I have, for a little while, been taking a careful look at the claims made for a decidedly second-division CAM called variously ‘Bowen Therapy’, ‘Bowen Technique’ or ‘Bowenwork’. It involves a potentially relaxing, gentle manipulation of soft tissue using fingers and thumbs; moving them over muscle, ligament, tendon and fascia.
Aside from the potential benefits of a sympathetic consultation, the psychological impact of physical contact with someone who wants to help you and simple relaxation, it would appear to have little to offer.
It’s certainly not at all a plausible treatment for serious conditions like asthma.
I had a look at the research literature a little while ago, and it provides decidedly slim pickings. As far as I could tell the sum total of the published evidence for Bowen listed in PubMed amounts to:
- one or is it two (?) small uncontrolled trials for frozen shoulder from a single author (Carter 2001, 2002),
- an uncontrolled intervention to try and reduce staff absence (Dicker, 2005a),
- a small uncontrolled study on a range of issues with strong psychological components (Dicker, 2005b),
- an RCT* showing improved hamstring flexibility in people with no hamstring problems (Marr et al 2011) and
- a tiny case series that doesn’t show that Bowen technique helps stroke rehabilitation (Duncan et al, 2011).