This post is the outcome of being asked repeatedly how Bowen Therapy works, either by patients skeptical of gentle pressure effectively reducing symptoms of chronic pain, or shocked by the fact that gentle pressure successfully relieved their chronic pain where more aggressive treatments did not.
It draws primarily on a really great article on the concept of “central sensitization” as a cause for chronic pain by Paul Ingrham, referenced below.
Although the impetus for pain occurs in the tissues (e.g., touching a hot pan), pain itself is experienced because your brain is “telling you” there is a “danger” at your hand (“Move your hand!”).
Central sensitization is not a theory, it is a physiological fact, operating by a known mechanism (neuroplasticity), explaining the way in which chronic pain modifies your brain and spinal cord in such way that it begins to signal “danger”, in the form of pain, inappropriately.
Central sensitization is the mechanism by which:
As I wrote above, almost all pain treatments focus on the tissue where the pain is felt – anti-inflammatories for inflammation at the joints, chiropractic manipulation for misalignment of the spine, etc.
Based on what is known, the general guidelines for treating centralized pain are:
Although when Tom Bowen developed Bowen Therapy in the 1950’s, the concepts of central sensitization of pain and neuroplasticity did not yet exist, Bowen Therapy treatments and self-care he recommended to support treatments, reflects closely what is known about treatment of centralized pain today.
Bowen Therapy treatments are comprised of gentle pressure challenging muscles in areas of pain, followed by pauses integrated into the treatments to allow the brain to become comfortable with and understand that it is “safe” – no harm will occur from stimulus to the area.
The after-care recommendations are to be gentle with your body – engaging in gentle motion (e.g., walking), but avoiding strenuous activity (e.g, challenging exercise, aggressive treatments).
To further support Bowen Therapy treatments, based on what we now know about centralized pain, I might include meditation and intermittent fasting in a patients treatment plan.
Ingraham P. Central sensitization in chronic pain: pain itself can change how pain works, resulting in more pain with less provocation [Internet]. PainScience. Updated 2018 Sep [cited 2018 Oct 10]. Available at: https://www.painscience.com/articles/central-sensitization.php.
Sibille K, Bartsch F, Reddy D, Fillingim R, Keil A. Increasing neuroplasticity to bolster chronic pain treatment: a role for intermittent fasting and glucose administration? The journal of pain : official journal of the American Pain Society. 2016;17(3):275-281. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2015.11.002.
Posted: 2018 Oct 10