The Bowen Technique - Case Studies
Why run a Study?
With most complementary therapies, by their very nature, it is exceedingly difficult to run traditional scientific research study programs to produce objective, empirical evidence of efficacy. This is primarily due to the lack of a placebo test. There is no ‘dummy’ pill or injection to assess results against. Any hands-on therapy will cause some effect either physically or psychologically - to do non-Bowen moves as a placebo test would still cause a physiological reaction.
There is a growing acceptance within the healthcare/health insurance industries, as well as within sport, of “Social Proof” evidence. This is where a sufficient number of people report similar benefits attributed to specific therapies/activities. Doctors already use this “Social Proof” evidence by acknowledging, for example, that dog-walkers and people who spend time outdoors can be in better mental health than those who don’t; consequently, they have begun recommending walking and outdoor activities to those who experience depression or anxiety. Sportspeople, in particular, will look for every possible advantage they can gain and complementary therapies are not banned by any sporting authority!
I aim to help contribute to the “Social Proof” for the Bowen Technique’s benefit by running various small-scale studies for different sports and medical conditions. This helps promote the Bowen Technique through direct experience to people who have not come across it before.
The following study took place within the Andover Wheelers Cycling Club during July and August 2014:
- 3 Bowen Technique sessions within a 2-4 week period, with no changes to training regimes, equipment, diet etc.
- Sessions were free of charge, in return for feedback and reassessment data (& testimonials if wished)
- Prime assessment criteria – the last 3 10mile Time Trials of the season, to benchmark against previous times for the same trial.
Andover Wheelers have a current membership of 70 and, following discussion with a group of them, we decided to aim for 7 cyclists, 10% of the club, covering men and women & with a range of ages. 6 cyclists ended up participating in the trial.
Each cyclist was assessed on the seasonʼs remaining three 10 Mile Time Trials (hereafter TT) as comparisons to pre-Bowen performance. Each also chose 1-2 other areas to assess any changes noticed after the Bowen sessions. A consultation form covering medical and health history was completed prior to the first Bowen sessions. Each cyclist scored themselves against 12 different aspects before sessions started, then again a few weeks after the start of the trial. An improvement of 2 or more was deemed significant over the 3 sessions which ran over 2 to 2.5 weeks. Physical assessments/tests were performed in each session to assess posture, gait, balance, skeletal alignment and various ranges of movement.
The first session for each cyclist was exactly the same, apart from one who had slightly less done due to their medical history. Thereafter, the work done in subsequent sessions was guided by information provided in the initial consultation, ongoing assessment, feedback of changes from prior sessions and discussion in the current session.
All cyclists received work on their back, neck, hamstrings, knees and adductors. Other areas addressed included shoulders, jaw, digestion, respiratory, kidneys, ankles.
Summary of Study Results
All 6 participants noted faster times over 3 Time Trials.
5 recorded Personal Bests (PBs) in at least one of these Time Trials.
3 noted the use of bigger gears for longer periods/uphill..
3 noted increased confidence on the bike and a stronger racing attitude.
5 would recommend Bowen to others, highlighting its benefits particularly for those with injuries, 'older'/veteran (sports) people and those with an open mind. There was also the caveat that not everyone should expect significant results.
Specific Trial Results
“One Man in his Boat” - the story of ever-increasing performance
Starring - Nick Adnitt
Co-Starring - The Bowen Technique
Published in Bowen News, magazine of The Bowen Association UK, Winter 2015.
Through his participation of the cycling study I ran in 2014, one cyclist was impressed by the effect on his canoeing performance too, which for him, was actually much more significant. Of particular note was his canoeing (single blade) outperforming his kayaking (double blade) and achieving significantly faster times after receiving Bowen.
Nick is 57 and a highly motivated endurance canoeist - races are typically 15-20 miles, with the peak challenge each year being the 125mile Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon. Nick has designed his own 1-man and 2-man canoes and will compete in the latter with a friend in the Devizes to Westminster race Easter 2016, aiming to complete the course within 20 hours. He emailed me after each event - below is a record of changes in performance noted over the last year, culminating in the British National Championships August 2015. Key points which come through are better balance, more power, greater efficiency, better recovery times and more confidence in himself. It has been a real pleasure and highly rewarding to work with Nick , through Bowen, in support of his endeavours.
