Bowen technique

This article is about a type of physical manipulation in alternative medicine. For the sheep shearing technique see sheep shearing. For the athletic director, see Tom Bowen (athletic director).

The Bowen technique (or Bowen therapy) is an alternative type of physical manipulation named after Australian Thomas Ambrose Bowen (Tom Bowen) (1916–1982).

There is no clear evidence that the technique is a useful medical intervention.[1]


Bowen had no formal medical training,[2] and described his approach as a "gift from God".[3] He referred to himself as an osteopath and tried to join the Australian register of osteopaths in 1981, but did not qualify for the title.[4] He died as an unlicensed practitioner of manual therapy.[5] At the same time, in 1975, several years before his death, a public inquiry (government of Victoria, Australia) reported that Bowen treated an estimated 13,000 patients per year, with an 80 percent success rate in symptoms that were associated with a wide range of conditions.[6][7] In 1973 Bowen himself had referred to his ability to "average 65 patients per day," yet the technique as it is commonly practiced today is unlikely to achieve that volume.[5]

Bowen did not document his technique, and as a result its practice after his death has followed one or other differing interpretation of his work.[5] It was not until some years after his death that the term "Bowen Technique" was invented. The technique goes by a wide variety of other names including: Smart Bowen, Fascial Kinetics, Integrated Bowen Therapy, Neurostructural Integration Technique (NST), Fascial Bowen and Bowenwork.[5] The technique has been popularized by some of the six men who observed him at work including Oswald Rentsch, an osteopath[8] whose interpretation has become the dominant, but not unchallenged, form.[5] Learning the technique requires 120 hours of instruction,[9] or as little as a weekend workshop.[10]


Recipients are generally fully clothed. Each session typically involves gentle rolling motions along the muscles, tendons, and fascia.[11] The therapy's distinctive features are the minimal nature of the physical intervention and pauses incorporated in the treatment.[12] Proponents claim these pauses allow the body to "reset" itself.[3]


In 2015 the Australian Government's Department of Health published the results of a review of alternative therapies that sought to determine if any were suitable for being covered by health insurance; Bowen Technique was one of 17 therapies evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.[1] Quackwatch includes "Neuro-Structural Integration Technique (Bowen Therapy)" in its list of "questionable treatments."[13]


  1. 1 2 Baggoley C (2015). "Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance" (PDF). Australian Government Department of Health. Lay summary Gavura, S. Australian review finds no benefit to 17 natural therapies. Science-Based Medicine. (19 November 2015).
  2. Walsh, Nancy (2002). "Touch therapy may thaw frozen shoulder (Small Study of Bowen Technique)". Family Practice News (15).
  3. 1 2 Young, J (2007). Complementary Medicine For Dummies. For Dummies. pp. 257–8. ISBN 0-470-02625-1.
  4. Matthews, K (1999-04-03). "Healing Hands - About Tom Bowen". Geelong Advertiser.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Pennington, Katrina (2012). "Bowen Therapy: a review of the profession". Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society. 18 (4): 217.
  6. Hansen, Christine; Taylor-Piliae, Ruth E. (2011). "What is Bowenwork®? A Systematic Review". The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 17 (11): 1002. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0023. PMID 22087611.
  7. Klotter, Julie (January 2005). "Bowen Technique". Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients. via HighBeam (subscription required). Retrieved 2013-01-17.
  8. Shealy, C. Norman (1996). The complete family guide to alternative medicine: an illustrated encyclopedia of natural healing. Barnes Noble Books. p. 47. ISBN 978-0760702390. In 1974 he invited osteopath and manual therapist Oswald Rentsch to study and document the method.
  9. Knaster, M (1996). "Bowen Technique". Discovering the Body's Wisdom. Random House. pp. 338–41. ISBN 0553373277.
  10. Clarke, Stephen (2012). "A Textbook of Bowen Technique (Book review)". Journal of the Australian Traditional-Medicine Society. 18 (4): 245.
  11. Bowen Unravelled, A journey into the Fascial Understanding of The Bowen Technique, Lotus Publishing, 2013 ISBN 978-1-58394-765-4
  12. Andrea, Kargel-Schwanhaeusser (2012). "General features and quality of Bowen therapy". European Journal of Integrative Medicine. 4: 189. doi:10.1016/j.eujim.2012.07.919.
  13. "Index of Questionable Treatments". Quackwatch. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
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