Category Archives: The Bowen Technique

Targeting Primary Dysfunction

 

Targeting Primary Dysfunction with Graham Pennington:

Graham Pennington, Australian Bowen Therapist, Naturopath, and Acupuncturist and Author of “A Textbook of Bowen Technique”, delivered yet another stellar instruction of further advances in the world of Bowen Therapy.

I recently attended his new class, Targeting Primary Dysfunction, in Chicago.  It was a unique, one-off, opportunity not to be missed by any of us who are passionate about Bowen Therapy.  Once again, his instruction, knowledge, and experience has brought my practice up several levels in efficiency and effectiveness.  He has been immersed in and enthralled by the challenge of restoring people’s body’s to proper form and function through the Bowen Technique (as many of us are), maintaining a robust practice for the last three decades, constantly focused on the study of the body and its patterns.  As he states, (and I completely agree) ‘as one delves into this practice on a daily basis, over many years of practice and study of the human body, certain “patterns” of dysfunction become more and more apparent’.   Graham has been able to categorize these patterns and recognize their origin.  With each patient, his constant search is for “the primary cause of the dysfunction”.

Through his practice, he has identified a long list of ‘usual suspects’ and he has recognized an “order of priority” exists with regard to the origins of the “primary dysfunction”.

Using his system of priority, we can clearly see “what comes first”, what is primary and what is secondary, and what is simply compensatory.  With this knowledge, we are able to “target” our treatment to the root cause of each pattern of dysfunction.  We can do some simple (and sometimes not so simple) assessment techniques and rather quickly (usually) we can determine the root cause.  As an engineer, I understand the concept of “root cause” and how vitally important it is in the success of any research or inquiry.

If we go about treating a person’s symptoms we may get some immediate benefits but it is likely we won’t achieve long lasting results.  That is the very important distinction.  In order to get lasting results the root cause must be ferreted out and addressed.  Graham has done this and through his teachings he has enabled us to target/hone in on the “Primary dysfunction” and address that directly.  The rest of the dysfunctions or abnormalities or imbalances for the most part simply “unravel” on their own.  The secondary patterns, the compensatory patterns are just that secondary and compensatory- they dissolve in the midst of addressing the Primary Dysfunction.  It is brilliant work which I am thrilled to have benefited from (and so are my clients!).

Bravo Graham, and thanks for sharing!

~from Penny and her clients! We salute you!

 

 

New Science shows how Bowen Therapy works!

New Science demonstrates how Bowen Therapy works!

I am constantly looking for new and better ways of describing how and why Bowen Therapy works.  Clients call it “odd”, “strange”, they don’t know why it works, they just know it works.  Often, a client will say to someone who is in pain, “Just go see Penny, I don’t know what she does-it barely feels like anything- but she is able to fix a lot of stuff.” Thankfully, I have worked on enough people that the word has spread and more clients keep coming- albeit usually out of desperation!

So, once again I am going to refer to my two favorite hands-on bodyworkers: French Hand surgeon Dr. Guimberteau and Anatomist Thomas W. Myers, Author of my favorite book Anatomy Trains.

My background is in Materials Science & Engineering, so when Mr. Myers anatomy-train-picstarted talking about the soft tissues in the body being mostly collagen (and elastin) and that this is piezoelectric substance- my brain fired.  You see adding mechanical pressure to these materials produces an immediate electrical charge.  Same with quartz crystals, for instance. So yahoo- what does this have to do with the reason the light touch of Bowen Therapy creates such profound changes in the body? When we touch lightly on the fascia (that surrounds our muscles, tendons, and ligaments) , that is piezoelectric in nature, it sends off electrical signals to the brain and the brain instantaneously responds with a host of signals that changes/corrects the environment of the muscle, tendon, or ligament that we just touched.  Changes in tension or density-tensegrity-for instance are made. The muscle that was too tight clamping down on that nerve or pulling that bone off center is now brought back to balance- bye bye pain and dysfunction!

This is about as simple as I can get on this subject- I hope it helps you to at least begin to understand that this is how the body works, and this is why Bowen Therapy is so Billiant!

