By Christina Harper
Herald Writer (Everett, WA)
Whenever Tina Kuna had a migraine, her world came to a halt. It wasn’t unusual for her to be sick to her stomach and stuck in bed for the duration of her headache.
Like many people, the 41-year-old Snohomish, Washington mother of three and co-owner of a successful nationwide business leads a busy life.
But after years of medication, physical therapy and 30 shots of Botox to her head and neck to deaden the nerves, Kuna has found a solution to her headache problem: Bowen therapy.
“I think you really have to keep an open mind,” Kuna said. “I’m pretty much a big skeptic.”
Bowen therapy is a technique in which a therapist administers a series of gentle rolling movements over the muscles and soft tissue of a client lying clothed or unclothed on a massage table. The movements are meant to treat the whole body, not just the ailment. Therapy is alternated with rest during sessions of 15 to 60 minutes.
Medically, Bowen therapy is not a cure for any illness, but many people claim to have found relief from conditions such as back pain, asthma, and fibromyalgia.
Kuna went to Gretchen Miles, a Bowen practitioner in Snohomish. She said it took three or four weeks of treatment before she realized it was helping. Miles, 41, begins a session by having her client lie face down on a massage table and covering them with warm blankets. She plays relaxing background music.
The technique consists of light application of pressure rather than deep tissue manipulation. Miles uses her thumbs and fingers when working on a client. “I’m not plowing through them,” she said.
After a series of moves, Miles leaves the client in the room alone for what Bowen therapists call essential pauses. After the pause Miles applies more short pressure moves. She knows when she’s getting a response. “It is a feeling of going over a speed bump,” Miles said. “It’s a flick under my fingers.”
That’s what Bowen therapy feels like to Deborah Olson of Snohomish. Olson, 50, was diagnosed last year with congestive heart failure when she became short of breath and her feet swelled considerably. She describes the therapy movement like a bit of a flick on a muscle or a tendon. The movement itself is not what causes her to relax, she said. It’s more the room, the soft bed and the feeling that she’s in trusted hands.
Her sister tried Bowen therapy when she suffered neck and back injuries from the seat belt during a car accident. She felt the benefits of the therapy after three weeks. After doing some research, Olson decided to give it a try. “I thought, ‘Well, it couldn’t hurt me,’ ” she said.
Olson’s heart condition caused nausea and loss of appetite. She lost weight quickly and said she wasn’t tempted even by a Dove ice cream bar. After a couple of Bowen sessions, her appetite came back. Bowen therapy also helps with her colds, which are serious for Olson because of her condition. “Colds for me are like you having pneumonia,” she said. Olson said she seems to get over colds quicker and can sleep without coughing.
Relief from symptoms after Bowen therapy can be immediate or take time.
“It can be like a light switch,” said Miles, who said she was skeptical about the technique when she first heard about it. She now realizes the benefits of the therapy and describes it as accessing the body’s blueprint. “It’s just going back in and totally rebooting,” Miles said.
Olson thinks Bowen therapy is a kind of last hope for her. She can’t take heart medication and she really doesn’t want to. When she asked her doctor what she thought, Olson was pleased at her reply.
“She smiles at me and says, ‘Whatever can help you I’m for it,’ Olson said. ‘Just don’t forget to take your potassium.'”
Copyright © 2005 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, Wash.