Nurse to Nurse - The Bowen Technique - An effective complement. By Janie Godfrey. Read article here

Daily Record - How the Bowen Technique is helping chronic back pain - by Nan Spowart. Read article here

Saga Magazine - Health and Wellbeing - The Bowen Technique – which seems too gentle to have any effect – can help with problems such as backache and migraine, often when medicine can’t. By Rachel Carlyle. Read article here

Daily Mail                                             24th April 2007

Adventurer Bear Grylls' battle with back pain and high cholesterol by MOIRA PETTY    

To the outside world, the adventurer Bear Grylls epitomises supreme fitness. The man who catapults himself into alien, life-threatening environments, surviving on his wits alone, practically bursts with good health - or so it seems to the viewer watching him on television from the comfort of the sofa. Yet despite appearances, Bear has been plagued with back pain for over ten years - for which he only recently found an effective treatment. 

More worryingly, he also suffers from high levels of cholesterol, caused by a genetic disease which killed his father and grandfather - and which poses as much of a danger to him as his Boys' Own exploits.

Adventurer Bear Grylls may throw himself into some of the most uninhabitable places on earth but the super fit action man suffers from a genetic condition which means he suffers from very high cholesterol levels. 

Bear's father, former Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls, died suddenly of a heart attack at 66 in 2001; his grandfather also died prematurely of heart disease. 

But it was only six months ago that Bear had a cholesterol test. He was staggered to find that he had a reading of six-and-a half, which is very high for someone of his age and fitness. 

"I had been in the SAS Territorial Army and spent my life on physical challenges. Even when at home I exercised six days a week, alternating circuit training, running and yoga," says Bear, now 33. 

Without these high levels of activity his reading could have been even worse; his older sister, Lara, had an even higher reading of eight. 

Doctors recommend that cholesterol levels are under five and even lower for patients at particular risk of heart disease. Bear appears to suffer from a hereditary predisposition to dangerously high levels of cholesterol, which clogs the arteries and can lead to heart attacks and stroke. The condition - hypercholesterolaemia - affects seven people in 1,000. Men with the condition are at greater risk of heart attack: 80 per cent will have had their first heart attack by 60, but many will suffer one in their 40s or 50s. 

Although the condition is not caused by a bad diet, it can be improved by one low in fats. 

Despite the warning given by his father's and grandfather's heart attacks, Bear had enjoyed a diet rich in animal fats, especially meat and milk which he thought necessary to sustain his high-octane and physically strenuous existence. 

But soon after his cholesterol test, he came across The Rave Diet, written by American filmmaker Mike Anderson, who had seen members of his family die of cancer and heart disease. Based on fruit, vegetables and wholegrains with as much raw food as possible and no animal fats or vegetable oils, it is a Spartan regime, but Bear has embraced it enthusiastically. "After I read this, the links between the heart disease which killed my father and grandfather, my high cholesterol and my fatty diet became startlingly clear. My mother fed my father butter and cream all day long. 

"It breaks my heart that my father never knew my children. He should have been around for another 25 years." Bear has learnt that the key to his survival may lie not in his awesome ability to live off hostile landscapes, but in adhering to the sort of lifestyle advice promoted in every GP's surgery. "I am planning to have my cholesterol tested again soon. But I think my new diet is the answer." 

Bear, his wife Shara and two sons (aged four and one) now eat neither meat nor fish, but get their protein from nuts, seeds, pulses and quinoa (a protein rich grain which can be used like rice or as a porridge). 

They also drink oat milk (made from oats mixed with water and other grains and beans; it is high in fibre, vitamin E, folic acid and phytochemicals, which fight cancer and heart disease). "We're not bonkers about it - if we go out, we eat what's available. And when I'm on an expedition I eat what I have to in order to stay alive. I've eaten sheep's eyes, the still hot meat from a zebra killed by a lion, and maggots which give you 70 calories to the ounce."  

As well as his risk of heart disease, Bear also suffers from chronic back problems. 

Twelve years ago, aged 21, he broke his back when training with the SAS after his parachute failed to inflate at 16,000 feet. "I should have cut the main parachute and gone to the reserve but thought there was time to resolve the problem." He landed on his parachute pack, which was like an iron bar, and fractured three vertebrae.  

It was extraordinary that he was alive, let alone not paralysed - but incredibly the spinal cord, which channels messages between the brain and all parts of the body, had not been severed.  Bear was treated at Headley Court, the defence forces' rehabilitation centre in Surrey. 

"The doctor said I was a miracle man. I had come so close to severing my spinal cord. Because of my age and my fitness, they decided I could avoid surgery." 