I will leave you with this paragraph from Mr. Myers in his brilliant book Anatomy Trains: “Guimberteau’s work brings together the tensegrity concepts on both a macroscopic and microscopic level.  It shows how the entire organismic system is built around the pressure balloons common to both cranial osteropathy and visceral manipulation.  It suggests a mechanism whereby even light touch on the skin could reach deeply into the body’s structure.  It demonstrates how economical use of materials can result in a dynamically self-adjusting mechanism.”

And this is how ‘I fix stuff’ 🙂

Penny Michaels, Bowen Therapist

 

“Where it hurts ain’t where it’s at”

I think this quote originally came from Ida Rolf, inventor of the very physical modality of Rolfing.  I find this quote to be the truth day in and day out.  Where people feel pain is rarely the location of the problem that is causing the pain.  It is what is called “referred” pain.  What is actually causing the pain in  the knee may be a dysfunction- a problem- in the hip.  Following this example, knee pain often results in an imbalance in the hips; or more precisely, imbalance in the tension in the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligamanets, fascia) of one hip or the other or both.  For instance, let’s say the right knee hurts.  When checked, there is imbalance in the hips which shows as one leg shorter (probably the left) than the other causing one knee to carry more than its fair share of the load, eventually causing pain in that knee.

When we correct the imbalance in the tension in the soft tissue structures allowing the bony structures to go back to where they belong, pain stops. Function returns. Plain and simple.

And luckily for both the client and the therapist, Bowen Therapy does not hurt!  It is very gentle and VERY effective!

~See you on the table~

Penny

Forward Head Posture- The Domino Effect

 

Image result for forward head posture images

It is being called “FHP”, forward head position.  It’s all the rave due to cell phones and video games.  Especially with kids playing games nonstop on their cell phones.  They spend hours bent over their phone and I’m sure you can picture where their head is- jutted out front in order to keep their eyes fixed on the phone.

So now I’m going to take you on a journey of what this does to the entire body- beginning with the neck:

When the approimately 12 pound head is carried forward a simple 2 inches, it would effect the body as if it weighed 32 pounds!! The result of additional forward force from the spine causes a domino effect on the muscles and other soft tissues (ie fascia, tendons, ligaments) from the neck to the trunk. The length-tension relationships of the muscular and fascial chains through the body become altered.  Due to the widespread facial chains throughout the body, the effects are far-reaching.  It goes like this:  posterior neck muscles get shortened and tightened as the jaw juts forward. Upper trapezius muscles also become shortened and tightened, that’s why so many people’s upper neck and shoulders are chronically “stressed”-hard as stone.  The thoracic spine is pulled into flexion (hunching over), the scapula (shoulder blades) separate away from the midline and are now not nearly as strong or as stable as they were in their normal position due to chronic overload.  This results in reduced functionality and pain.  Further down  the lumbar spine now is pulled into hyperextension contributing to an anterior pelvic tilt.  Now the muscles in the front of the hips are now contracted/shortened.  See what a mess this causes?

The above is a perfect example of how EVERYTHING is connected and no section of our body operates in a vacuum.

Now, here’s the reason Bowen Therapy (in my opinion) is the best answer: Regular massage relaxes and releases tight muscles- it does nothing for the opposite stretched, weak muscles.  Stretching is the same story. Strength training addresses those weakened muscles but does nothing for the chronically tight, shortened muscles.  Even if you do both, you are fighting an uphill battle as you are addressing a holistic problem as if there were a couple of separate, disconnected issues going on.  So what is the brain to do with this?  In addition, trying to address the resultant errors in curvatures of the spine through chiropractic work is also an uphill battle as you are fighting against soft tissues (muscles & fascia) that are desperately trying to keep you erect while you are continuing to put your body in this stressful posture!

Bowen Therapy directly addresses the tension in the soft tissues- fascia, muscles, tendons, ligaments- in a very unique way.  The vibrational signals we send the brain results in the brain sending a host of signals back to the area balancing the tension in the opposing tissues and creating balance.  The loose, weak muscles get tightened, the overly tight, spasmed/contract muscles get released.  And we get relief!  Then there is your part…change the bad posture!! You have to correct the behavior that is producing the problem if you want lasting effects from the therapy.  That is why it is important for us together to determine what is causing the distortion pattern in the first place.  It’s a team effort!