19th August 2014, a week after completing 3 Bowen treatments in the cycling study:
You may recall that I had a secondary performance benchmark on which to measure any Bowen benefits, and this is a 5 mile canoe time trial. I have been paddling the exact course for 4 years in order to measure improvements to boat design, or simply to ascertain my current fitness. Yesterday was the first time I paddled it since the Bowen treatments, and once again I have been surprised by the margin of improvement.
Below is the record of the last few times - I used the same boat with the same single bladed paddle. There has been some improvement mainly due to better familiarity with the boat, but yesterday I improved by nearly 3 minutes! This is even more remarkable because it is harder to improve as one becomes faster. Theoretically the margins should become smaller.
19/09/13, 54 mins 0 endeavours
13/05/14, 52 mins 47 seconds
30/05/14, 52 mins 20 seconds
18/08/14, 49 mins 32 seconds
The evidence now seems irrefutable.
So, it is even more important to me to understand what has happened to me and what the prospects are for the future.”
16th September 2014
"My performance in the boat continues to improve and I raced last Sunday at Pangbourne, managing to keep up and beat a few more kayaks. I also raced a time trial last week and won a medal for the fastest time of the year in a C1.”
20th October 2014
“Basingstoke Canoe Club Time Trial - 6 miles. I paddled the course last year in 1 hour 11 mins. I paddled again on 18/10/14 after Bowen treatments and recorded 1 hour 2 mins 36 seconds. A 9 mins 24 secs improvement. Even bearing in mind a twelve month gap, it is a remarkable improvement.”
25th November 2014 - Basingstoke Canoe Club Challenge - 16.6miles
“Headline summary was a remarkable performance compared to last year, and compared to the differential performance of other competitors who also paddled last year.
I compared my timings from 2013 with those of 2014. It was the same course as last year and some of the competitors paddled again this year.
2013 – 19 single kayaks and 1 single canoe (me)
2014 – 16 single kayaks and 3 single canoes
- I'm a year older·
- It rained non-stop and I got soaked.
- My kit got very heavy due to the rain
- I had to use a full spray deck which caused some delay at the portages
- There were a lot of leaves on the water which built up on the bow and had to be periodically shaken off
- I have another year's experience
- I know the course
I started off quite fast in order to drop a junior K2 which started at the same time. I never saw them again!
My paddle strokes are now a lot more consistent and I am aware of the power being delivered from the paddle blade to the boat more efficiently.
Stability has improved and I'm using a higher seat.
Confidence has improved. I am far more sure of my (newfound) ability and put more into the paddle.
On the out leg I knew that my paddling was more efficient but the boat didn't feel that much faster. However, I reached the turn 3 minutes up on last year which was a surprise. My expectation therefore was 3 minutes quicker on the return leg, so a 6 minute improvement.
I had a couple of "downs" but felt really strong towards the finish."
"All but two recorded a slower time than last year. This would be expected due to the poor conditions compared with 2013. All these paddlers are local club athletes, so know the course well. The other faster time was 20 seconds quicker but I was a colossal 12 minutes 19 seconds faster!
It would be expected that competitors would be slower due to the poor conditions and the top kayak paddlers were nearly 2 minutes slower. This makes my time improvement even more remarkable - I was an average of 45 seconds/mile quicker over 16.6 miles.
There was no super-human surge of energy, but a sustained and consistent improvement in efficiency over the duration of the effort.
The time differences for each section show that I actually got faster compared with last year, especially after the turn. This is unusual because the water was more turbulent due to paddlers who started after me, coming towards me on their out leg.
So, what does all this mean? The improvement over last year compared with my own timings, plus the difference in other competitors is extraordinary. When everyone else was slower, I was faster. It wasn’t just a bit quicker, but substantially so. Surely this can’t go on. The “engine” is the same, it seems it is the power delivery which has improved?
Assuming that the weather holds for next Sunday, I have a 20miles TT in Banbury. I have no previous times to compare with, which I’m rather glad of because I’m not comfortable with phenomena which has no rational explanation, based on what would be considered normal progression based on training. I’m keen to continue with the treatment because it is clearly, hugely beneficial. However, I will be almost glad when the level of improvement begins to taper-off because quite honestly, I’m struggling to come to terms with it. It is now Monday evening and I feel fully recovered, it usually takes a couple of days before I am ready to get back in the boat.”
30th Nov 2014 - 20 mile Banbury Canoe Challenge
I paddled the Banbury 20 mile canoe marathon last weekend. I had no previous time to compare with, but I set a target of 4 hours at 5miles/hour.
