Bowen Therapy

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Bowen therapy is probably one of the fastest, pain-relief and injury recovery bodywork therapies available and is referred to as the “homeopathy of bodywork” involving minimal outside influence to realize lasting results.


Frequently called the ‘homeopathy’ of manual therapy and body work, it is a non-invasive, complementary and holistic therapy. It targets specific points on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and nerves with gentle rolling movements. The soft touch that is applied helps the body to shift from the ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’ State to the ‘Rest and Repair’ State. Rather than focusing on one specific area Bowen Therapists will treat the body holistically.


Tom Bowen pioneered this technique in the 1950’s. He was an ardent sports fan and began massaging footballer’s injuries as well as treating his colleagues at the factory where he worked, but soon gave up his day job. He studied anatomy texts, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shiatsu and with well known ‘manipulators’ of his day developing his distinctive technique through continual experimentation throughout his lifetime. 90% of Bowen moves are performed over known acupuncture points. A local government survey in 1975 showed him seeing more than 13000 people per year, which is a testament to the success of his therapy.


A typical Bowen Move consists of the therapist’s fingers or thumbs being placed on the body. The skin is drawn slightly away, and a gentle ‘challenge’ or push is made on the muscle or tendon for a few seconds before a ‘roll’ is made over the muscle. The challenges and rolls are made in a very specific sequence on the\ body. It is as if we are putting in a specific code into the body that unlocks it’s own healing ability, like putting the correct code into a safe which unlocks it.


It rebalances the Autonomic Nervous System. Bowen moves may reset and activate the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Some of the mechanisms involved, among others, are as follows:


First of all, fascia is the connective tissue of the body which touches on all systems, runs superficial to deep, surrounding our muscles, bones and organs. Fascia responds as a single coherent system, like the liquid crystal display used in computer screens. The fascia will respond as a whole to stimulation, not just locally. The very light pressure of Bowen moves create impulses or a small electric current in the collagen fibres of the fascia. The type of stretching that is used in Bowen moves creates a stronger current than just pressing on it or going along the length of it with massage. The Bowen moves also encourage hydration of the fascia and stimulates the fascia receptors. Their stimulation leads to an altered input to the central nervous system, which then results in a change of the tissue tone. When we release the fascia with Bowen Therapy, we are initiating a healing response in the body. As the fascia becomes more fluid and freer, so too doe the range and ease of movement.


Most moves are done either at the origin, insertion or belly of muscles where receptors are located. The receptors inform the nervous system on the state of tension in the muscle, whether it is in spasm or not. When these receptors are stimulated by a Bowen move it inputs new information into the nervous system. The message that has continually being sent by the muscle (that might be in spasm) is blocked for a few seconds, thus helping the system to reset the muscle to its normal tone. Basically, new information is put in the body via the different receptors in the muscles and fascia which helps the body to reset itself.


A Bowen Therapist addresses the person holistically, not just the condition. Due to it’s gentle nature it can be done on anyone from newborn babies, in pregnancy and up to old age. Bowen Therapy can help with all types of injuries from acute to chronic, especially where healing has ceased or reached a plateau. Due to its effect on the Autonomic Nervous System it is a wonderful complementary therapy to help with other issues such as:

• Stress, anxiety and depression.

• Digestive conditions: IBS, constipation,reflux

• Hormonal and menstrual problems

• Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis

• Premenstrual Syndrome

• Fertility issues

• Childhood issues: Infant colic, ADHD, bedwetting


Cathy van Harmelen, Senior Physiotherapist and Bowen Therapist A Physiotherapist for 13 years, Cathy, has extensive experience in treating musculoskeletal injuries. She has lived in Dubai since 2008 working in leading physiotherapy and sport clinics and qualified as a Bowen Therapist in 2017. Cathy obtained her degree as a Physiotherapist in South Africa, and has completed a certification in Spinal Manual Therapy, as well as a certification course in Advanced Sports Rehabilitation at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia. Other courses include: STOTT Pilates Rehabilitation Course and Dry Needling courses.

She believes holistic, functional and integrative healthcare is key to aiding the person with their healing process. “With my experience as a Physiotherapist and after qualifying as a Bowen Therapist my outlook on treating a patient has changed to not only treat a specific condition but to look at the body as a whole, aiming to find symmetry and thus treating the pain from its root. The sessions will involve looking at possible causes of the problem, physical assessment, treatment and following up with appropriate advice, exercises or stretches”. Visit

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