Posture is Important!

 

Penny

 

 

Explaining Bowen Therapy- Take 5

Image result for tom myers anatomy imagesWhen it comes to explaining Bowen Therapy, one size does not fit all. I can explain it to some in a simplistic manner,  to others in a technical manner but so far not one description works for everyone.  Given  the fact that as a society we are not used to the idea of fixing a body by attending to the soft tissues in a manipulative but very light touch kind of way, and add to that the truth that we have only just begun to understand the functioning of  the connective tissue systems in the body, it gets difficult to comprehend pretty quickly. It is just foreign to us.

THAT BEING SAID, IT WORKS BEAUTIFULLY.

 I will continue to offer different approaches to explaining why Bowen Therapy works as they come to me.  Eventually there will be enough documented science of the inner workings of the connective tissue-the fascia in particular-that some brilliant anatomist will be able to successfully explain it to everyone.

In the meantime, I will use some images from my very favorite anatomist, Tom Myers to help give you a visual.   The book by Tom Myers, Anatomy Trains, is  far the best book on functional anatomy to date.Image result for tom myers anatomy images

Think of the body as put together via ropes and pulleys (think bringing a pail of water out of a well- pull down on one side of the rope causes the other side of the rope to shorten bringing up the pail of water).  Same with connective tissues in the body. Image result for tom myers anatomy images You pull something tighter over here and the opposite end – or the antagonist muscle HAS to lengthen.  (Remember those toys some of us had that were put together this way? push on the bottom of the feet and the whole thing collapses?) On a superficial level, this is what we are doing in Bowen Therapy.  We are telling the brain to tighten this one, loosen this one and so forth, balancing the tension in all of these opposing soft tissue structures.  This imbalance in the structures is what causes us much of our pain and  our parts to not function properly.  In addition, once an imbalance is present in one area, guess what? Eventually other structures get imbalanced as well BECAUSE ALL STRUCTURES ARE CONNECTED.  There is actually, a “rope” of connective tissue that connects from the heel, up the back and around the top of the head!

Image result for tom myers anatomy imagesIt gets more complicated than that.  The connective tissue called fascia that wraps around and through everything actually has 10 times the nerve endings as muscles do!  So when you say your bicep hurts, it’s probably the fascia surrounding the bicep that is actually givinig out the pain signals.  The fascia is the super highway of communication between the muscles and so forth and the brain.Here is what it looks like:

Image result for tom myers anatomy imagesA spidery web of collagen.  Collagen happens to be a piezoelectric material which means you put any strain or pressure on it and it sends out an electrical signal- to the brain. Follow me?  This is why Bowen Therapy works- we send signals via pressure to the fascia which sends electrical signals to the brain to tell the brain something is out of whack in this area, and please fix it.

That’s probably far enough for today…hopefully the visuals help!

Thank you Tom Myers!

At your Service~

Penny

Why am I not recovering quickly?

 

Why Am I Not Recovering Quickly?

 

Some of you are not going to like this..But you are the ones that need to hear it.

The body is a magnificent machine.  It takes so much abuse and keeps on performing every task we ask of it and many that we are not even aware of.  It makes concessions, it heals, it is virtually non-stop in its efforts to repair and balance and restore.  The number of processes that are taking place in the body at any given moment in time is truly astonishing.  That being said, our bodies NEED rest, downtime.  No matter what your physical fitness level is, your body needs rest.  Perhaps this is even more true for the athlete.

Building recovery time into any training program is important because this is the time that the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place. Recovery also allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues (www.verywell.com)

From Michigan State University: Athletes understand the importance of exercise training for optimal performance and improvement. However, rest and recovery is also an important aspect of an exercise program because it allows the body time to repair and strengthen itself in between workouts. It also allows the athlete to recover, both physically and psychologically.  What happens during the recovery period? The body is allowed to adapt to the stress associated with exercise, replenishes muscle glycogen (energy stores) and provides time for the body tissue to repair.

So, if you are getting the appropriate rehab for an injury and not healing as quickly as you think you should, perhaps you should consider building in some R&R- some days off- your favorite activities will be there when you come back and your body will perform for you better than ever!

 

Old Injuries Contributing to New Injuries?