I made the 10 mile turn at one hour fifty minutes, so ten minutes up on my target time. The head wind on the return leg, plus the water turbulence and a few narrow boats which got in the way, all took their toll and I finished at 3 hours, 46 mins & 45 secs; 28th out of 40 boats, of which 38 were kayaks. I averaged 5.58 mph on the outward leg and 5.1 mph on the return.
The only other full distance C1 was a high kneeler paddled by Team GB, Div 4 K1 and Div 5 C1 athlete Roger Weir (I’m Div 7). As a member of Banbury canoe club, he must know the course well, but he only beat me by 17 minutes 49 seconds over the 20 miles course, so not bad.
What continues to surprise me is the rate of recovery. I ran 7 miles with the lads on Friday evening, not really a great idea less than 48 hours before an endurance event. However, the usual stiffness in the legs did not manifest itself on Saturday, and I felt fresh going into Sunday’s race.
After the four hour effort on Sunday, I was pretty tired in the evening and even went to bed at nine o’clock. Discovered that I had man-flu Monday morning. However by noon, I had recovered from the paddle.
There are no big races now until February, and then the Waterside Series of long races kicks in.. So, I reckon I’ll be up for some more treatment in the New Year.”
(In early 2015 Nick resumed Bowen treatments in support of early season fortnightly races ranging from 13.5 miles to 34 miles. He sent me a video of his new paddling technique, in which I could see a difference in his stroke to the right, compared with the left. I mimicked this in my own body to feel what muscle groups were affected and discussed with Nick so he understood my plan for him in the next session.)
10th February 2015 - ‘Nick’s great day out on the water!’
“A quick update on how I got on at Sunday’s race. It was 13.5 miles with 21 portages (locks - pick up the boat and run). The weather was cold but bright. There were ten boats in my race. I came third, beaten by a Hungarian national paddler and another guy twenty years my junior, so we’ll let that pass.
I did beat some good standard paddlers for the first time which felt good. I got tired towards the end, pulling on such a large paddle, and we had an additional two portages due to half mile sections of ice.
It was once again, a phenomenal performance compared with my previous times and against my peers. I even beat my racing kayak time of 2009 and I was much younger then.
2009 Kayak – 2:34:10
2010 Canoe – 2:52:31
2011 Canoe – 2:47:24
2015 Canoe – 2:32:40
I was pretty tired and stiff on Sunday, but was ready to paddle again the next day which surprised me. So, I am very pleased with the result, 15 minutes improvement in not-great conditions.
I’m rather looking forward to the next one on the 23rd.”
13th February 2015
“I paddled on the Thames today which gave me a chance to reassess my paddle stroke whilst not racing.
In the video it was clear that I paddle more efficiently on the left than the right (I am right handed). I also submerge more of the paddle blade on the left than the right. Therefore I have to execute more strokes on the right in order to ensure that the boat maintains a straight line.
After the race on Sunday, my right leg from the buttock, all through the back of the thigh was really tight. I thought it was because of all the running with the boat, but why didn’t both legs “seize up”?
Today I noticed that I felt more “natural” paddling on the right. I also felt more “balanced”. (Canoeists tend to favour one side to brace in rough water) I didn’t have the video, but it just felt better. I also felt the right leg muscle tightening again and there was no running on this session.
It seems that I am exerting more power on the right hand side because the stroke is more efficient (balanced) and the right leg hasn’t been used to that before.
I hope all this makes sense (it does to me!), but I felt we made some more progress.”
24th February 2015 - Sunday’s race of survival!
“Goodness, what an ordeal I’ve been through since Thursday!
What I didn’t know at the time, was that I’d picked up some horrendous fluey type virus thingy (of the worst kind), I hope you were OK?
Friday, I was no use to man-nor-beast, achey, lethargic, headache, the lot. Saturday was even worse, just lay on the sofa. My wife was adamant that racing on Sunday would be foolish (she was a little more descriptive!).
So on Sunday, I had recovered a bit, dosed myself up with Beechams and hot lemon, and raced.
The weather was appalling, cold, wet and windy. I got to the turn OK, but the upstream, up-wind return leg was awful.
Anyway, I finished in 3 hours 18 minutes. This beats my best single canoe time by 20 minutes and my best single kayak time by 10 minutes. I was off-form and the conditions were not great, but it was a good result.
My rival for third position in the series closed the gap by a couple of minutes, but I’ll get that back on the 8th.
