Bowen Therapy and the Big C

Bowen Therapy & the Big C - Eleanor Oyston


In 2000, I graduated as a Bowen Therapist with Russell Sturgess’, Fascial Kinetics program. Russell is also a TCM practitioner and introduced me to the concepts and wisdom of Chinese medicine presented from an awareness of fascial planes.

Six months later Petrea King’s Quest for Life Centre opened. I joined the team and by 2001 I knew that Bowen has a major role to play in the comfort and well being of folk with cancer.

I began working with Petrea, massaging over 400 people each year who had cancer, and attended the five day residential program at the centre.

When you live with your client for five days at a time, as a therapist, you can  see the ‘fruits of your labour’. The changes I saw in our participants were affirming of my growing belief that Bowen can positively change fascial function and consistently deliver the same four medically proven outcomes as oncology massage.

In 2006 I did an advanced Bowen course with International School of Bowen Therapy (ISBT). I did this program because at the time ISBT was the only Bowen school accepting Bowen Therapists who had trained with another school of Bowen therapy. Suitably encouraged, I later completed the full program with ISBT, assisted further courses and was privileged to be a keynote speaker at their first conference in Munich, Germany in 2007, alongside my colleague John Coleman, NP. 

Please read Jan Sinclairs’ testimonial about her cancer journey and the benefits of Bowen.

Over the past 10 years medical research into fascia had grown exponentially and research into the effects of Bowen Therapy have slowly been added to the research menu.  Please read the following extract from ATMS Journal published in March 2012 written by Margaret McGee and Eleanor Oyston:

“For the person in treatment for cancer or recovering from cancer, massage has the potential, through these physiological responses, to confer therapeutic benefits for the management of symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment. 10 These include symptoms that may not be adequately controlled pharmacologically or by other medical or psychological interventions. There is a plethora of literature from observational studies that show that massage therapy is therapeutically effective in the acute management of cancer symptoms. Higher level evidence of effectiveness is also available from randomised clinical trials that show that massage intervention results in positive outcomes defined as immediate reductions in symptoms of  acute nausea11,12, general and neuropathic pain  and discomfort, 8,13-16 fatigue, 8,14,15   anxiety, 7,15,17,18  depression  and insomnia. 19, 20  “

Where to now?

I have developed guidelines for treatment of clients with cancer and cancer related problems.

All Bowen modalities have moves that may differ slightly. There is not one ‘right’ way to work with people with cancer and other medical conditions. However a sound understanding of fascial planes is essential.

Please study your Bowen text books and have a ‘rock solid’ image in your mind of how the fascial planes meet and diverge, which organs are affected by a particular Bowen move and the likely consequences of the treatment to the whole body.

Over nine years of working at the Quest for Life Centre I have developed insights into the benefits of Bowen Therapy, as well as the cautions/contraindications. Oncology Massage Limited (OML) teachers, with Bowen training have a unique understanding of how fascia responds to radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery. The observational research into the positive effects of specific Bowen moves for patients experiencing peripheral neuropathy are astounding and a research project is underway by two oncology massage teachers who are experienced oncology Bowen Therapists.

The emotional responses to a Bowen treatment when folk are living with a life threatening illness are challenging and, as allied health professionals, it is our responsibility to be prepared for these special moments in a Bowen session and have a strong professional network for referral.

For more information please contact Tubi Oyston.

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