Yes! This can definitely be the case. This is especially so if those old soft tissue injuries were never properly addressed- which is often the case. Say, for instance, you broke your ankle, and the bones were properly taken care of but you had to wear a boot for awhile.  Wearing a boot of course throws off your hips a bit- one leg and hip contracts (the one with the boot) as if you have a shorter leg.  These muscles need to be released after the boot is removed.  In addition, even though the break was properly set, all of the soft tissues around that break were traumatized as well, and you have probably heard that “muscles have memory.”  The body is brilliant at protecting itself and sometimes in doing so, is a bit over-zealous.  Signaling the brain to reset the tension in these tissues will ensure that the body is back in proper balance, avoiding issues down the road. Bowen Therapy does this easily and efficiently.

There are many scenarios here- too many to list. A recent example: a client that came to me “all-of-a-sudden” having issues getting up and walking after sitting a bit, and had no idea why.  After assessment and a couple treatments it became apparent that although the current issue presented in the low back and hips, the culprit was a 20 year old injury to the achilles tendon which had excessive scar tissue severly restricting movement of the ankle.  We are currently working to break up the scar tissue in the ankle (in order to restore range of motion to the ankle) as we work to restore balance to the hips.  Rebalancing the hips without restoring proper function to the ankle would have only temporary results.

Bottom line: a new pain in one area can be attributed to an old injury in another area. Yet another reason to visit your very own Bowen Therapist!

I’m here for you~

Penny

 

plantar fasciitis

Illustration showing plantar fascia and location of heel pain

On the internet the Mayo Clinic described plantar fasciitis as one of the most common causes of heel pain.”It involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes (plantar fascia).”  The article goes on to say that the cause is not known and that it can lead to back and hip problems. (address of the article: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/plantar-fasciitis/symptoms-causes/dxc-20268536).

In the world of Bowen Therapy (Osteopaths get this), we see the body as a whole, not pieces and parts. For us, everything is connected and therefore intimately involved with everything else.  When someone comes to me with plantar fasciitis, the first thing I am going to address is balance in the hip structures.  A “conventional” medicine person would probably not look above the ankle.

You see if the hips are out of balance, it causes one leg to appear shorter than the other, and you end of putting much more pressure on the “long leg” foot thereby straining the muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia on that leg.  All of those soft tissues transfer weight/pressure/strain to the foot causing tightening of the fascia in the foot.  You can massage that foot all you want (and this is good! don’t get me wrong) but you are not fixing the initial problem in most cases.  You have to address balance in tension of the soft tissues from the hips down, and sometimes from the neck down.  It’s all connected!

So, if plantar fasciitis is a problem for you- come see me!

 

 

Today’s favorite Definition of Bowen Therapy

One of my favorite instructors, Australian Acupunturist, Bowen Therapist, and author of  A Textbook of BowenTechnique, Graham Pennington offers us today’s favorite (my opinion) definition of Bowen therapy:

Bowen Therapy is a neuromusculosketel appproach to Health Care that employs soft tissue manipulation, for the correction of mechanical and neural dysfunction. Treatment is based on a holistic appreciation of interrelationships within the body and is intended to facilitate the body’s natural capacity to self-regulate and heal.

We continually strive to architect a definition of Bowen Therapy that is simple, straightforward, and understandable- an insurmountable effort-  Especially since we are true neophytes with respect to understanding the brilliant complexity of our human bodies!

This will Blow Your Mind! How intelligent our Fascial network is

Attached is a youtube video showing very clearly the importance of and incredible function of the Fascial system.  THIS is the system that we are addressing during a Bowen Therapy session.  Enjoy actually SEEING how incredibly complex and intelligent the tissues of our body are ! Bowen Therapy is incredibly difficult to define and you can see why as this is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak.  We are truly just now gaining insight into the incredible complexity of the connective tissue system and its intelligence.

The bottom line to the trained observer is that  even the slightest pressure to the connective tissue  sends signals to the brain and a multitude of changes in the structure begins to happen!  This is EXACTLY what happens during a Bowen Session that results in amazing changes to the structures of the body- simply with light touch, things move, shift, balance, and heal.  Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW0lvOVKDxE