Bowen Technique and Migraine

The Bowen Technique and Migraine Relief

  • ” It affects my whole sense of myself, my work and how I feel about myself. I feel very depressed and hindered by it.”
  • “it leaves me physically drained of energy – I find it difficult to soldier on at work.”
  • “It means I am unable to make plans in advance and worry over letting friends down.”
  • “It restricts my holidays and even going out meeting friends.”


Migraines affect some 10% of the UK population. More prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined, the effects can be devastating, causing sufferers (in addition to the pain) anything from nausea and vomiting to visual disturbances and confusion.

A migraine is certainly no ordinary headache. If you have ever suffered a migraine you are in no need of creative descriptions to convey the agony it brings. If you have had to witness the pain and disruption of migraine on friends, family members or clients, then you have longed to do something to help.

So far there has been no standard cure for migraine and sufferers have had to rely on medication in the hope that it will prevent or alleviate some of the symptoms.

But now, thanks to the results of a new study there is documented work to show that The Bowen Technique can dramatically reduce the severity and frequency of migraine attacks.

London based BowenTechnique practitioner Nikke Ariff recently completed The BowenTechnique National Migraine Research Program which sought to determine the efficacy of The BowenTechmque in the treatment of the migraine condition.The Bowen therapists were all fully qualified and experienced inThe BowenTechnique.


Selection of candidates: The Volunteer Group
No parameters were set before the research program to attract a certain ‘profile’ of migraine sufferer.This was deliberate to ensure that the Volunteer Group was random but united by the fact that they were willing to try something new in the treatment of their migraine condition.

From the number of applicants for the program the final migraine volunteers incorporated the following factors.-
Diagnosed as a migraine sufferer by a GP or hospital sperialist.Women were well represented at different stages of their menstrual life, i.e., regular periods; premenopausal; menopausal with/without hormone therapy; post-menopausal; hysterectomy.

A far as was ascertainable the migraine condition was their main health complaint. That the migraine volunteer did not have known food intolerances that were being ingested on a daily basis.That the migraine volunteer could be successfully paired to a conveniently located Bowen Therapist.

There were a total of 105 migraine volunteers at the outset. Of this group, 42 took part in the study. The rest of the volunteers were not able to participate due to the presence of an additional complicated medical condition or because there was no Bowen therapist available in their area.

Of the 42 who began it 39 completed the research program.The three not completing the programme did not meet the completion requirements due to a) an alteration of medication by their GP during the course of the program, b) failure to return a completed Final Questionnaire and c) withdrawal from the program due to a healing crisis.

The 39 migraine volunteers consisted of 37 women and 2 men. 13 of them had been suffering from migraines for one to fifteen years; 17 of them had been having migraines for sixteen to thirty years and 9 had had migraines for over thirty years.

The causes, according to The City of London Migraine Clinic can range from hormonal imbalances, exercise, food sensitivities, allergies, missing a meal, a change in sleeping pattern and many other triggers in isolation or in combination. The migraine pattern for each individual is unique as are their warning signs, levels of stress, emotional make-up and combination of trigger factors.

The volunteers recorded any changes in their migraine patterns according to frequency and severity, over a six-week period.This comprised a two-week treatment period during which the volunteer received three Bowen treatments in the first two weeks of the program (i.e. Day 1, Day 7 & Day 14), followed by a four-week observational period.The migraine volunteer kept a Migraine Diary throughout the 6-week period recording any migraine attack experienced during the Research Period.


The Results:
Of the 39 participants:
7 registered no change in their migraine condition.
I I experienced a decrease in frequency of attacks.
9 experienced a decrease in severity of their migraine.
11 experienced a decrease in severity and frequency of attacks.
I participant experienced an increase in frequency.
In a11,31 participants experienced a positive result representing 79.5% of participants – a very impressive response rate showing significant improvement. At the end of the program, 36 of the 39 volunteers said they would recommend Bowen as a treatment to a friend or colleague.

Ann Turner, Director of the Migraine Action Association writes, “Ibe results from the Bowen Technique National Migraine Research Programme are very encouraging. It confirms that this gentle, non-invasive, holistic therapy can help a wide range of migraine sufferers.The results confirm the findings of the pilot study and the fact that several different therapists were involved illustrates that it is the BowenTechnique which is effective not just one skilled or gifted practitioner.”


The Bowen Treatments:
The Bowen Technique is a form of light-touch therapy in which the practitioner uses thumbs and fingers to make gentle, rolling-type moves at very precise points around the body. There are many moves available to the practitioner and most are grouped together in sets of moves which address specific areas such as shoulders, knees, spine, pelvic, jaw, etc.

In planning the migraine research, Nikke realised that although their uniting characteristic is a severe amount of pain to a particular part of their body (the head), each migraine volunteer would have any number of trigger factors, known and unknown to the sufferer.

Therefore, Nikke deliberately did not dictate a specific and limited sequence of Bowen ‘moves’ be performed with no deviation by all the therapists on all the migraine volunteers. She felt it was important that The Bowen Technique as delivered by an individual therapist in consultation with an individual patient, be the standard of treatment and that this not be limited by prescribed sequences.

Each individual therapist was given total freedom to decide the Bowen moves used in each treatment session in accordance with how they would normally work in response to the individual patient’s condition and circumstances.

Nikke says: “I felt that it was important for a migraine sufferer, reading the results of the study and deciding to try Bowen, to be able to present themselves to any qualified Bowen Therapist in the country and experience Bowen as it was being practised.”

Having given total freedom as far as the Bowen treatment was concerned; Nikke did give the study’s therapist’s one guideline: that post-treatment advice to each patient was to be limited to drinking plenty of water only.

No other advice was to be offered during the 6 week research period.


And what did the migraine volunteers have to say after their experiences of Bowen?

  • “It’s the only treatment apart from Triptans that has helped my migraines”
  • “I have been so used to frequent migraines; I can’t quite mentally adjust to not having pain…”
  • ” The most relaxing and enjoyable of any treatments I have previously tried.”
  • “After the 2nd treatment, I had 9 days without Migraines which was wonderful.”
  • ” I feel I am calmer since having the treatment.”
  • “I do not feel Migraine is now inevitable.”
  • “‘I generally feel improvement and that I might be able to find relief or a cure for my migraines other than taking medication.”
  • “During treatment, my attacks were less severe and shorter and I was able to get back to work a lot quicker.”
  • “I feel more able to participate in activities without fear of an attack.”
  • “I feel more relaxed and don’t feel my migraines rule my life anymore.”
  • “I am extremely happy with the outcome and will probably continue a maintenance treatment as it was so pleasant and relaxed me, which I feel I need.”
  • “Pain lasts a shorter time. I feel better quicker, so not so ‘fragile’ for so long.”

As a holistic therapy The Bowen Technique treats the individual as an integrated biodynamic system as opposed to treating an isolated ailment. Migraines can be triggered by any one or a combination of factors ranging from hormonal, sleeping patterns, head and neck pain, exercise, travel, lack of food, allergies, stress levels of the individual etc.These factors are so varied that a holistic therapy like Bowen must be considered as a valid option for the treatment of the migraine condition.

Nikke says of the outcomes: “I am very pleased and not at all surprised at the success rate documented byThe BowenTechnique National Migraine Research Program. I trust that more people will be encouraged to approach complementary therapies with an open mind for the maintenance of their health and well being.”


Todays Therapist, Nov/Dec 2002