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Bowenwork for Pain Reduction and Improved Quality of Life

Dec 30, 2015 09:59PM ● By Marlaina Donato

Nancy Bittinger, Owner of Carlisle Bowenwork

The benefits of deep tissue massage and similar modalities are well-known for pain and stress reduction, but there is another form of therapy that offers a subtle, yet highly effective alternative to the typical massage session. Bowenwork was introduced to the U.S. 20 years ago and stands alone in the field of bodywork. “Bowen is the only modality that combines both physical and energetic elements to pinpoint stress patterns held in the body,” says Nancy Bittinger, of Carlisle Bowenwork. “I do not use massage oil, and a Bowen session is not a massage session. Clients, if they prefer, can remain fully clothed,” she notes.

The Bowen Technique, originated by Australian native Tom Bowen in the 1950s, is based on an approach that aims to restore harmony of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for 80 percent of the body’s functions. Health and well-being can suffer when the nervous system is in overdrive from stress; this state of prolonged fight-or-flight can manifest in numerous ways, including insomnia, migraines, chronic anxiety, persistent pain and digestive distress. “Healing cannot happen until the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, the part that enables the body to rest, digest and repair,” Bittinger emphasizes. “The heart of Bowenwork lies in the body’s ability to heal itself with gentle influence on the nervous system.”

Prompting the nervous system to respond, Bowen practitioners focus on observing fascia, widespread connective tissue that envelops every part of the body, from the most superficial muscles to the deepest layers that comprise organs, bones and nerves. It is through this connective tissue that a practitioner can decode the body’s stress patterns. “I spend time feeling and seeing patterns of tension before applying a few gentle moves. Then I allow the body to remain still for a few moments before I continue with the client and access changes and responses. Sometimes I will see a change in leg length or a subtle change in the fascia itself. From there, I know how to proceed,” explains Bittinger. “People of all ages can receive the benefits of Bowen, and sessions can be tailored to individual needs; clients who cannot lie flat on a massage table can have treatments in the comfort of a chair,” she adds.

Bowenwork practitioners see clients with a wide range of health complaints, the most common being both acute and chronic pain. Bowen’s effect on longstanding issues can be profound, and results are typically seen within one to three weeks. Migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder, menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia and infant colic are just a few conditions that respond positively to treatments. Bowenwork also promotes recovery after illness, trauma or surgery. “Bowen has completely changed my own life,” Bittinger says with conviction, “It is that powerful.”

Carlisle Bowenwork is located at 200 Spring Garden St., Ste. B, in Carlisle. For more information, call 717-386-8279 or visit

Marlaina Donato is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

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