Instead, he underwent ten hours a day of physiotherapy, swimming, stretching and ultrasound treatment - a programme designed to help servicemen get back to active duty, but rarely available to civilians. The alternative - and one offered to most people in a similar situation, but without Bear's peak fitness - is surgery to fuse the broken vertebrae. 'I had nightmares for months. Still, I was lucky to walk away without surgery - but ever since, I have suffered twinges and pains."  Deep massage helped, but he says he always felt physically 'unbalanced' by his injury.  Then a year ago his wife suggested he see a Bowen therapist. 

The Bowen technique, developed in the 1950s, involves using rolling movements over muscles, ligaments and tendons.  This is said to send impulses to the brain to trigger the body's own healing system.  Precisely how it works is a mystery, but many professional football clubs maintain a Bowen therapist as it has been shown to be very effective in realigning the skeletal structure.  "I was sceptical, but wanted to keep an open mind," says Bear.  He went to see East Sussex based Bowen therapist Sarah Yearsley.  "With the slightest squiggle of her fingers, it felt like petrol was being put back in my tank and I could feel all the stress seeping away. More importantly, after my back accident, my spine and pelvis had lost alignment, so I felt unbalanced." 

Sarah explained that Bear's pelvis was slightly twisted - and that this would cause endless problems and backache.  Most fans of Bear's Born Survivor series will not have noticed anything wrong, yet a subtle misalignment - visible only to the expert eye - can impact on total health.  For Bear, who is often jumping out of planes, having complete structural alignment is even more important than for the average person.  Bear describes himself as now 'hooked' and has treatment every month.  It has helped him prepare for his most perilous challenge yet. Next month he is attempting a powered paraglide over Everest's 29,035ft summit.  "I am scared I could black out in the click of a finger." If this venture seems inconsistent with his desire to lead a healthy life, Bear has an announcement.  "This is the last of my big expeditions or challenges. They're getting too dangerous. I'm not on the Ranulph Fiennes road of trying to beat the last expedition." Sir Ranulph has been an inspiration to Bear all his life. 

As a boy, Bear climbed the bell tower at Eton, where the baronet had also once been a pupil. "In the lead lining, I found the initials RF. I put BG next to his," he recalls. But while he is 'full of dreams and ambitions,' he also has a family and a long-suffering wife at home. In fact, relaxation is vital to Bear, who says, somewhat surprisingly: "I don't thrive on stress. I love lying on the deck on our houseboat reading a book.  "I'm terrified of walking into a room full of people. Sitting down at a dinner table with 15 strangers brings me out in a sweat." Yet, he says, fear isn't the reason not to do something". 

"I'm scared of heights, yet I've just abseiled 770 feet off Canary Wharf for charity.  "But the folly of youth is that you think you're immortal. Losing my father and having my children has brought me to my senses. I want to be around to love and guide my sons for a long time." 

For more information, visit:;;
Daily Mail web link to story:


express woman

Star treatment

DJ Janey Lee Grace, who co-hosts the Steve Wright show on Radio 2, found relief from back pain when she tried an Australian therapy called the Bowen technique. 

LUCY MILLER discovers its secrets


It’s a system of gentle and relaxing muscle manipulation designed to stimulate the body’s innate healing ability.  Practitioners use a specific set of gentle, rolling massage movements with their forefingers and thumbs on precise points on the body.

The theory is that these rolling motions trigger impulses in the brain to stimulate healing, release blocked energy and improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage.

The treatment originated in Australia in the fifties.  It was developed by Thomas A Bowen (1916 – 1982), a cement plant worker in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, after he observed a manipulator treating other colleagues with back pain.

He established his own technique and set up his own clinic after realising certain movements were particularly effective in relieving pain.

The Bowen technique is not a constant hands-on therapy like massage.  One of its most distinguishing characteristics is that these gentle movements are interspersed with regular pauses when a practitioner will step away from the patient and briefly leave the room,.

“It allows the body time to respond to what’s been done,” says Janie Godfrey, a Bowen therapist who has a practice in Frome, Somerset (01373 451 558).

“You do a small set of rolling movements then leave the room.  It’s to allow the brain time to take note of the stimulation it’s been sent rather than constantly giving more and more.”

The amount of time a therapist recommends between sessions and the number of times they leave the room during them will vary from patient to patient.

“A session is tailor-made to the person, not just from session to session but from moment to moment, according to how they respond,” says Janie.


The technique can help a whole range of problems including muscle and joint pain, sports injuries, back pain, PMS, other menstrual problems, stress, high blood pressure, hayfever, arthritis, MS and migraine.

