August 4, 2000
Light fingers make many things work
By Sarah Lansdale
EVERY summer, it's the same. From the beginning of June until the end of August, I greet each new morning with runny nose, itchy eyes and a sneeze. I never used to be a hay fever sufferer, but then, all of a sudden, I was, and over the past six or seven years, the symptoms have gradually worsened.
This summer was shaping up to be much the same as usual —until I went to see Jill Lebor, a practitioner of Bowen Technique, a "hands-on" therapy, for quite a different complaint. I was feeling constantly tired, a result, no doubt, of having two small children.
Now, it may be coincidence, but the morning after my visit to Jill, the hay fever vanished. I telephoned her with great excitement, but Jill replied that yes, patients often report a disappearance of hay fever as a side effect of her treatment. They could go to see her for a frozen shoulder or painful ankle, but nevertheless come out cured of their hay fever.
Bowen Technique, is one of many complementary hands-on therapies,. in the same school as chiropractic, osteopathy and acupuncture. Like 4acupuncture, it concentrates on pressure points in the body, which adepts consider to be channels for energy and pain relief. Crucially, the treatment does not involve needles.
As in chiropractic and osteopathy, practitioners manipulate parts of the ` body. But there the similarity ends: the movements are almost .absurdly light-fingered. Some of the little touches she applied to my neck and back -were so insignificant, 'they could almost have been tickles and I was left wondering how such a delicate therapy could possibly have any effect.
My own 40-minute session in Jill Lebor's treatment room was pleasantly relaxing: in fact, I fell asleep. The unusual thing about Bowen Technique is that during each session, the practitioner will spend as much time out of the treatment room as in it, allowing the body to set itself right between each movement. After every tiny roll on my back, thighs, knees and-face, Jill left the room for several minutes. Initially, this unsettled me, but as I became more and more sleepy, I found it relaxing.
After the session, I did feel I had a little more energy but, apparently, I needed more than one visit. Also, Jill acknowledged that Bowen Technique cannot cure the effects of having a sleepless two- and four year-old.
Bowen practitioners, however, do claim to treat a wide range of other "ailments, including frozen shoulder, back ache, infant colic, sleeping problems, arthritis, sciatica, chest and breathing problems. Indeed, two recent trials into the efficacy of Bowen Technique in treating frozen shoulder and lymph oedema (painful swelling in the joints) both showed the technique to have a positive effect.
Bowen Technique was devised by Tom Bowen, an Australian industrial chemist who had no medical training.' He was fascinated by osteopathy, but soon abandoned conventional techniques and started treating people with his own gentle -form of massage. His patients had specific musculoskeletal injuries, but he discovered that his treatment had the incidental effect of clearing up chronic conditions such as asthma, hay fever and gastrointestinal problems.
Bowen died in 1982 without having fully explained or written down his technique, but a number of pupils were able to continue his work. Some brought the technique over to Europe and today there are more than 1,000 Bowen practitioners.
One real advantage of Bowen over other "alternative" therapies is that many complaints are said to be treated after just two or three sessions, making Bowen treatment easier on the wallet.
Bridget Renwick, 48, had Bowen treatment for a frozen shoulder and, like me, found that it cured the severe hay fever which had bothered her for more than 30 years. "I had tried homoeopathy, but .that didn't work and I had resigned myself to taking anti-histamine tablets every summer, which I wasn't happy about," she says.
This summer, she has yet to swallow a single Beconase tablet. Delighted, she sent her 10-year-old daughter, who also suffers from hay fever, for Bowen treatment.
And the shoulder? After unsuccessful physiotherapy, just two sessions of Bowen put it back to normal. "If you add up how much I spent on antihistamine tablets, and on treatments for the frozen shoulder, Bowen works out as very good value," she said.
Felicity Arcelli, a 30-yearold trainee nurse from Canterbury,. needed only three sessions of Bowen Technique to set right a year-long back pain problem. "I came off my moped and dislocated my shoulder. Then I started getting little aches and pains in My lower back, which got worse over the weeks and months that followed.
"My back was particularly bad in the mornings and some days it was difficult even to get out of bed. My sister recommended I see a Bowen practitioner after her neck problem cleared up, and I went to See Jill Lebor."
Three sessions proved very relaxing. "The first was a general all-over session. The next one concentrated on my lower back and the third con- centrated on my shoulder that had been dislocated." As she is on a tight budget, Felicity was particularly pleased that she needed to see Jill Lebor for only three sessions, at £20 a time.
"The morning after the third session, I bounced out of bed. I wasn't in pain. It was amazing." Two months after her treatment, Felicity occasionally gets twinges, but "nothing' like before. I feel I've been given a new lease of life," she says.
Jill Lebor practises at the Watling Street Therapy Centre in Canterbury, Kent Tel: 01227452202.
For your nearest Bowen Practitioner, contact the European College of Bowen Studies,
38 Podway, Frome, Somerset BA11 1QU Tel/Fax: 01373 461 873.
The Daily Telegraph, August 4, 2000
By Sarah Lansdale