OUR ARTICLE ON FIBROMYALGIA & THE BOWEN TECHNIQUE
Below is an edited version of our article that appeared in Bowen Hands. I’ve done my best to make it an easier read for Bowen Practitioners and Non Bowen Practitioners alike! If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 916-225-3014
Fair Oaks Bowen Therapy
Fibromyalgia and the Bowen technique: An 8 month study by
The Bowen Technique was developed in the ‘50s by Tom Bowen of Australia. It is a gentle, soft tissue technique which reawakens the body’s own ability to heal and repair itself. Generally, only 3 to 5 sessions are needed for all but the most stubborn ailments. The Bowen Technique addresses all forms of body pain, structural and digestive issues. Below is a study we performed to document the affects of the Bowen Technique on those with Fibromyalgia.
Those of us who practice the Bowen Technique have at least one client we consider an amazing recovery. Just a couple of sessions, or even just one session, and we are nearly as astonished as they are. The amazing results of Bowen cannot be repeated enough.
Then there are the slower to recover, or the purely chronic cases, which do not entirely fit into the mold. I am talking about Fibromyalgia and what it is. Fibromyalgia is connective tissue pain. Severe pain in some, mild in others. More accurately, there are 16 specific areas in which most diagnoses is made, and generally six points (zones) are usually enough for an M.D. to make a diagnosis of fibro. There are several sensitivities that are common in most cases and usually are warnings to the fibro sufferer that a “flare” or “spell” is imminent. These are common in most clients and vary from case to case, with light sensitivity being the first and most evident. This seems due to the amount of fluorescent lighting exposure, which causes headaches and often migraines. The second is a heightened sense of smell – to the point of hyper-sensitive reactions to even the mildest odors. Following is sound sensitivity, which seems to be less frequent.
Physically, several areas are usually sensitive to touch. Those are: vastis lateralis and vastis medialis, adductor longus (slightly superior to the knee), most of the inferior border of the rib cage along the rectus abdominus. This area will be sensitive to touch and swollen or puffy, and often times pressure sensitive. Again the pain is in the connective tissue and not in the joints.
Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue
A common misconception of chronic fatigue and fibro, is they are one and the same. They do not go hand in hand. Chronic fatigue syndrome is not a symptom of fibro. Lack of energy is an issue, and I will address that in a moment. Often someone with fibromyalgia will also have chronic fatigue syndrome, and several issues are quite similar, but they are not the same ailment. Most of the “fatigue” of fibro comes from sufferer trying to rest after pushing themselves through the pain for an event or a task. They work themselves to the point of exhaustion and keep going. Stopping due to pain or fatigue is something this person won’t think of – they simply keep going. To them this is normal.
Why I did the study
The reason for the study came after asking several instructors and other practitioners about how to treat a person with fibromyalgia and what to expect. I quickly became aware of the wide range of attitudes towards the fibro sufferer, and how to help them. The responses ranged from “three sessions and tell them to talk nicer to themselves”, to “Bowen works but it takes a lot of sessions and a long time.” I couldn’t give the client, or someone asking, a definitive answer. Also, I wanted to know what happened between visits, because several times, I was told there would be emotional periods, and there are!
The study and interviews
The study was organized into fairly simple groups, and the interviews were basically the same. Most of the questions were regarding pain and energy flares and warning signs of a flare. How long have they been diagnosed? Can they remember the “trigger”? Which sensitivities did they notice the most? Almost always, there is an event, most often physical, but may be stress related, which will be their marker. A car wreck, a bump on the head, a child birth etc. The point is, the event isn’t the cause, just the last straw.
The cases were divided into three groups. Group one (1) minimum10 year’s fibromyalgia diagnoses by MD and having had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Group 2 minimum 5 years fibro and Chronic Fatigue.
Group 3 having had been diagnosed with Fibro and no other rheumatoid, lymphatic or endocrine issues. The few remaining questions covered daily routine, sleep and physical activity. All but 2 or 3 clients were on a prescription pain medication and/or muscle relaxant. The remaining took Tylenol or Motrin etc. on a regular basis.
