Patients say Bowen Technique yields results

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      On a warm afternoon in June on the sidewalk outside the Cornerstone Health Centre, there was no shortage of patients ready to offer on-the-record praise for the centre’s director, naturopathic doctor Manon Bolliger. They had come for a wine-and-cheese reception celebrating the opening of the new facility on West 4th Avenue.

      Fitness instructor Julie Lawson described to the Georgia Straight how she ended up in excruciating pain after training too hard for a half marathon. At one point while walking her dog along Cornwall Avenue, she ended up hunched over on the ground, crying in agony.

      “People probably thought I was a crazy person,” she recalled.

      Two friends recommended Bolliger, who uses a noninvasive pain-management approach called the Bowen Technique. It uses gentle touch to encourage the brain to loosen muscles that are creating discomfort.

      “You know, it changed my life,” Lawson said. “I didn’t have needles stuck in me. I wasn’t manipulated. I wasn’t cracked. I wasn’t pulled or prodded. If I hadn’t heard from two people who I respected and trusted, I don’t know if I would have believed it could have worked because it’s so noninvasive.”

      Banker Rahul Khanna shared a story with the Straight about how he was basically disabled in 2008 as a result of sciatic nerve entrapment in his back.

      He tried acupuncture, acupressure, and physiotherapy, and even visited the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. By the time he stumbled upon the Bowen Technique, things had come to a standstill after a life that had included bungee jumping, skydiving, skiing, and race-car driving in the Himalayas.

      “After she did the first treatment on me, they gave me a bill, which I didn’t want to pay because it felt like she did nothing,” Khanna said. “It’s such a gentle, noninvasive technique—and I was such a skeptic—that I said, ‘This is ridiculous. This is to take advantage of people in pain.’ ”

      Three days later, he recovered his full range of motion, though he wasn’t completely healed.

      He said that when he reached down and touched his toes, he cried uncontrollably with happiness. Less than four years later, Khanna is back running on the seawall and skiing.

      “For me, it was just magic,” he said. “I asked her if I could learn it.”

      Debra Toolsee explained how the Bowen Technique ended pain in her shoulder, which was so intense that she couldn’t even put on a hair band or pull clothing over her head.

      She described her condition as "calcific tendinitis in the rotator cuff".

      Toolsee explained that she visited physicians, sports-medicine experts, a chiropractor, and had laser treatment without success. "I was on a waiting list for surgery," she said.

      In the end, she returned to Bolliger for three Bowen Technique treatments. It was sufficient to do the trick.

      Debra Toolsee explains how the Bowen Technique helped her avoid surgery.

      Another patient, Kate Novykova, described how a 20-year-old knee injury was healed, enabling her to visit the ancient Peruvian town of Machu Picchu. There, she climbed down a 900-metre slope of steps and stones.

      "My muscles were aching, but my knee didn't bother me," Novykova commented. "So I sent her a picture of me at Machu Picchu."

      Bolliger told the Straight the same day that the clinic is all about empowering patients to help themselves. She characterized the Bowen Technique as being “like a message to the body that allows the body to unravel patterns of pain and its own history”.

      “They heal in the reverse order of their symptoms,” she explained. “Their body remembers past trauma—and then experiences it and then heals it. And so, really, it’s bringing to consciousness what needs to heal.”

      Bolliger, the founder of Vancouver’s Bowen College, which trains practitioners in the technique, recently wrote a book called What Patients Don’t Say If Doctors Don’t Ask: The Mindful Patient-Doctor Relationship (Influence Publishing).

      It features a back-cover blurb from Vancouver medical doctor Gabor Maté, who calls it an “original and insightful look at health, illness and the healing process”.

      The book emphasizes the importance of health practitioners understanding why a patient has shown up for a visit.

      "We must educate the patient about their symptoms, as well as the possible causes and all of the options available to address them," Bolliger writes. "Solutions or 'prescriptions' don't mean anything without a context; thus getting to the fundamental objectives a patient has, and the general objections and misconceptions they may feel with regard to health, is essential."

      What Patients Don't Say If Doctors Don't Ask explores some controversial areas. This includes the work of French scientist Antoine Bechamp in questioning the conventional medical model of germs being the primary cause disease.

      Bechamp argued that it was the sick "terrain" of the human body that attracted disease, rather than germs necessarily being the agents that start the process of becoming ill.

      “If you listen long enough to people, people often know the answer to what they need,” Bolliger told the Straight. “All you need to do is help them get there.”

      Related article: Vancouver naturopath Sanja Tamburic advocates a paleolithic diet—and says few in her field are vegan

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      Mischelle Watkins-

      Jul 20, 2012 at 9:19am

      Hallelujah - An article on Bowen Massage Therapy! I have been an advocate of this since I began using it over a year ago. It saved my life. Like these people you describe, I was so hunched over from back pain that I nearly walked sideways to compensate for the pain. I scuba dive, golf, hike, exercise, snow and water ski, so back pain that crippled me was not an alternative and like the people you describe, I tried chiropractic, regular massage, and acupuncture, tried pin pointed exercise and stretching - Nothing worked until I tried Bowen. Actually the methods I used only irritated my problem, offering little to occasional and only temporary relief. I could not even reach up to turn off the electricity in our homes overhead light/fan. No Problem Now! Lillian Olivant at Parkside Massage Therapy Clinic deserves full credit for my recovery! Kudos to you for getting the word out on this amazing and hugely helpful technique! It has helped every single person I have shared it with and we all say the same thing - "Bowen Massage Therapy Gave Us Back Our Life!"

