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  • Writer's pictureCara Rose

Bowen & Migraines - the research

Having encouraged a friend to train in Bowen, I got roped into being a case study for them, my migraines being the main marker we tracked across the three weeks of treatments. As surprising as this is (having grown-up in a household of Bowen), I have never had three consecutive treatments in a row and I was amazed at the results having only had the first three pages of Bowen moves.

After 3 weeks, the migraines I was experiencing like clockwork at the same time each week, had dissipated into a manageable headaches. The medication I was taking including sumatriptan, Anadin and codeine was down to just a couple of paracetamol and my poor sleep on a Sunday night (due to the anticipation of an early start and stress) was over, removing another trigger.

Having now had 5 treatments, I have once again been able to eat cheese, chocolate, stay up later and (though not avoiding a hangover altogether) drink some alcohols that I was previously unable to drink without a migraine.

So the question is, what has Bowen changed?

What do we know about migraines and headaches?

A large array of research is still being conducted in order to understand migraines. Research is difficult because symptoms and triggers are varied across sufferers, and it is thought that more than half of those that suffer with migraines are undiagnosed or under-treated.

An overview of worldwide research has shown 18% of women suffer compared to only 6% of men, and during the reproductive years, this rises to as many as 43% of women suffering. This correlates to current thinking regarding migraines and chemical and hormonal imbalances within the body, particularly oestrogen and serotonin. Hopkins Medical state: Some research suggests that when [oestrogen] levels rise and then fall, contractions in blood vessels may be set off [migraines].

So, what can Bowen do?

A study was carried out in 1986 exploring the effects of Therapeutic Touch (touch with the aim to heal), on those with tension headaches and migraines. Sixty volunteers were randomly divided into treatment and placebo groups. The results indicated that 90% of those that received something referred to as Therapeutic Touch* experienced sustained reduction in headache pain, and on average, 70% of those had a reduction for 4 hours after receiving touch.

Research into Therapeutic touch as an effective intervention for pain has been backed numerous times. A number of studies exploring whether touch could significantly reduce pain conducted between 1997 and 2004 revealed the majority had statistically significant positive results when implemented.

Similarly, research study conducted in 2000 explored the impact of a Functional Relaxation technique, similar to some of the Bowen moves**, on migraines and tension headaches and found participants had a significant reduction in the sum total of hours they experienced pain as well as the intensity of that pain across 60 days.

What effect is touch and Bowen having in regard to migraines and headaches specifically and how can we explain this to our clients?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive explanation as to why touch is effective, but if we acknowledge stress as a common trigger for migraines and consider the current research into hormone imbalance, then we begin to see a link. Constant stress has huge impact on our endocrine system, which can ultimately leads to a massive hormone imbalance, particularly, if are look at prolonged periods of stress.

My migraines that came like clockwork on a Monday morning could easily be explained by a huge spike in my stress levels, exacerbated by other triggers such as lack of sleep and fluorescent lighting. Utilising Bowen to reduce stress and rebalance the autonomic nervous system could mean a reduction in one cause of hormone imbalance, which may therefore lead a reduction in symptoms and triggers of migraines.

Though none of this research is definitive and further exploration into the length of time these interventions are effective is needed, I hope this post provides you with an insight into some of the research which is being conducted. Even if you can’t book for an appointment yet, I encourage you to explore your stress levels and look into other ways you can manage this, meditation, self-care etc and of course, one day trying a Bowen or two!

* Definition of therapeutic touch : touch with the aim to heal or cure.

**concentration on body perception while moving the joints of the skeleton smoothly and simultaneously breathing out

Keller E, Bzdek VM. Effects of therapeutic touch on tension headache pain. Nurs Res. 1986 Mar-Apr;35(2):101-6. PMID: 3633503.

Loew TH, Sohn R, Martus P, Tritt K, Rechlin T. Functional relaxation as a somatopsychotherapeutic intervention: a prospective controlled study. Altern Ther Health Med. 2000 Nov;6(6):70-5. PMID: 11076449.

Monroe CM. The effects of therapeutic touch on pain. J Holist Nurs. 2009 Jun;27(2):85-92. doi: 10.1177/0898010108327213. Epub 2009 Mar 19. PMID: 19299529.

Natoli J, Manack A, Dean B, et al. Global prevalence of chronic migraine: A systematic review. Cephalalgia. 2010;30(5):599-609. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2982.2009.01941.x

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