The Bowen technique is an alternative type of bodywork named after Australian Thomas Ambrose Bowen (Tom Bowen) (1916–1982).
Bowen had no formal medical training, and described his approach as a "gift from God". He referred to himself as an osteopath and tried to join the Australian register of osteopaths in 1981, but did not qualify for the title. He died an unrecognized practitioner of manual therapy; it was not until some years later that the term "Bowen Technique" was invented. The technique has been popularized by some of the six men who observed him at work including Oswald Rentsch, whose interpretation has become the dominant, but not an unchallenged, form. The technique has been reported as requiring 120 hours of instruction, or as being easily learned in a "weekend workshop".
Katrina Pennington writes that in 2009 there were 26,000 practitioners worldwide, and that the technique goes by a wide variety of names including: Fascial Therapy, Smart Bowen, Fascial Kinetics, Neuro-structural Integration (NST), Fascial Bowen and Bowenwork.
Each session typically involves gentle rolling motions along the muscles and tendons. The therapy's distinctive features are the minimal nature of the physical intervention and pauses incorporated in the treatment. Proponents claim these pauses allows the body to "reset" itself.
Bowen did not document his technique, and as a result its practice after his death has followed one or other differing interpretation of his work. In 1973 Bowen himself had referred to his ability to "average 65 patients per day", yet the technique as it is commonly practiced today cannot achieve that kind of throughput.
A 2011 systematic review in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine said that existing literature indicated that the Bowen technique was a "a useful CAM practice", but commented negatively on the quality of the available research material, and said, "it is evident that further research is needed to systematically test this modality, before widespread recommendations can be given".Quackwatch includes "NST (Bowen Therapy)" in its list of "questionable treatments".
^Andrea, Kargel-Schwanhaeusser (2012). "General features and quality of Bowen therapy". European Journal of Integrative Medicine4: 189. doi:10.1016/j.eujim.2012.07.919.
^Hansen, Christine; Taylor-Piliae, Ruth E. (2011). "What is Bowenwork®? A Systematic Review". The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine17 (11): 1001–6. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0023. PMID22087611.