      Alex Brown

      Jul 22, 2012 at 7:20pm

      Completely useless technique. I tried that for several times but didn't have any improvement. They are just trying to get your money just like chiros!!!! Be careful!!

      Geoff Martin

      Jul 26, 2012 at 6:30pm

      My family has been happily under the care of Dr. Manon for 20 years! Our MD hardly knows us to see us... We live drug free ... Dr. Manon first introduced us to Bowen Technique and there are now practitioners who do it in Atlantic Canada.


      Jul 26, 2012 at 11:55pm

      Alex Brown, You are entitled to your opinion and know your experience. One of the many reasons I became a Bowen therapist is because it either works or it doesn't ,and if after 3 appointments, absolutely nothing has shifted, then it isn't the right technique for you. Not all medications, vitamins or food respond the same way with each of us. Many other therapies have the patient sign up for 10-12 treatments. Bowen doesn't.
      And I will ask you: Do you want improvement or do you want to be right?

      Amber Korobkina

      Aug 12, 2012 at 7:35am

      So happy to see such positive press about Bowen. It saved my life and inspired me to learn the technique so I can help many others. Alex Brown I'm so sad to read your comments... any self respecting health practitioner is primarily in the business to help people; it's a shame you didn't find any relief. As a practitioner I would stop seeing someone if there no results after 3 treatments -- it's a shame someone kept taking your money for several treatments :-(
      One a more positive note, way to go Manon and team!!


      Dec 18, 2012 at 1:08pm

      Too many practitioners of this technique just do the same thing over and over. My partner and I went to the same therapist for two separate issues and both got the exact same treatment and some rhetoric about it unwinding the body and reprogramming the nervous system and that your body will know what to do with it. It felt something like having your big toe pulled in order to fix your ear ache. We saw one of the practitioners in this article, but I won't say who.

      James Shaw

      Jan 8, 2013 at 2:37am

      Amber works for, or used to work for Manon. Caveat Emptor

      Sonny Anderson

      Jan 13, 2013 at 1:32am

      I had a good laugh after leaving the clinic mentioned in this article. At first it was a cry actually.

      I was considering taking courses with this school and wanted to get treatments first.

      Firstly, in my history I mentioned that I am a life long sufferer of asthma. The naturopath doing my assessment immediately took that and ran with it, claiming Bowen can help cure it. I was only going in for low back pain. This was a bit of foreshadowing because after my treatment was over she tried to sell me a bunch of supplements.

      Secondly any and all other injuries I suffered in the past were immediately lumped into my tensional pattern or my fascial matrix presentation. I was told that these fascial restrictions wound me up and are probably contributing to my asthma.

      Basically I was sold a bill of goods that this one simple therapy could cure. I can see how it's tempting to go back for more when the therapist promises that about 90% of my symptoms will disappear when I agree to coming back for a minimum of 5-6 sessions. Presumably I will need another 6 for the last 10% of my symptoms? Nice money grab actually!

      While I did get a bit of a relaxation response from the treatment, it was hardly any more profound than a basic massage treatment. Actually I felt a bit teased as they rarely stay on any spot that aches and keep moving around the body, then leave. The rationale you get for this is that your tensions are being reset and it takes time to process and that is why they leave, sometimes for up to 5-10 minutes.

      The outcome is that my low back pain was no better the next day. It actually felt marginally better for a few hours. My asthmatic symptoms have not changed. Yes, I still wheeze when my asthma is triggered.

      What did I learn? Well that I probably am not going to drop down thousands dollars to learn this therapy. I imagine a lot of that education is towards teaching the student how to convince and retain clients.

      They start by building in contingency excuse making, placing the blame on the patient if they don't feel better after. Simple things like if I don't drink enough water I will lose all the benefits. I guess the promotion of staying hydrated is good, but how can a therapy that magically claims to resolve all kids of ailments claim that if I don't drink 8 glasses of water a day, they will all come back?

      I won't be going back.

      Sally M

      Mar 7, 2013 at 1:54pm

      Bowen has made a MASSIVE difference to my life. I have a leg length difference of about 2" and constantly suffered lower back and hip pain, major problems with my shoulder and neck pain. I had 3 treatments as initially suggested and had some improvement, I then had 3 more treatments and had huge changes and felt fantastic. the reasoning given to me was that i had been wrong for many year so it took a few more treatments for things to start happening. Everyone gets pain for many different reasons so everyone mends in many different ways. My friend also had treatment and the first treatment were the same, then they varied depending on how our own bodies changed.. I was thrilled I found Bowen as i was fed up with being in pain after going to chiro osteo etc.. thank you Bowen. x

      Fred H

      Apr 12, 2013 at 7:43am

      My experience has been surprisingly positive. I feel some people have a gift, not a magical gift but an ability to sift through facts, connect the dots and form conclusions. On my 1st visit I filled out a comprehensive medical form on my history and current ailments. From there a combination of Bowen's and medical knowledge kicked in.