In a study for the Migraine Action Association, 80 per cent of volunteers who tried the Bowen technique noticed their attacks were less frequent and severe.

“It confirms that this gentle, non-invasive, holistic therapy can help a wide range of migraine sufferers,” says Ann Turner, director of the Migraine Action Association.


Bowen is also especially effective in treating frozen shoulder, tennis elbow and repetitive strain injury (RSI).

Frozen shoulder causes extreme pain when you reach to pick something up or try to make wide movements.

In a study by the European College of Bowen Studies based in Frome, 100 people with frozen shoulders were given Bowen treatments for 18 months while a control group of a further 100 sufferers were given a general massage.

On average, the Bowen treatment group found their shoulder flexibility improved by 23 degrees compared with eight degrees in the control group.

“The therapy allows practitioners to release the tension in the muscle,” says Janie.  “It can relieve the pain quickly and effectively and movement is less restricted.”

The European College of Bowen Studies is now conducting a year’s study on asthma volunteers.  Some practitioners have also had good results treating infertility. 


If you decide to go for a treatment, a practitioner will begin by taking your case history.  They will ask why you’ve decided to try the Bowen technique and question you about your health, diet and lifestyle.

“A practitioner will also observe your posture and look at any areas that are bothering you,” says Janie.  “If you have frozen shoulder, for example, they’ll establish how restricted you movement is.”

The treatment can be given through light clothing.  Usually you’ll be asked to lie face down on a massage table but, if necessary, it can be done seated.

A practitioner will usually start at the lower back, lightly touching your body with small rolling movements using their thumbs and forefingers.

“It’s profoundly relaxing,” says Janie.  “It’s a very light pressure.  People often say they feel like they’re sinking into the mattress.  Others nod off.”

Don’t be surprised when the practitioner quietly leaves the room several times throughout the session to give your body time to respond.

“A practitioner will try not to plan the whole session because it may well change according to how your body reacts,” says Janie.  “People have a range of reactions during a session.  Some say they can still feel your fingers touching them even though you’ve left the room.  Others talk about waves of warmth up their legs.  One migraine sufferer told me she felt glitter over her head.  People give practitioners wonderful descriptions.

“On average a practitioner will leave the room for two minutes but it varies.  If someone suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome it would be longer.  By contrast children need no breaks because their brains take on board the information so well and so quickly.

Each session lasts 40 to 60 minutes.  Some conditions are permanently improved after just one treatment, but most require two to three sessions and the amount of time let between sessions varies, too.

“Children and pregnant women could be treated almost every day,” says Janie.  “If you’re treating an elderly patient you might wait two weeks between sessions because an older body takes longer to respond.”

Patients often find relief from ailments other than those for which they’re seeking help because Bowen treats the whole body.

“People leave with a feeling of deep relaxation,” says Janie.  “Some of them may think:  ‘What a waste of money.  I was hardly touched at all and the practitioner was always out of the room’, but when you see them again they’re stunned by the improvement." 


Expect to pay between £20 and £60 for a 40 to 60 minute session. 

For a register of therapists, contact:  Bowen Therapists’ European Register on 07986 008 384 or visit

For training, contact:

European College of Bowen Studies on 01373 461 873 or visit

Daily Express

Monday October 13 2003 

THE TIMES                                                                     

    SATURDAY    NOVEMBER    22,     2003                       alternativesbody&soul½19 IT WORKS FOR ME


Kick the inhaler into touch 

A gentle therapy can be a breath of fresh air for asthma sufferers.  Celia Dodd reports

Simon Thomas won’t go anywhere without his inhaler.  Simon, 35, an assistant transport manager, has suffered regular asthma attacks all his adult life.  Winters have always been the worst:  last year he suffered a slight attack nearly every day and, if not nipped in the bud, they became severe several times a week.  “I would have to sit down and try to catch my breath and use the inhaler to get the attack under control.”

His job means that he can’t avoid two key triggers:  cold weather and diesel fumes.  Fur, feathers, hay fever and any kind of exertion could also set off an attack.

But now, after ten months of Bowen Technique therapy, Simon is thinking seriously about leaving his inhaler at home for the first time in 20 years.  After just four weeks of the therapy – which involves gentle manipulation of the soft tissue in specific areas of the body – the attacks decreased dramatically.  Last month he used his inhaler just once, when he visited friends with a pet rabbit.

Simon had never heard of the Bowen Technique until he saw an advertisement last January for volunteers to take part in a nationwide study into its effect on asthma.  He was pretty sceptical, but he thought it was worth a try.

Besides asthma, Bowen is used to treat muscular-skeletal problems in the back, neck and knees, and a widening variety of problems, from migraines and irritable bowel syndrome to anxiety and even chronic infection.

