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Tom Bowen
Bowen Technique PDF Print

Kevin utilises these techniques within the principles and philosophy of Osteopathy. There has been wide publicity surrounding the life and work of Tom Bowen. There is great variation in the techniques taught and used around the world. It is because of this that there is a separate section here to describe the history of the technique and Kevin’s involvement with the originator. Kevin conducts workshops from time to time in this technique for osteopaths and other practitioners. Details of these can be obtained by contacting the clinic.


WARNING: There are a small number of workshop presenters and teachers of the techniques of Tom Bowen who falsely claim to have received tuition from Kevin. Some give the impression to have had confirmation from Kevin that they are teaching a version of which he approves. Please ask any presenter who makes these claims, for written proof signed by Kevin that this is the case. Some may have received only treatment from him and may falsely present this as in some way confirming that what they are teaching is genuine. Please notify Kevin by email with details of any such claims.

Thomas Ambrose Bowen practised as an Osteopath in Geelong over a span of some 35 years. He was born in 1916 and died on October 27, 1982.  He was educated in the university of life and had little formal clinical training. Fifty years ago in Australia, manipulating therapists had a free choice in calling themselves Masseurs, Chiropractors or Osteopaths. There was an understanding within their ranks that a practitioner who only ‘cracked` and ‘cracked` often, called themselves a chiropractor. Masseurs were just as easily defined; a bottle of oil, a towel and a plinth.  Osteopaths were a more diverse group; some rubbed and cracked, some rubbed and rubbed and cracked, some rubbed and cracked and cracked. Some like Tom Bowen, were different again. They seemed to work quickly with a patient, flicking or stretching soft tissue. Most of this group had very little understanding of structural diagnosis and assessment. Bowen did however work to a three tier pattern of palpation, treatment and re-palpation. This in large part set him apart from his peers. Besides his considerable insight and deft touch, learning for Tom came also through the sharing of techniques and anecdotes among his peers. Tom was highly respected by his fellow Osteopaths from a very early stage in his career for his ability to find and treat the most significant areas of dysfunction. He continually demonstrated an innate sense of osteopathic philosophy.

Five decades ago, manipulative training was passed on in this country largely by the apprenticeship system. Following the tradition that he knew, Bowen preferred to teach in that way. He did allow numerous practitioners to watch him work for a half day or day, but reserved detailed tuition for only six fortunate men. Four were chiropractors, all of whom were later registered under the Victorian Government’s Chiropractors and Osteopaths Registration Act. Kevin was registered as an Osteopath in 1982 which was during the time that he was in training with Tom Bowen. Training consisted of spending a three hour session with him once per week for as long as it took. Most of the six practitioners spent about three years, or perhaps it might be better seen as upwards of 350 hours, of observation, questioning and supervised practice. Circumstances were such that Kevin was the last of his trainees and thus benefited from the continued development of his technique. In many ways the manipulative techniques were different to what the other practitioners had seen. Kevin feels particularly privileged to have been in that situation. Tom’s approach became more efficient with each of the three years that he studied and worked with him. Kevin was in a position to keep Tom’s clinic operating during his final hospitalisation and for some two months after his death, while his practice was on the market. His practice was not sold.

This manipulative technique originated and was developed in Australia. It represents the only uniquely Australian osteopathic technique taught at any osteopathic teaching institution. Kevin taught the technique to final (5th) year students at RMIT University for 9 years. This was a world first at RMIT and represented the beginning of the long process of the recognition of a genius, who in time will stand shoulder to shoulder with all of the other great originators of osteopathic thought and technique.

Published Texts PDF Print

Currently there are no published text books devoted to the original techniques developed by Bowen. There are however texts that present theoretical support for the use of techniques that involve stretch reflex. In this respect that Bowen’s work has something in common with MET and BLT for example.

In 2001 Tom Myers text ‘Anatomy Trains – Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists’ was published by Churchill Livingstone. This work allows osteopaths and other body therapists, insight into a mechanism to understand more of the structural- postural filter through which we see many of our patients. It presents another tool for assessing somatic dysfunction. The book is mainly recommended for its diagnostic insight. Also the myofascial view of the body may help explain the rapid changes that occur distant to the area of application of the Bowen techniques. There is however a difference between creating ‘myofascial ease’ and making long lasting changes to somatic dysfunction.

Moshe Feldenkrais’ work with somatic dysfunction has become largely the domain of the physiotherapist and the stand alone Feldenkrais practitioners in Australia. His work allows a different view of the way in which articulatory techniques are used. His work is presented in a number of texts. ‘Awareness through Movement’, a Harper & Row book 1977, is probably his most accessible. Tom's work with disabled patients used a concept of stimulating one side of the body in order to encourage the other side to improve in function, This concept has much in common with the ideas of Feldenkrais.

Tom Hanna in ‘The body of Life’ an Alfred A. Knopf publication 1980,  has presented an overview of the practical application of the Feldenkrais work. This text is probably out of print.  Feldenkrais presented a view of the body that emphasized movement. His work is suggested to remind us that motion is a fundamental tool of the osteopath both during treatment and beyond. It is often motion after osteopathic treatment and indeed other body work that reinforces or continues the functional change in the patient's condition.

Significant Features of Bowen Technique PDF Print

The techniques are applied in accordance with osteopathic philosophy

  • The Techniques are gentle and may be applied where some other techniques are contra indicated
  • The techniques are of short duration applied after examination by palpation
  • The immediate effect may be determined by palpation
  • Secondary effects may be observed shortly after the patient stands up and on follow up
  • The Technique has a high patient acceptance
  • Many of the techniques involve cross fibre connective tissue manipulation
  • Some of the techniques are lever assisted
  • The techniques are applied to a specific joint, specific soft tissue or specific region
  • The Technique recognises the diaphragms of the body and their profound influence on somatic dysfunction, visceral health and the transfer of dysfunction from one region to another
  • The techniques exert a significant influence on the Cranio Sacral Rhythm without the pulse passing through the still point. This may be observed in its simplest form through application of the major balancing techniques applied at `C3’ and the sacro coccygeal  `joint’
  • The Technique has a direct influence on posture (restoration of the function of resistance to the force of gravity)
  • The Technique integrates with almost all other applied osteopathic techniques

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