What was required of them?
In order to get enough test cases, and to avoid financial distractions or disruption in schedule, the study was offered at no charge. The only “payment” requirement was they bring a joke to each session. To participate in the research, each person was asked for a commitment of a minimum of 10 appointments and to keep a daily dairy of their activities, emotional states and pain or energy level. Halfway though the study we became aware of several dietary supplements which we suggested they try.
Brain fog and other benefits of Fibromyalgia treatment
One common remark among the case studies, following pain issues, was “brain fog“. The descriptions were slightly different, but they all wanted relief from the brain fog.
Height and weight proportions varied widely across the scale, and I can’t say if one body type was more common. In my study ages ranged from 28 to 64. Several were on disability, but some were still able to work.
What fibro sufferers have dealt with in the past
These folks have heard a lot of different diagnoses, causes, and cures. They have been told it is all in their head, and one of our clients was told to go home and “treat your husband better and he won’t ignore you so much”! A problem in diagnosing fibro is there really aren’t any noticeable signs to the untrained eye. Someone with fibromyalgia looks “ok”
Typically a client with fibromyalgia is isolated because of a couple reasons. They cannot commit because they don’t know when the next flare is coming. This makes it difficult to be social or reliable. Another reason for the isolation is they are in bed a lot. Due to their limitations, relationships are strained or non-existent. During the interview process I found this bothered them a great deal. These clients said they just want to be “normal”
Some common characteristics of the firbo personality
Everyone I interviewed for my study had a type A personality. They always overextend and overcommitted themselves. They pushed themselves through pain for others. They don’t listen to their body telling them to stop and rest. They have trouble sleeping. Sometimes this is because of the pain; often the reason is just not being able to fall asleep. They do odd things when everyone else is sleeping at night; cleaning the house, laundry, watering the lawn. To them this behavior is normal. They are hypercritical of others and tend to be negative and confrontational, and they often alienate those in their limited inner circle, including their Bowen Technique practitioner. Now, in fairness we might ask the question “what came first the chicken or the egg”? Are they this way because of their pain and frustration of not healing, or did this personality type create their condition? Common sense says it goes hand in hand.
One consistent feature that you will notice about their appearance is a facial expression of bewilderment, sadness, and tiredness. Simply put, they look beat up.
This group received the 3 basic relaxation moves using Bowen Technique. The following visit they received those moves and procedures to address specific pain. This group had very loose and liberal requirements, such as: no Jacuzzi or hot showers for the first day, drink lots of water, etc. These instructions are given to anyone who has had a Bowen Technique session. They were given a minimum of guidance for their daily activities. This 1stgroup contained extreme fibro cases. Some of these people were incapable of moving freely (wheelchair bound) at times.
None of the case studies noticed SUBSTANTIAL improvement after the first appointment. All in group 1 were on heavy medications and/or pain patches. Somewhere between the 3rd and 4th session, their facial expressions clearly changed. The focus was no longer on the pain and lack of energy. Their outlook had improved, but emotional and stress issues were rising to the surface. Shortly after that time frame, we’d start energy work (kidney and/or knee procedure). In most cases, the next time we saw them they said they felt like they had turned a corner. Most reported a desire to change their medications and all made appointments with their doctors to modify their med intake. Somewhere between the 4th and the 6th session, all clients were experiencing less pain and had more energy. Everyone, everyone then went out and over did it: yard work, shopping, vacations, visited relatives – had a ball – and, once again, over extended themselves, which caused a flare or crash. We basically had to start all over again, but recovery was much quicker.
GROUP 2 & 3
Group 2 and 3
By this time we’d learned a few things: they need to take responsibility for themselves and not overdue anything and they needed to focus 2 hours a week on meditation or some form of rest/quiet time. They were also encouraged to do a 5 to 15 minute MILD exercise routine daily. They were instructed to take it easy to avoid crashing. We monitored their sleep times (time to bed, etc)
These cases received only the basic Bowen Technique relaxation moves for the first 3 weeks regardless of structural pain presentation. On the 4th and 5thvisit we were adding additional Bowen Technique procedures. By visits 4 and 5, they were receiving procedures which addressed the adrenals.
