severity and frequency of attacks
  • 1 participant experienced an increase in frequency
  • In all, 31 case studies experienced a positive result, yielding a response rate of 79.5%.

    Following the results, Nikke Ariff concluded:
    "I decided to use the Migraine condition as a research project (although it could have been one of many other conditions), because of the distress I saw it causing the sufferer.
    My experience with Migraine proved that the Bowen Technique was very effective because it treated the person as a whole where the Migraine condition can be caused by one or a combination of several trigger factors - none of which are easily identifiable.
    I am very pleased and not at all surprised at the success rate of the National Research Programme, which has recorded positive results for 31 of the 39 Migraine Volunteers. I trust that more people will be encouraged to approach complementary therapies with an open mind for the maintenance of their health and well being."

    Ann Turner, Director for the Migraine Action Association wrote "The results from the Bowen Technique National Migraine Research Programme are very encouraging. It confirms that this gentle, non-invasive, holistic therapy can help a wide range of migraine sufferers. The results confirm the findings of the pilot study and the fact that several different therapists were involved illustrates that it is the Bowen Technique which is effective not just one skilled or gifted practitioner."

    Conclusion:

    The results are very positive. As a holistic therapy, Bowen Therapy treats the individual as an integrated biodynamic system as opposed to an isolated ailment.

    Migraines can be triggered by any one or a combination of factors ranging from hormonal, sleeping patterns, neck and jaw tightness, exercise, travel, lack of food, allergies and stress levels of the individual.

    These factors are so varied, that a holistic therapy like Bowen must be considered as a valid option for the treatment of the Migraine condition.

    A study into the effect of Bowen Therapy on shoulder or neck pain was conducted in the summer of 2008. 271 clients new to Bowen were treated and of these 86% showed a full or partial recovery after only 3 treatments.

    Shoulder and neck pain can be particularly debilitating especially where there is restriction as in adhesive capsulitis or 'frozen shoulder'. It can also be linked to emotional problems and where the client is experiencing particularly stressful situations. Shoulder and neck pain can be linked to RSI and carpal tunnel problems which are symptoms that can respond well to Bowen Therapy.

    Detailed analysis of the results from this study showed that 30% reported a full recovery, while a further 56% said that their symptoms had improved to some extent. Fewer than 10% reported that there had been no change. If the figures are adjusted by removing the incomplete/other modality treatments then there was a "Full recovery" in 31% of the clients, a "Partial recovery" in 60%, giving an overall improvement rate of 91%.

    The study was designed to help consolidate the many anecdotal experiences of people who have reported to their therapists that Bowen Therapy has provided significant pain relief. More mature clients, or clients with chronic symptoms, are likely to experience even better results after a number of additional sessions.


    BOWEN THERAPY DEVELOPMENT FUND

    BTPA is pleased to award contributions from its Development Fund to help support research and studies into the effectiveness of Bowen Therapy. If you are interested, further details on research funding can be obtained from studies@bowentherapy.org.uk. Grants are awarded on merit and determined on a case by case basis. Projects should aim to increase the awareness of Bowen Therapy and understanding of its impact. BTPA made a contribution to several of the studies listed above.

    BTPA has developed a standardised data collection form within its range of members’ resources which can be used to gather uniform information, across the range of client treatments, suitable as the basis for research.