I’ll give it a day or so before I get back on the water and see how I’m doing.”
10th March 2015
“Just about recovered from the race on Sunday. I think I’m still carrying the last bit of my fluey thing.
Anyway, had a good paddle, 4 hours, 22 minutes and 47 seconds, managing a 23 minute improvement on my best canoe time. I got really tired towards the end and was beaten by 1 minute 46 seconds by my arch rival!
I have one race left to take third place.
It was good to beat my previous time, but I didn’t feel particularly fast. This may have been due to the amount of double kayaks on the water causing considerable wash, plus the log jam of boats through the Bruce tunnel.
Anyway I’ve got a couple of weeks to improve before the last race in the series.”
24th March 2015
“Just recovering from the race on Sunday, 34 miles with 35 portages. I completed the race in 6 hours 43 minutes, 35 minutes faster than my quickest time in the past (and with 10 mph head wind). That was a nice surprise, and I also beat my arch rival by 10 minutes. He started eight minutes in front of me and I never thought I'd catch him. But I did, and left him for two minutes. I was also in good shape the whole way.
So, I eventually came 2nd in the four race series.
What was also interesting, is that I didn't have to stretch my legs during the first 15 miles (no portages). In previous years I had to get out after two hours due to the agony in my bum and legs. I got to the first portage in 2 hours 46 minutes without any discomfort.
It was a vast improvement in all areas; balance, efficiency, style, speed, comfort, confidence and enjoyment!
As discussed, I'm going to leave it a while before I start more treatment, but I amin absolutely no doubt as to the value of Bowen and what it does for me.”
(I next heard from Nick at the end of July - he was targeting the National Championships in Norwich at the end of August.)
7th August 2015 - Phenomenal improvement!
Just thought I'd drop you a line regarding my paddling technique improvement.
So, I saw you on Tuesday evening and we looked at the video of my paddling technique taken earlier that day, and identified the different stroke techniques on each side.
And then you did some stuff!
I rode the chain gang on Wednesday evening at a relatively high rate, but not eye-balls-out. I noticed a couple of "twinges" in my lower right leg, but nothing for concern.
I paddled 4 x 1 mile efforts on Thursday. It was an intense session and I got some good times, but there was no perceivable change in my paddling. There was also a lot of water in the boat, something I've noticed a couple of times recently when I haven't used a spray deck. I was expecting to see a difference and was surprised but not disappointed to see no change.
Had Thursday off.
I met with a paddling mate today for a session at Great Bedwyn. I have to paddle like crazy to keep up with his kayak, so all thoughts of technique go out of the window. However, he fell in the canal at one of the portages, so I took the opportunity to get ahead. As there was no pressure to keep up, I relaxed.
All of a sudden I noticed that my right hand side paddling had changed dramatically. The stroke was so much more natural and much closer to how I stroke on the left. The rest of the session was a revelation, I just couldn't believe how much movement I could achieve, especially trunk rotation. It has even improved the left side paddling. I can get the paddle in at a far more efficient angle, more perpendicular to the water surface. It all feels so smooth. There was also next to no water in the boat.
I now need to work on how I can optimise my "new" technique into an efficient stroke. I must admit, I was quite excited about it and I'm looking forward to see if there's any more to come.”
(Nick had a treatment on the 10th August. I added some coaching about the effort of ‘trying’ putting tension & limitation into the mind & body, whereas ‘just doing’ or ‘allowing’ enables the mind/body to be more relaxed, giving greater range and power.... Also some imagery about ‘seeing the distance shorten’ and the person ahead ‘getting bigger’ as Nick pulled them back to him with his intention. This all helps give the mind & body a very clear goal to achieve.)
16th August 2015
I went out on Thursday and paddled 8 miles, 4 using a single blade and 4 with a double (kayak) blade. Probably took 30 seconds off canoe time and 90 seconds off kayak time. Weather was appalling!
A quick 2 miles on Friday testing a longer kayak boat.
Raced a six mile time trial on Saturday. 30 seconds down on last month but I did not have anyone chasing me. Started off too fast chasing a couple of kayaks. Didn't make any ground up until after the turn when I'd stop trying (failing!!) to catch them and then realised that I was getting closer as I'd relaxed a bit and my paddle style had improved. Beat them both in the end.”
25th August 2015 - British National Championships - Norwich
“As you know, I competed in the British National championships last Saturday. It was the single canoe (C1) senior event over 14 kms (8.5 miles), two laps with two long portages.
