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Does Bowen Therapy work? A long-term pain success story

Updated: Mar 15


A 77 years old woman, who I will refer to as V, came to see me recently looking for

relief from chronic neuropathic pain. The severe pain, radiating from under her right

arm towards her right breast, started after surgery to remove two lobes of her right

cancerous lung and she had been experiencing it continuously over the last 18

months.


According to Cancer Research UK, ‘some people find they have pain that lasts for a

long time after lung surgery. The pain is from damage to nerves during the operation.

The pain often runs along the operation scar. For most people it gradually reduces

over a couple of years as the nerves repair themselves. But for some people it may

continue for longer’ (cancerresearchuk.org).



Nerve pain can be difficult to get under control. Because of their structure and

function, nerves do not heal as quickly as some body parts do. Nerves regenerate at

approximately 1 millimetre per day, which means that full recovery can take a

number of months and sometimes years, and in some cases may never come back

completely. Nerve damage, aside from


being painful, can also affect movement

range. As a consequence, lack of movement contributes to tissues rigidity,

vasoconstriction and the compression of more nerves in the affected area.


Another aspect of chronic pain following surgery is adhesions, more commonly

known as scar tissue. The scar we see on the surface of the skin is only the tip of the

iceberg. Adhesions are abnormal attachments between body tissues that can go

quite deep into the various structures of the body, including organs, and prevent

them from functioning properly eventually causing pain. Fascial adhesions can

restrict blood supply and damage nerves, leaving you with chronic pain and

dysfunction. Adhesions restrict movement and cause damage to the surrounding

area triggering more inflammation. The increase in inflammation tells the body to

send in more collagen links, resulting in even more adhesions development. Over

time as movement of the area becomes more restricted the adhesions harden and

solidify.


With long-term pain the mind also plays a significant part in creating further barriers

to recovery and in worsening the intensity of pain. Fear, anxiety, depression,

catastrophising around one’s own ability to cope and live a ‘normal’ life, all contribute

to intensify the pain loop. The person feels stuck and unable to heal and move

forward. This is why long-term pain can be very difficult to eradicate.


When V came to her first appointment she was distressed, having been in severe

pain for over a year. She states:


‘My operation was on the 6th April 2021 which left me with chronic neuropathic pain. Have had 2 different types of opiate tablets which I was intolerant to with hallucinations and giddiness which I already have but made it worse and tinnitus which again I suffer with and it made it much worse. So, I struggled along with constant everyday ibuprofen and paracetamol as I did not want to try anymore tablets with opiates. I have had 4 treatments of Bowen Technique and am thrilled with the results. In the last 3 weeks I have only had to take 10 tablets whereas before I was on 16 tablets a day.’

Since this testimonial, I have seen V for other 3 appointments. During this time, she

had reduced her tablets from 16 in 3 weeks (during this period she had a flare up

due to a sudden lifting movement carrying a heavy bottle) to 2 tablets in two weeks

and finally on her last appointment she reported she hasn’t taken any tablets at all in

two weeks! In brief, having regular appointments for 3 months, initially weekly then fortnightly, V has gone from 16 tablets a day to none at all. We are now testing the consistency of her healing with further appointments every 3 weeks and eventually leaving longer periods between sessions. She feels regular appointments keep her on track of her

healing process.


When I first met V, although she was very concerned about her ability to carrying on

with the severity of the pain and the high intake of painkillers, it was also clear that

she was a strong, resilient and optimistic woman. She had been through other health

challenges since very young age (she lost her hearing at 4 years old because of

measles and has had many operations to one of her ears since then and suffering

from frequent dizziness and tinnitus as a consequence of this). I firmly believe that

her optimistic mindset was one of the contributory factors to her successful healing

process.


Keeping a record of the painkillers intake was the first step towards tracking her

improvement, giving her confidence and facilitate the positive mindset. I have also

advised her to resist the urge to take the painkillers as soon as the pain starts,

unless absolutely necessary, to build up a resilience to the sensations of pain and

broader her pain threshold. She found this advice very helpful and said that although

most days now she hasn’t got pain, when she does, because it is much more

bearable, she tries to avoid the tablets and the pain dissolves completely on its own

after about half an hour.


Anti-inflammatory medications may negatively affect long-term tissue healing. Optimal soft tissue regeneration is supported by the various phases of the inflammatory process and making use of medications to inhibit the inflammatory process could impair healing

(of course, sometimes the pain is too intense and debilitating and we do need to use

medication).


What Bowen procedures have I used to treat V? I started with the BRMs relaxation

procedures and then used the Respiratory, Hamstrings, Kidney, Chest, Sternal and

Thoracic procedures on different sessions. She reported a sensation of warmth on

the right side of her chest during one of these appointments. In the last three

sessions I have used myofascial release techniques to soften and restore gliding of

the tissues around her scar.


To conclude, light, intentional and directional touch and pressure, have an incredible

potential to heal tissues and communicate safety and compassion, also necessary ingredients for successful healing. A mindful approach to anti-inflammatory

medications and a positive mindset are indeed crucial when dealing with long-term

pain. Throughout the process utilising the Bowen Technique to gently assist healing.



Article published on Bowen News, Issue 86




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