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Case Study: A Shoulder/Hand Mystery Solved with the Bowen Technique

by Janie Godfrey(more info)

listed in bowen technique, originally published in issue 149 - July 2008

A was a fit and healthy 55 year-old man who held down a very responsible, physically demanding job that he loved. He had been off work for the four months, since mid-June, due to a problem with his right hand. It began with a lack of movement in fingers and wrist. He had some chiropractic treatments and the chiropractor said there was a lump in his right posterior shoulder. Blood tests were all clear. After a lengthy wait to see a Consultant, he had an X-ray, which revealed a lump on the bone, and an MRI scan which showed swelling on the tendons in the shoulder. His right hand had been getting more and more swollen, painful and restricted since July, with points of pain if he clenched his fist.

The Consultant did not know what was wrong but wanted to give a cortisone injection into the shoulder but A refused this treatment. A then went to a Rheumatologist, privately, and he diagnosed rheumatoid (inflammatory) arthritis and wanted A to take methotrexate. Methotrexate can reduce inflammation, but one of its actions is to reduce the activity of the immune system, and many advise that it be used only to treat the life-threatening stages of cancer due to its negative side- effects. A was advised that taking this drug would mean he would have to give up his physically demanding job as well as driving. Not a welcome prognosis for an active and fit 55 year-old.

A arrived to try Bowen Technique treatment on 22nd October, having read a short article about it in a local magazine. For his first Bowen treatment, I decided to begin with the minimum amount of moves, and to have longer breaks between them to gauge his response. When I came back into the room after a five minute break about two-thirds of the way through the treatment, A reported that he had been experiencing very substantial involuntary twitches and jerks of his shoulders and arms, very predominantly on the right side. I observed this for a bit, and did not interfere by giving more treatment at this stage, but allowed A’s body to continue its spontaneous reaction until it naturally began to quiet down after some ten minutes. During the break, after another small set of Bowen moves, A’s whole body began to undulate from head to toe in a very gentle wave-like pattern. Again, this went on for approximately five to ten minutes and his reaction was, first of all, amazement and, secondly, he couldn’t help but laugh out loud, which he said felt very good. After this spell of whole-body movement, his teeth began to chatter, which again continued for some minutes and included some very forceful leg movements, like running.

Throughout these most extraordinary responses, he experienced no pain. Indeed, the predominant feeling was one of relief and release. And then these responses all stopped as if someone had snapped their fingers and A was utterly relaxed on the bed, all muscles quiet. When he got up from the treatment, he felt “infinitely better”, with only a small twinge discernible between his shoulder blades.

Over the next week, before his second Bowen, he experienced varying degrees of involuntary twitching and jerks, especially in his right shoulder and arm. These were accompanied by episodes of stinging and itching in his right wrist, hand and fingers, with his right hand at one point feeling hot internally but not externally. A had Bowen treatments at weekly intervals on 29th October and 4th and 11th November. Between treatments, he continued to have a variety of twitches, spasms, itches and stiffness in his right arm, hand, shoulder and neck. However, these were usually experienced upon waking, and wore off increasingly quickly each day as he got up and moved around. He was feeling fit and well enough to return to his work on 18th November, after five months off.

The swelling in his hand was decreasing during this period as well, to the point that, at his treatment on 2nd December, only the top knuckle on his index finger still showed a small degree of swelling. In January, he reported that all swelling in the right arm/hand/fingers was gone and he had good function in all parts of it. A continued to come for Bowen treatments once every three weeks for some time, always experiencing some degree of the involuntary muscle twitching, jerks or waves, but never again as spectacular or prolonged as during his first two or three treatments. A wanted to have a Bowen treatment every three weeks for about two years after this primary resolution of his original problem, as he felt it kept him in peak form, and was obviously still working with the releases necessary as indicated by his muscle activity. As of writing, A has felt so well and confident that he has had only four Bowen treatments in the last year: February, May, August and November.

Was the Consultant correct in diagnosing A’s problem as rheumatoid arthritis? Who knows, but it didn’t matter with the gentle, non-invasive Bowen treatment. One of the main guidelines of Bowen is that we do not diagnose a condition, but treat the body as a whole, without referral to a named disease. A had a problem, a real mystery of a problem and needed something to help. His recovery from the symptoms he was suffering was a very welcome resolution of the mystery – and a very different one than might have been expected if he had taken a very powerful medication and resigned from his job due to disability. The body is a self-repairing mechanism and Bowen, in common with other therapies, is able to encourage this self-healing ability.

Further Information

For more details, please contact the European College of Bowen Studies on Tel/Fax: 01373 461 873;


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About Janie Godfrey

Janie Godfrey is a Bowen Technique practitioner covering the Frome, Somerset area. She trained in The Bowen Technique with the European College of Bowen Studies and has been in practice since 1998. She can be reached at her Frome Bowen Clinic on 01373-451-558.

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