Skip to Content

Bowen and Sport by Paula Esson NIHP

Approaches to injury are often conventional and play to anatomical laws laid down more than a century ago. Open it up, chop it out, push it, pull it and break it into submission. It has always been down to the intervention of a third party to ultimately gain the result for the athlete. Often treatment is localised to the injury site, missing a huge chunk of the jigsaw and we end up working reactively rather than proactively.

At times this treatment approach is nothing short of essential, ligaments strain and snap and need repairing, bones break on impact or are caused by poor biomechanics but there has always been this underlying nagging feeling that there has to be another way to approach injury….a way that works sympathetically to prevent and assist the body to recover if it is pushed past its limits. Methods that involve caring and managing the athlete on many levels, physically, psychologically, emotionally.

By mobilising the first level of fascia (known as superficial fascia or adipose tissue - the stuff that creates our external form) over the deep fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles) in very specific locations we can create a release of the surrounding environment that is akin to taking your foot off the hosepipe if there is limitation there. This would immediately allow normal flow of blood supply and lymph drainage, which leads directly to healing of the area and all structures on the same pathway. Mobility, global stability and range of movement quickly follow. Which then addressed with rehabilitation and other bodywork can maintain the athlete in an injury free state. More interestingly, players report tightening of soft tissue as well as releasing, often occurring in the unique 2 minute breaks that the treatment process revolves around. This suggests an innate communication system that will have our scientists researching for years to come.

The fascia distributes the force, the fascia allows for the correct order of recruitment in the musculature and decides the symphony of contractions that create flow and movement. Those athletes that look like they glide down the pitch with speed, awareness and style have a great fascia network with few blocks, snags, tears, and restrictions.

The Bowen Technique works directly in this area to redistribute the fascial load across the whole system, puts the plug back in the wall and connects the person again to his or her own network. The visual results are nothing short of astounding at times or notable at others if there exists a long injury history. Either way, the work makes progress where others have reached their limits.

The technique is mentally challenging to both the practitioner and the receiver, we are all so programmed into the "no pain, no gain" philosophy in sport (and those that disagree are in denial!) that this work comes as a real shock. It is possible to be anatomically very accurate, intelligent and most of all comparatively gentle to create impressive changes.

The Bowen move itself has 3 key elements. The challenge to the edge of the muscular- tendonous structure, the roll over the structure moving superficial against deep fascia and the release at the end without flicking. Rather like a good novel, it has start, middle and a finish, a clean message to the brain to instigate change. Tom Bowen (Geelong, Australia 1916-19 82) with whom the work is synonymous with was exceptionally intuitive to seeing these, patterns and changing the lengths of the slings and pulley systems that maintain integrity exhibited throughout the body. His legacy is only just starting to be understood.