Chronic conditions and Bowenwork

“Someone’s in pain. We care. What do we really have to offer, what do we really have to give? Everything, it turns out. Everything.”

Ram Dass and Paul Gorman

This article by USA instructor Alexia Monroe was published in the June 2014 issue of Bowen Hands.

“Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘the wounded healer?’ Many of us in the field of bodywork fit that description. Many of us have experienced serious health challenges ourselves, and in the process of finding our way back to health, have developed insights and skills that allow us to be helpful to others. Our very wounded-ness becomes our gift.

I have been one of the wounded. In my mid 20s, after years of being health-conscious, I developed a crippling arthritis. For 9 years I had been a vegetarian, practiced yoga and meditation, was a dancer, and had just begun to be a runner. I awoke one morning with a stiff ankle. Didn’t seem so serious. But over the course of a year, that initial sprain spiralled into swelling joints throughout my body. I could barely hobble when my parents took me to the Stanford University Rheumatology Center. Their prognosis was that while it wasn’t rheumatoid arthritis, it was a non-specific degenerative form, and that I would likely need a wheelchair by my mid 30s. They fitted me for a cane on the spot.

By age 30 I was in constant excruciating pain. For 5 years I had tried every holistic avenue I could find: food programs, herbs, copper bracelets, DMSO, gold shots, healing springs, emotional and personal development therapies, prayer and meditation, many kinds of bodywork. I deeply believed that I should be able to ‘affirm myself well;’ I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working!

Cut to the end… over the next 2 years, I gradually found my way back to health and wellness. There was no magic herb, nutrient, vitamin, or bodywork. The result came from 7 years of balancing body chemistry, reducing internal inflammation, polarity of various kinds (I hadn’t yet encountered Bowen therapy), emotional release work, and MSM. It was the overall approach that stopped the condition called arthritis. I was still left with damaged joints, but the inflammatory condition abated.

However, my journey with wounded-ness was not over. In the following 10 years, I developed both a deeply painful carpal tunnel syndrome (from doing deep tissue massage) that lasted 6 years, and a profound chronic fatigue (after living in Asia) that lasted 2 years. Again, I tried every holistic avenue under the sun, and again, worked my way back to health through a combination of many factors. Bowenwork was a significant factor in my recoveries.

Since I learned Bowen therapy in 1993, the last traces of my chronic pain have disappeared. I have paid close attention to Ossie and Elaine’s stories about Tom Bowen’s work with chronic conditions, and I have specialised in treating these conditions in my practice. In Bowen Hands (the Journal of the Bowen Therapy Academy of Australia), we practitioners report a lot on our dramatic resolutions of recent injuries and acute conditions, but the long-term chronic and debilitating conditions are less often discussed. Myths abound about Tom Bowen, but in my mind, the most damaging is that he did not work on some people for years on end. He did, and in many cases with no hope of full resolution. I have worked with some clients for 5-10 years. And in 21 years of practice, I’ve witnessed many times what I call ‘slow miracles.’

You may have heard incorrectly that Tom Bowen only treated clients for a few sessions and then told them, ‘That is all I can do for you.’ Or that fibromyalgia either will respond within a few sessions, or not at all. Or that, ‘The client must not want to get well,’ when conditions do not turn around quickly. The question is, how did Mr. Bowen apply his work when the conditions were not likely to respond quickly, or in fact were certain to never completely resolve?

I have put together a Continuing Education course called Chronic Conditions and Bowenwork to address this subject. It is designed to increase the practitioner’s knowledge of many forms of chronic illness, and how best to apply Bowenwork when these conditions are present. The course is 2 days, and earns 16 hours of CE credit.

Practitioners can become overwhelmed by the intensity of a client’s pain, or the complexity of symptoms in chronic conditions. The course will guide you in both session management and people management, helping you to discriminate and prioritise your sessions for weak and ill clients, and to engage your clients’ trust in long-term Bowenwork care. Case studies will reveal that even when recovery is not 100%, success can be achieved in helping these clients gain significantly increased quality of life. ”

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