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Bowen and... Parkinsons

Bowen can’t cure Parkinson’s disease. Nothing can. In fact medicine has yet to conclusively establish what causes it, let alone how it might be cured. However there is a chance that Bowen could alleviate some of the symptoms of the illness.


One of the earliest and most widely occurring symptoms of Parkinson’s disease is resting tremors. Usually, this begins with the trembling or shaking of one finger. Sometimes the hand or foot on one side of the body experiences tremors or, in rare cases, the face or jaw. The tremors mostly begin when the affected body part is relaxed, which is why they’re called “resting tremors.”

In healthy people muscles contract on movement and relax when at rest. People with Parkinson’s experience stiff muscle tone, which means the muscles of an affected body part don’t relax even when at rest. This leads to a limited range of motion, discomfort and sometimes pain. Muscle rigidity is mostly felt in the trunk, limbs, or neck though it can occur anywhere in the body.

Loss of facial muscle movement restricts facial expression. Similarly, weakened throat muscles cause speech to become low-toned, unclear, and sometimes slurred. Choking, coughing, and drooling may also plague Parkinson’s patients in advanced stages of the disease.

Note: If you have tremors when using your hands, this is more likely to be Essential Tremors which is more than 20 times more common than Parkinson’s disease. A small study conducted in Sydney in 2015 to evaluate the effectiveness of Bowen on Essential Tremor symptoms found that Bowen can help affected people manage their tremor, especially if it’s triggered or exacerbated by stress and anxiety.

Slow movement

Slowness of movement, or bradykinesia, is another distinctive feature of Parkinson’s disease. It causes people to perform ordinary activities, such as walking, moving, or changing clothes, more slowly than normal. They also experience a reduction in spontaneous movements and difficulty in performing repetitive movements. Some telling signs include a slow walk with short, shuffling strides. Difficulty in tapping fingers and slow, soft speech are other markers of bradykinesia. Ordinary tasks such as eating, dressing, or brushing teeth take may also too much time to complete. These symptoms become more noticeable as the disease progresses. If left untreated, they can be a real problem in daily life.


Postural instability is common among Parkinson’s patients. They can’t maintain an upright posture because they’ve lost some of the necessary reflexes. In advanced stages, patients may be unable to maintain balance. They may topple backward on being jostled even slightly. Those with Parkinson’s often face difficulty in turning, pivoting, and standing upright as well. In some cases, patients also develop a tendency to sway when they move after a period of muscular inactivity.

A most peculiar symptom caused by Parkinson’s is the freezing of one’s gait. This symptom is different from muscle rigidity and bradykinesia. Parkinson’s patients sometimes hesitate to forward, feeling as if their feet are glued to the ground. This freezing may be temporary, with the person assuming normal gait after the first stride. However, it may cause loss of balance and a high risk of falling. This is especially true when it occurs during pivoting, walking on uneven surfaces, or on the stairs.

Straining to move the bowels can be a sign of Parkinson’s and is also the most overlooked symptom. As Parkinson’s affects the nervous system that controls the movement of muscles, it can certainly affect the bowels and bladder. The bowel can lose its sensitivity and become inefficient, slowing down the digestive process and movement of waste.

How Bowen could help

Treatment for Parkinson’s sufferers using Bowen will differ from other therapies you may have tried, both due to the gentle pain-free technique, and the speed in you can expect results. Many report a near immediate reduction in stiffness, finding longer lasting effects after 3 or 4 sessions.

Bowen therapy is not a cure for Parkinson’s, however it has shown to be beneficial to those suffering from body stiffness and restriction, allowing them to move more freely.

The main thing that Bowen does is relieve muscle tension. The stiffness characteristic of Parkinson’s disease is caused by faulty signals between the brain and the muscles, meaning that ‘normal’ relaxation techniques are unlikely to help. By resetting the proprioceptors that carry the messages between the brain and muscles, Bowen may be able to interrupt the rigidity of the muscles and restore some degree of normal movement, as well as reducing the associated pain.

Movement is created by – guess what – muscles. It’s possible that the slowness of movement is related to the stiffness that causes the tremors, both because the muscles are already contracted meaning there’s little movement left in them, and because they're fatigued from being continually contracted. Releasing the tension in the muscles may therefore also help with bradykinesia, loss of balance and ‘freezing’.

Bowen therapy can also help restore healthy bowel movements – again, these are largely controlled by muscles.

This video made by Bowen therapist and Parkinson’s sufferer John Coleman may also be of interest.

So while Bowen can’t cure Parkinson’s it may be worth having a couple of treatments and seeing if your symptoms are alleviated. You have nothing to lose after all!

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