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Table of Contents > Alternative Modalities > Bowen therapy Print

Bowen therapy


Also listed as: Bowen technique
Related terms

Related Terms
  • Bowen technique, Bowen treatment, soft tissue manipulation.

  • Bowen therapy, also known as Bowen treatment, is a technique that involves gentle, but precise, soft tissue manipulation. The approach was initially developed to treat musculoskeletal disorders. Later, it was used to treat other health conditions such as asthma.
  • In general, Bowen therapy does not aim to fix specific health problems, but rather to help the body reach a more harmonious state in which it can better cure itself. Short-term benefits are said to include a sense of relaxation. Long-term effects may include better overall well being or improvements in diseases.
  • Bowen therapists use their thumbs or fingers to make subtle rolling movements on the patient's body. Bowen sessions may last from 30 to 90 minutes and are often customized to the individual. Many Bowen practitioners see this approach as being complementary to other medical treatments, such as prescription drugs or surgery, rather than as a replacement for other treatments.

  • There are several theories as to how Bowen therapy may work. It has been suggested that Bowen therapy may correct faulty vibrational frequencies in the body and improve overall balance, improve connections between the nervous system and the brain, improve connections between different body systems, and facilitate overall harmony of the body. However, scientific evidence is limited in this area.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *

Early research suggests that Bowen therapy may improve the range of motion in patients with frozen shoulders.


Although Bowen therapy is popularly used for pain treatment, more scientific research is needed in this area to make a strong recommendation.


Bowen technique has been used in psychiatric inpatient care settings, but its effectiveness is unclear.


Bowen therapy has been used in healthcare settings to reduce job-related stress. Further research is needed before it may be recommended.

* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Addiction, allergies, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis pain (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis), asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bedwetting, bunions, cardiovascular problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, colic (in infants), constipation, diarrhea, digestion problems, fibromyalgia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, gynecological disorders, headache, hernia, hormonal disorders, indigestion, infertility, insomnia, joint pain (sacroiliac), knee pain, learning disabilities, lung diseases, menopausal symptoms, menstrual disorders, migraine headache, muscle pain, musculoskeletal conditions (hammertoes, spring ribs), plantar fasciitis, post-stroke rehabilitation, premenstrual syndrome, respiratory problems, sciatica, spine problems (scoliosis), sports injuries, sprained ankle, tennis elbow, well-being.


Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

  • Bowen therapy is a minimally invasive technique and is generally believed to be safe in most people. However, safety has not been thoroughly studied. Bowen therapy should not be used for severe conditions or in place of more proven treatments. Use cautiously in patients with cancer or in those who are undergoing surgery.
  • There is not enough scientific study of the safety of Bowen therapy during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Caution is advised.
  • Some Bowen technique practitioners recommend that the "Coccyx Procedure" be avoided among pregnant women. Some also recommended that the "TMJ Procedure" be avoided among people whose jaws have been surgically altered at the condyles. Women with breast implants should avoid the "Breast Tenderness Procedure," according to some practitioners.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

  1. Carter B. Clients' experiences of frozen shoulder and its treatment with Bowen technique. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 2002;8(4):204-210.
  2. Dicker A. Using Bowen Therapy to improve staff health. Aust J Holist Nurs 2001;8(1):38-42.
  3. Long L, Huntley A, Ernst E. Which complementary and alternative therapies benefit which conditions? A survey of the opinions of 223 professional organizations. Complement Ther Med 2001;9(3):178-185.
  4. Carter B. A pilot study to evaluate the effectiveness of Bowen technique in the management of clients with frozen shoulder. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2001;9(4):208-215.
  5. Hyland PS. Family therapy in the hospital treatment of children and adolescents. Bull Menninger Clin 1990;54(1):48-63.
  6. Zerbe KJ, Fabacher JE. Benefits and limitations of Bowen therapy with psychiatric inpatients. Bull Menninger Clin 1989;53(6):522-526.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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