Bowen Therapy – Principles, History and How it Works

by Brenda Baber on October 1, 2012

bowen therapy in action


Bowen therapy uses a series of moves across the fibers of muscles that releases the tension of these and other body tissues. It could be likened to a moving acupressure. It realigns the body and the musculature and balances the flow of energy around the spine, extremities and body organs. This technique can assist a wide range of body disorders, including acute and chronic neck, back and joint pain. It can also treat trauma-caused disorders of the feet, knees, wrists, arms and shoulders. Even certain internal organ malfunctions can be assisted with a specific routine.


Bowen is a tactile therapy that has been developed from the methods of an Australian practitioner called Thomas Bowen. Neil Skilbeck was a person who trained under Tom and the following is Neil’s personal account of his experiences at Tom Bowen’s  clinic.  These events all took place during the late 1970’s, a few years before Tom passed away.



I first met Tom Bowen in 1978 at an ANTA association meeting. I soon learned that he had developed a very unique form of soft tissue therapy. He had been continuously applying his methods to a wide range of human disorders since the Second World War. His clinic was situated in Geelong, Victoria, and he received recognition from many areas for his outstanding results. Most of the football clubs and other sporting organisations clambered for his services for their injured players. The regional jail often called for his assistance for an injured inmate and even the horse and greyhound racing trainers rang for assistance. Tom gave his services freely to the physically handicapped. Every fortnight on a Saturday they came to him to experience his magic fingers on special nerve points. Many of them had not used their limbs from birth. Most of these were delighted to be able to feed themselves and even improve their mobility, including in some cases being able to walk for the very first time.

Tom’s success could also be measured by the amount of clients that poured into his clinic day after day. During his peak years, Tom would see up to one hundred clients per day. This amount was magnified still further when one realises that he only saw the client for 2 visits spaced one week apart. Tom believed that he only needed one visit to correct most spinal or muscle disorders and that the second visit was mainly a check up.

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s I had set up private practice as a Naturopath and Chiropractor in eastern Victoria. It was during this period that I had the privilege of learning Tom’s special technique. Tom was a fellow practitioner and a member of the professional association that I had joined during the mid 70’s. At one of the association meetings he invited anyone interested to come and observe his particular method at his clinic. If an interest was shown then there was provision for training on an ongoing weekly basis. I jumped at the invitation and soon found myself at his clinic amongst his clients trying not to miss any tips from the master.

Tom’s technique was based on specific moves over the soft tissues of the body, this together with his sensitivity and well-developed intuitiveness added greatly to his success. One day Tom ushered me out into his waiting room to show me how he diagnosed the clients’ health problems. There were the usual 15 or more people waiting for his treatment most of whom had never been to see Tom before, or at least not for some time. He said to me unobtrusively, ” See the lady in the red dress, she suffers from heavy menstrual bleeding and pain. The little girl over next to the reception desk has asthma and the man with the navy shirt has a very bad neck problem. I was amazed how Tom could make these statements without having first talked to or examined each individual. I gradually got to trust his conclusions more and more, as he was very rarely wrong.

I remember following Tom into his treatment room where there was a tall young man just rising up from a chair. “Well what’s your problem” Tom asked, and before the guy could say anything Tom exploded with ” Right shoulder and elbow”. “You’ve been leaning on the bar too long” he said. The man was stunned and when he could find a few words he said that it was exactly his problem.

Read on: Bowen therapy – How it works

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