Where is the Evidence that Bowen and Reflexology work?
Complementary therapies cannot find the £millions which are spent by large pharamaceutical companies to fund large University studies into particular drugs or courses of treatment to collect evidence that their interventions actually work. However that does not mean that there are no studies or research that Bowen and Reflexology actually work, there are huge numbers from around the world.
What it does mean is that any studies and research tend to involve relatively small numbers of case studies, when compared to the multi-million pound projects, and you must judge for yourself how valid the results are. For example, a study conducted at Warwick University (2012) into chronic lower back pain showed benefit to all participants when receiving Bowen therapy. The results were interesting however in that whilst the majority gained flexibility the remaining gained stability – enquiry showed that this latter group were hypermobile and therefore at greater risk of injury due to having too much flexibilty in certain joints. A recent (2011) Coventry University Study also shows clearly that Bowen is a powerful technique, in this study the effect on hamstrings was noted.
It is very difficult to double-blind studies when they are not tablet- or injection- based as any good therapist will always know whether they have carried out a genuine session or a dummy one, and the case study may also be able to tell the difference between a genuine therapy and a placebo if they have had therapy of a particular type before.
However when individuals have tried a range of treatments without success, and in many cases suffered for years, and then suddenly find relief from a particular type of therapy when they had given up all hope of finding a solution then anecdotally surely that has to be considered valid?
Many celebrities rely on Bowen, for instance Bear Grylls swears by Bowen, and has done since 2006, also Jerome Flynn (actor) and so too did the late Bill Tarmey the actor who played the part of Jack Duckworth in Coronation Street.
Also athletes such as GB’s Triathlete Victoria Gill who is adamant that she “noticed significant physical performance benefits as well as improvements in general wellbeing and overall health” as a result of Bowen sessions. Many Football and Rugby clubs now use the Bowen Technique because of its effectiveness in helping repair injuries sustained on the field and because regular Bowen sessions have been shown to produce fewer injuries and better performance throughout season.
And it is not limited to the sports field that Bowen is gaining itself quite a name for being very effective. Henry Wyndham, Chairman of Sothebys, considers Bowen to be ‘one of the very best kept secrets’ and the only thing that worked for his bad back (he is 6 foot 6ins tall) when he was in excruciating pain for six months.
Holistic (Whole-istic) therapies aim to impact the whole body rather than specific conditions. They aim to bring the body into balance so that there is harmony between the constituent parts. It is well accepted that the location of pain is often not the source of the pain for instance.
There is huge overlap between a large number of holistic therapies which, considering their fragmented development from a variety of roots all over the world, and dating back many thousands of years when there was none of today’s communication or travel, is surely beyond chance. For instance in Reflexology we work on acupressure points all over the body (but more commonly the feet), which acupuncturists also use. In NST Bowen technique the moves are completed almost invariably over acupuncture points. Traditional Chinese Medicine shows how meridian lines join the specific points together and certainly it is very common in the therapy room for release of tension at a point along a meridian line to result in an electricity-like release or other sensation specifically along the line affected. The mummified 5000 year old Ice Man discovered in 1991 between Italy and Austria was discovered to have tattoos and lines on his body which have been shown to bear an uncanny similarity to points and lines recognised as acupuncture points and meridian lines, he also had a small pouch of ‘needles’.
Despite the challenge of collating evidence that meets the demands of the Advertising Standards Association, there is a growing body of opinion which embraces the use of particular complementary medicines and treatments alongside the conventional medical offerings provided under the NHS and privately. For instance the NHS-funded Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine (RLHIM) sees the benefits of providing reflexology and a variety of types of bodywork, of which Bowen technique is one, alongside conventional physiotherapy and other treatments.
References to many more conditions which have been shown to benefit from Bowen therapy are listed on the Bowen Therapist Practitioners’ Association (BTPA) web site. Further references to research and evidence are given on the Bowtech web site.
Reflexology has long claimed to activate acupressure points in the feet which represent areas of the body and the brain. Research dating back as far as 2005, using functional MRI to determine whether pressures on the feet translate directly to relevant areas of the body, indicates that this does indeed happen. Reflexology can help with a wide range of complaints including those listed by the NHS on the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine web site. A useful list of research and case studies is provided on the American Academy of Reflexology web site