The Bowen Technique


I got my MRI results back this week for my chronic lower back issues. Ready? Apparently I suffer from multilevel degenerative disc disease, which essentially means that several of my intervertevbral lumbar discs have slipped out and are impinging on nerve roots and even the spinal cord. There may be physiotherapeutic solutions, or maybe some more exotic surgical interventions, but the likely eventual path in the long term is spinal fusion surgery.

So of course I freaked out. My condition is likely the result of both genetics and a history of abusing my body through decades of high impact sports. Some people want to blame my recent reliance on chiropractic treatment. But I started those well after symptoms had already appeared. Maybe chiropractic adjustments worsened my condition or maybe they made it better or maybe they did nothing at all. Hard to say. I will agree, though, that my various chiropractors should have better diagnosed my condition earlier on.

The bottom line is that I immediately started looking for other options. Spinal decompression therapy looks interesting, both non-invasive and surgical. A discectomy might be an option, as well. I’ve already tried traditional massage, acupuncture and Tui Na massage, with negligible results. And I’ve made an appointment with an osteopath, but from what I gather he won’t be doing anything more than what my excellent physiotherapist already does. (So stop emailing me, you osteopath zealots!)

Today I took a stab at Bowen therapy. This youtube clip summarizes the “scientific” rationale underlying the Bowen approach. I tried it mostly because there’s no possible down side, no contraindications, and it was a good way to spend a morning.

I arrived with curiosity but trepidation, given the therapy’s popularity amongst the sandal-wearing set. My fears were not allayed when the therapist started using that most detested of lazy words: “energy”. Zod knows I hate it when New Age types use that word in a non-physics context. The therapy involved some extremely light touches followed by minutes left alone for me to contemplate the touches. The therapist then returns after these intervals to ask about my sensations.

When I say “light touches”, you must understand that it was so slight and seemingly meaningless that it was like being tapped on the shoulder or accidentally brushed by a passerby on the bus. This was supposed to be physical therapy?

To be honest, I found the process sort of silly. But I decided to give it a fair shot and enjoy the time alone and horizontal with my thoughts and odours. Surprisingly, things started to happen. In response to the “treatments”, I had some random muscle twitches, then my pinkies went numb, and my left elbow just spasmed outward! Somewhere along the line, my breathing patterns shifted noticeably. I even stopped breathing entirely at one point; but didn’t find it alarming at all, just interesting.

Then a really weird thing started happening. I started to hallucinate! With each “treatment” –which, remember, just involved some light poking on the knee or scalp or something– I received a vivid waking dream. At one point I was staring intently through a window and could not look away. At another, I was following a long thin tube intensely through a building’s ventilation system. In another “vision” I was –get this– wrestling a giant wooden duck. Immediately afterwards, I was swimming in an ocean of wooden fish. In the final and most intense hallucination, I was falling towards the right. I hope the last wasn’t a premonition of an upcoming political shift.

I don’t know what it all means –if anything. Maybe I was dehydrated from my morning workout. I do know that this particular drug trip was cheaper without drugs. For that reason alone, I will try it again. I still don’t believe in any New Age “energy” nonsense. But I do believe in neurology, and I believe the neurological explanation offered in the video above might –just might– have some credence.

I will also add this: it’s now 3 hours later and I’m mostly pain free. Mind you, I haven’t moved or stressed my body at all, so who knows what that means.