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Sports Massage: The Bowen Technique

Avatar for Hadyn Luke Hadyn Luke posted this on Thursday 8th of January 2015 Hadyn Luke 08/01/2015

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Sports Massage: The Bowen Technique

Personal trainers and fitness instructors will sometimes get asked about alternative therapies and one of these is the subject of this blog: The Bowen Technique.

While a doctor should always be consulted first for health issues and treatment, many people try alternative therapies for certain conditions.

This blog has been written to support those learners enrolled on the Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage , the Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training and the Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training, as well as those interested in learning more about becoming or operating as a Sports Massage Therapist or Level 3 Personal Trainer in the Huddersfield, Wakefield and Leeds region.


Also known as Fascial Release Technique, Bowen Therapy is a drug-free, non-invasive, hands-on remedial therapy.


One of the most common reasons people go to a Bowen practitioner is for help with muscular and joint pain, for example:

  • Back pain, sciatica, neck pain or frozen shoulder
  • Tennis elbow
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome and RSI
  • Hamstring strain
  • Knee, ankle and foot problems

However, clients also visit a Bowen therapist in the hope of easing conditions such as:

  • Asthma, hay fever and other respiratory problems
  • Digestive problems and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Reproductive problems
  • Fatigue and emotional issues

A personal trainer may find that a client is visiting a Bowen practitioner for treatment for their bad back, for example, at the same time as trying to work on their core strength with gym exercise. It’s important for the personal trainer to be aware of the this, as the after effects of Bowen Therapy can impact on a client’s ability to train (see below).


The client can be sitting or lying down and is usually treated through light clothing. A session would normally last 30 minutes to an hour.

The Bowen practitioner will use their fingers and thumbs to make small, rolling movements over the client’s muscles, soft tissue, tendons and ligaments. Only a small amount of pressure is used and the therapist will target precise points of the body.

After each set of moves, there will be a break, during which the therapist may leave the room. The idea is that this gives the body time to rest, absorb information and initiate the healing process.


The idea behind Bowen Therapy is that it is a holistic approach that helps the body rebalance, so resolving the issue at hand. However, although theories have been put forward as to how it does this, many practitioners and even the self-taught man who developed the technique – Australian Tom Bowen (1916-1982) – acknowledge that they are not sure how it works.

The key difference between the Bowen Technique and other manipulation therapies such as osteopathy or physiotherapy is that it aims to treat the whole body rather than focus on the ailment or condition.

Some personal trainers and fitness instructors may be sceptical about alternative therapies such as the Bowen Technique. However, only they can decide whether it’s best to express these reservations or to allow each individual to make their own choices – especially if the client appears to be getting results.

After effects and after treatment following Bowen Therapy
The after effects of Bowen Therapy can be quite significant, and can include:

  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Emotional releases
  • Headaches and body aches

Practitioners believe these are signs that the healing process is working.

There is a long list of after care advice attached to Bowen Therapy treatment, which a personal trainer should also be aware of if a client is undergoing this therapy.

Most important for a fitness instructor to know, is that those who have undergone the Bowen Technique should avoid strenuous exercise for two to four days after each treatment session.

Other recommendations a client may receive are:

  • To avoid sitting down for more than 30 minutes at a time on the day of visit – lying down is OK and plenty of walking is advised;
  • To drink plenty of water (see also our blog on The importance of hydration) and to avoid coffee and other stimulants;
  • To avoid other treatments that involve manipulation, such as massage or physiotherapy during the week of treatment;
  • Not to apply excessive heat or cold to treated areas, and not to take hot baths for a week after treatment.

For other after care recommendations, the client should seek advice from their therapist.


Because anyone can set up as a Bowen Therapy practitioner, a personal trainer should advise clients to check that their therapist is registered with a professional body.

  • The Bowen Therapy Professional Association (BTPA) is the largest UK professional association for qualified Bowen therapists.
  • The European College of Bowen Studies (ECBS) has been providing training since 1993.
  • The Bowen Association UK is the official home of BOWTECH and was set up in 1997 as the European arm of the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia.

More information can be found at www.bowen-therapy.co, www.thebowentechnique.com, www.bowentherapy.org.uk, www.bowen-technique.co.uk or www.thebowentechnique.com.

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