Saturday, May 19, 2007

What Bowen Is Not

An anonymous commenter to an old post about Bowen Therapy drew EoR's attention to www.whatisbowen.com.au, describing it as explaining "Bowen Therapy using a Brief Anatomical and Physiological Explanation for the Medical Profession".

Scoffing commenters aside, EoR is actually very interested in the scientific evidence for alternative therapies. He's also fascinated to find science making new discoveries and turning previous knowledge, if not on its head, at least off-kilter. Such research is always more interesting than self-serving advertising, or unsupported claims of some mysterious power that miraculously cures and mends myriad ailments.

Sadly, whatisbowen.com.au disappointed EoR. It consists of a single page, "What is Bowen Therapy and How Does it Work" written by Robert M. McCusker, and a PDF download of a number of newspaper clippings about Robert M. McCusker. Robert M. McCusker is also, unsurprisingly, the domain holder.

While the page is described as a "thesis" EoR can't imagine any university passing this as such. The argument seems to be that Bowen Therapy squeezes blood and lymph fluid out of muscles, "similar to squeezing toothpaste out of a toothpaste tube" (though, to make the analogy more correct, you'd have to squeeze the toothpaste out with very light, gentle touches across the toothpaste tube). It is claimed this allows "fresh blood to enter the muscle from the artery". EoR would suggest that more than massage might be required if blood and lymph flow is compromised so seriously that it is collecting in stagnant pools such that circulation ceases to function.

Bowen Therapy, as a "holist treatment" [sic] allows the skeleton to adopt better posture. This, in turn, stops the internal organs from being "squeezed and squashed out of shape". EoR hates to think what happens every time he bends over.

The final magical method is "gentle Bowen Therapy relaxation treatment" which seems to be functionally equivalent to patients being placed into a coma.

Because of the affect Bowen Therapy has on improving posture, improving the blood and lymphatic flow, the improvement in organ function and the way it allows the body to go into automatic repair mode, Bowen Therapy has a legitimate claim to being the most holist form of health care ever invented.


Mr McCusker, sadly, fails to provide any references to published, peer-reviewed evidence of these claims.

The newspaper reports include various testimonials to Mr McCuskers's ability to cure arthritis, acne, asthma, paralysis as a result of a stroke (while it is noted that this particular patient was also undergoing regular physiotherapy, the Bowen is promoted as the sole saviour), "dodgy" knees, indigestion (something EoR feels would resolve without any intervention at all), shortness of breath, hayfever, bedwetting, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, fibromyalgia, infertility and depression.

Need EoR point out to his readers that one of the signs of a quack treatment (or the presence of the placebo effect only) is a claim to treat a vast range of unrelated conditions?

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