With this procedure sequence, the results were significant.
Within the 1st or 2nd week of work, they were edgy. By week 4 or 5 their facial expressions had changed and they looked “brighter”. Once feeling better, they went back into the world which set off their stress levels, which set them back a bit. By week 6 or 7, there was almost no pain along the inferior border of the ribcage. Between weeks 4 and 7, their comments were: “I’m feeling better” and “I’ve turned a corner.” Soon they began asking questions about when they could start a maintenance program and wrap up their Bowen Technique sessions. They started taking a more responsible role in their healing process and protecting themselves from a flare.
What was learned at this point is important to the practitioner to help the client recover long term. The client has to learn to listen to their body, and when they are in elevated pain levels (more than an ache) they are heading for a flare or spell. While Bowenwork will relieve pain and help them recover, if they don’t modify their lifestyle, no amount of anything will help them get well. Compliance from fibromyalgia clients is crucial!
WHAT WE FOUND
We found that 8-12 consecutive sessions, supplements if needed, including Ph balance, and lifestyle adjustments, helped these people tremendously! Also, those in our study said when they reduced the sugar and white flour from their diet, they felt better. Lifestyle change is a must. Either counseling or life coaching is suggested to help them stay on track. If they do not make this change on their part, they won’t succeed.
Fibromyalgia clients will often say “they’re fine”, but upon reading their journal, we found that not to be true. When working with fibro clients stay keenly aware of this detail. Just because they leave the office feeling better and out of pain, they aren’t, “out of the woods.” We cannot emphasize strongly enough how critical it is that they change their habits and not overdo it. Compliance is essential!
In the interview process it was noted, only a few cases went to sleep before midnight. Several didn’t sleep till 3:00 o’clock in the morning and were up at sunrise, and then tried to nap or rest during the day. This routine doesn’t work. They need to start getting to bed at an earlier time and sleep when the rest of the world is sleeping. At night is when the body does most of its healing and repairing. Baby steps. An hour earlier to bed each week is a goal they can attain!
Sending them home with hugs and kisses
Ok, so somewhere between session 7 and 12, its time to say goodbye. This is the tough part and this is the rewarding part. Knowing they have a plan and can succeed, it is time to cut them loose. They may not be 100% pain free, and that’s ok. They will heal in time. Their recovery is a process, and as long as they follow their new lifestyle, they will be Ok. Make no mistake – this takes courage and determination on their part.
Why they put erasers on pencils
With group 1, as soon they started feeling better (around session 3-5) everyone got excited about getting out into the world and participating in life again. We shared their enthusiasm and desire. Wrong. Anecdotes and examples: one case mentioned in her interview that she had averaged 12-14 hrs in bed a day for the last 12 years. In her 6th week of the study, she went on a 12 mile bike ride. This is moving too fast too soon. We were encouraged at first, with her seemingly apparent recovery. She experienced a flare, and was briefly setback. Another one volunteered to watch her grandchildren, which would be ok, just not for 4 days straight! She also suffered a flare. These are just two examples of doing too much too soon. I realize they want their life back, but its baby steps at first.
But wait! There’s More!
What I would like to impress upon the reader is simply how effective The Bowen technique is. None of the case studies received any specialized procedures of The Bowen Technique. We did not use any other modalities – massage, reike, etc
Time to do the math
The study involved 17 clients. 15 were women 2 men. I performed 112 sessions over an 8 month period. Of the 17, three received less than three sessions and left the study for other forms of treatment. Most cases reported relief of some form, sleep, pain relief, more energy etc. One reported no improvement whatsoever. During the exit interview; however, she also mentioned she had tried several types of energy work and had been told she might be “reverse polarity”. Had we known that when she first came to us, we would have done things differently. The majority of cases are enjoying substantial improvement.
Fair Oaks Bowen Therapy
Fair Oaks, California USA