In Simon’s first hour-long session, Janie Godfrey, the Bowen therapist, took note of what triggered his asthma, how it behaved at its worst and how it responded to medication.  She then used the standard Bowen procedure, followed by the treatment specifically for asthma.  Both consist of a series of “moves”, which Godfrey describes as a “tiny, rolling motion over the muscles”.

Between each set of moves there are breaks during which the therapist leaves the room for a few minutes while the patient remains relaxing on the bed.  Janie explains this unique feature of the technique:  “As we understand it, the breaks give the body a chance to respond, to take on board the moves that have been made.  It’s as if you get into a dialogue with the body.”

Simon was impressed:  “The treatment was gentle, although some of the moves felt strange at first.  You wear loose clothing and lie on the bed, covered in blankets, apart from the area of your body that is being worked on.  It’s pleasant, and afterwards you feel relaxed.

“What I found really surprising was that during the first few sessions I started to have muscular spasms, in the thighs or in my upper body – not in the area Janie had just worked on.  But as the sessions went on the tremors decreased and then stopped entirely.”  The asthma attacks decreased, too, and his hay fever, which he usually has for two months, this summer lasted a week.  Janie explains:  “It seems that Bowen works by breaking a trigger.  The body knows how not to have asthma, so you just need to find ways to help it not to be triggered to have an asthma response.  If the body is capable of dealing with a condition, Bowen is usually able to trigger its ability to do so.  It has a profound effect on stimulating the body’s own systems to sort themselves out.”


According to Janie, most Bowen patients experience a significant improvement, and often total recovery after about four sessions, although some asthma patients need as many as 12.  Most patients come back for top-up treatments, which serve as a reminder to the body. 

All asthma patients are told to come back if they have an attack.  They are also taught an emergency move, which involves pushing your thumb into the soft stomach area and is illustrated on .  Janie wishes everyone knew how to do it, because it can break even quite dangerous attacks.

For Simon the acid test will be the next few months of chilly 3am starts.  He says: “If I get through to the new year without an attack I might leave my inhaler behind.  But it will be odd to give it up – it’s a crutch I had always assumed I would need for the rest of my life.”

Trigger happy: the Bowen Technique helps the body to break the trigger that causes an asthma response


THE BOWEN TECHNIQUE is a soft tissue manipulation therapy that is applied to the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the body very gently and with minimum pressure.  No one – perhaps not even Tom Bowen, the techique’s Australian creator – has fully understood how the moves work, although it is thought that the unaccumstomed stimulation they cause, may lead the brain to investigate the area and release any tension. 

SUITABLE FOR children and adults for a whole range of conditions, indlucing asthma, hay fever, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and stess, as well as sports injuries, bad backs, stiff necks and frozen shoulders.  The emergency move for an asthma attack is illustrated on

COST  From £20 to £70 a session, depending on where you live. 



¢ Bowen Therapists' European Register – 


DR TOBY MURCOTT                                                                                                                                                                        


Bowen practitioners do not claim to cure asthma, but do say that it can be very effective in managing the condition.  Many patients, particularly children, report that they found relief with the technique.  There are two studies currently under way in Britain that hope to provide a clearer picture of whether it works.  The Bowen Technique National Asthma Research Programme is two thirds of the way through its year-long study of 30 patients and 19 therapists.  The other, on childhood asthma, is being run by the Bowen therapist Alastair Rattray, who is hoping to recruit 100 children.


Professor Bernadette Carter, of the University of Central Lancashire, has published a pilot study on the Bowen Technique and frozen shoulder.  This is a common, painful complaint that is particularly difficult to treat and can take years to clear up.  Professor Carter found that between three and five Bowen sessions improved the patient’s shoulders considerably.  In fact, she was so surprised by the results that she repeatedly checked them to make sure she’d got them right.  This backs up another larger but unpublished study by the European College of Bowen Studies that found it very effective for frozen shoulder. 


The National Asthma Campaign ( recognises that many asthmatics find complementary therapies useful, but advises patients to consult their GPs beforehand and always to continue to take their medication.  It is gaining acceptance, not through a scientific understanding, but because some doctors and physiotherapists find it helps patients. 


The basic idea of drawing the brain’s attention to a problem then allowing the body to heal itself does not fit in with a conventional view of physiology.  It’s likely that working with a kindly, interested therapist will make anyone feel better, but it’s harder to explain the reported emergency asthma treatment and frozen shoulder studies in this way.

Dr Toby Murcott is a former BBC science correspondent

2009 Update: 

Simon has remained virtually free of asthma in the intervening years.


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