There were eight boats on the start, all high kneelers except me. Two of the competitors were Polish international paddlers, so not eligible for the British Championship.
We all lined up, and then a cruiser came down stream so we had to move over and let it pass. Before we could re-form, the starter said go. Consequently, I was sixth off the start and watched the 2 Poles and 3 Brits sprint into the lead.
Normally I would have paddled like a mad man to catch up as quickly as possible, but it was 30 degrees and a long paddle ahead. So I put a "golfhead" on, concentrated on technique and style, and watched them come back to me.
By the turn I was in fourth place and hot on the tail of a lady sprint paddler from Team GB. I caught her by the first portage at 7 kms and overtook her on the run. There was no way I could catch the international paddlers, but I wanted to maintain third place.
By the second portage she had closed the gap to 20 metres, so I sprinted over the portage to open it up again. By the last turn the gap was 40 metres. We still had 4kms to go and the heat was taking its toll. Once again I had to force myself to stay calm and just work as efficiently as possible. I looked back a couple of times and saw that the gap remained stable. As we approached the finish I knew she had started her sprint as many spectators were shouting encouragements. But she'd left it too late and I crossed the line six seconds ahead.
That has to be one of the best races I have paddled. I felt in control, and to beat one high kneeling canoe would have been an achievement, but I beat five. Everything seemed to come together. I got the bronze medal, plus I am officially the fastest canoe marathon paddler in GB for 2015.
Maybe it was fate, but it had a lot to do with preparation and planning and I have to say I'm very pleased with how it all worked out.
There is no denying the advantage I got from the Bowen work you performed on me and I am extremely grateful for what you did. I saw a huge improvement in technique over a three week period and really benefited from the increased efficiency in the boat.
Once again the objective evidence is irrefutable, based on the last four years of competing in the nationals, I am getting faster as I get older.
However, as I’ve said before, it’s not just athletic performance, but hugely improved balance leading to a massive surge of confidence. I knew I was going to do well, was disappointed at the start to see a gap opening, but kept it together to overhaul the advantage over a sustained period.
So, thank you Fiona.”
As a result of my experience working with special needs children at an alternative learning centre in Dorset in 2018 - 2020 I decided to run a study to see how the Bowen Technique may benefit such children.
Stressed Nervous Systems
Autistic, ADHD and highly anxious children are hypersensitive due to their sympathetic nervous system (SNS) being over-activated or frequently triggered. The SNS puts us into our fight/flight mode. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) usually kicks in once we realise whatever startled/stressed us has passed or is not a threat and the stress hormones, such as adrenaline, are switched off again. For some children (and adults) the PNS is either inhibited from doing this or is repeatedly overwhelmed by the re-triggering of the SNS, such that the latter becomes the default controller. This leaves the body in a state of feeling unsafe and on perpetual alert. The physical/emotional signalling causes continuing stress and overwhelm, an inability to cope with everyday tasks or requests and becomes a neurophysiological pattern, which cannot be ‘talked’ into changing.
The Bowen Technique stimulates the PNS to return the body to a more calm, relaxed state. For some children and adults, the more they remember what this feels like, the more easily they can feel and become aware of their shift between PNS and SNS. This is the start of self-regulation and resilience.
The study aims to have 10-15 participants, each receiving at least 6 Bowen sessions. It was recognized that it would take some time, perhaps 1-2 years, to complete this study, which started in the second half of 2019.
3 children took part from August to December 2019. The study was paused due to a family bereavement and then subsequently put on hold due to the Covid 19 pandemic. It is planned to resume in the second half of 2021.
The MYMOP form was used to identify 1 or 2 symptoms the child, (or their parent if too young/unable to do so), wished to see improvement in, plus an activity they wanted to improve, as well as a wellbeing assessment. These are all measured using a 7 point scale of 0 (as good as it could be) to 6, (as bad as it could be). An improvement of 2 is deemed significant.
Study Summary so far (paused Spring 2020)
This study currently shows results for 3 children and 4 sets of data.
Out of 13 MYMOP data sets 11 showed an improvement of 2 or more. The MYMOP process deems this significant or very significant.
5 of these had a possible influence through medication, so cannot be fully attributable to Bowen. The other 6 can be fully attributed to the Bowen sessions.
1 data set improved by 1 (Client 2, activity). The last data set (Client 2, Wellbeing) was assessed at 0 (as good as it can be) and remained there.