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Neurostructural Integration Technique (Advanced Bowen Therapy)

by Michael J Nixon-Livy(more info)

listed in bowen technique, originally published in issue 43 - August 1999

The Neurostructural Integration Technique® (NST) is an extremely powerful multidimensional technique, which has been specifically developed for the ongoing dynamic integration of the structure and viscera via stimulation of the central, peripheral autonomic nervous systems. The main objective is to remove pain and dysfunctional physiological conditions by restoring the structural integrity of the body.

In essence NST provides the body with an opportunity to reintegrate on many levels, and thus return to and maintain normal homeostatic limits on a daily basis.

Coccyx release procedure

Coccyx release procedure

 Coccyx release procedure

Advanced shoulder release technique

History and Development

In the late 1950s an Australian osteopath Tom Bowen, discovered unusual relationships existed between certain health complaints and particular patterns of muscular dysfunction his patients presented with.

This observation led to many years of intense clinical research, which ultimately resulted in the development of a unique system of myofascial stimulation, which brought about long term corrections to the unusual patterns of muscular dysfunction and the corresponding health complaints in his patients as well.

Tom Bowen referred to his work simply as soft tissue therapy. He continued to develop and refine this work right up until his death in 1982.

He started his career by working with junior football clubs in Victoria, Australia, as a masseur and treated the general public at home after hours. Bowen quickly discovered that he had what can only be described as an extreme hypersensitivity of the fingers and hands, which apparently enabled him to feel nerve transmission and consequently find blockages in the nervous and muscular systems. In fact often times during experiments when working on somebody, if he performed a move, as he called them, which was wrong, then he would receive a burning sensation in the fingers so hot that it would necessitate him quickly leaving the room to cool his fingers under cold running water. Add to this unique ability of touch, a discerning eye for variation in surface tension on his client's body, you have a man with a rare and powerful experimental methodology for probing the body. It is indeed fortunate that these unique abilities were further enhanced by Bowen's genuine compassion and love for his fellow man and a strong drive to help whoever he could and whenever he could, as this enabled him to create a system which is now usable by many others.

Bowen became famous throughout his career for being able to cure the incurable, and find solutions when none seemed possible. He treated everybody the same, from street drunkards to the well known and powerful. When investigated in 1975 by the Australian Government for potentially practising osteopathy without a licence it was revealed that he was treating approximately some 13,000 people per year, with amazing success. Rather than closing his business down, the investigation only served to make him and his methods more well known and famous, a mantle ironically he tried to avoid.

His work did not just stop with humans however, as he also achieved great notoriety for his wonderful success with animals. In particular he was well known around the Melbourne racehorse industry as his work so often helped a racehorse to victory.

Throughout his career there were only five people with whom he spent significant amounts of time at his clinic, to show them his technique and the secrets behind using it.

Interestingly the five individuals were shown the technique as it existed at various times throughout his highly developmental style career. Consequently after his death different interpretations of his work have sprung up from these students, representing one phase or another in his career.

I personally worked with various people to develop the Neurostructural Integration Technique®. The advantage of NST is that it is quicker and smoother in its application than the earlier forms and also consistently achieves excellent results in more difficult cases. It is now practised in many countries around the world including Britain, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, USA and Australia.

Like so many artists and geniuses whose work continues to grow and prosper well after their death, Bowen's work in all its forms is becoming generally known around the world as Bowen Therapy and continues to grow in popularity amongst a wide variety of therapist groups. Massage therapists, sports medicine therapists, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, osteopaths, doctors, chiropractors, dentists, hypnotherapists, kinesiologists, naturopaths, and psychologists, to name the most popular groups.

Philosophy and Application

The real secret to why NST works is because of its underpinning philosophy. It was this which enabled Bowen to devise a system to suit the philosophy and hence for the philosophy to consistently work through the system.

Put simply, the philosophy is that the body is a self regulating bioenergetic and biomechanical phenomena which will continue to regulate itself for as long as it has the reserve energy necessary to sustain life, by the ongoing process of biological adaptation. Bowen realised that the body would regulate itself and return to balance if the appropriate neurological and neuromuscular context was created so that it could. There was never the question of if it could, this was implicit – the fact that the person had life was evidence enough that it could!

He discovered that there is a particular cycle in the body which must be free to operate unimpeded, if the individual is to enjoy good health and balance. Whilst he perceived that this cycle was perceptible at an energetic level, he was equally aware of its physical components namely the sacrum, coccyx, cranium and Temporomandibular Joint complex and the dural membrane, which connects them to make them a functional unit. Over and above the importance of recognising the need for this system to remain unimpeded, was his emphasis and insistence on releasing the neuromuscular imbalances throughout the body, which have such a direct impact on the proper functioning of the cycle and consequently the health of the whole body.

He postulated that if all muscular imbalances could be released that the body would regulate itself, and in this process pain and symptoms would vanish and energy levels would increase.

His real brilliance however lies in the actual system he devised to enable this automatic systematic reintegration to take place.

Bowen recognised that when the body was stimulated in a very particular fashion that the intelligence of the body would be alerted (as he put it) and the process of unravelling neuromuscular compensations would begin. Depending on the extent of compensation in the body, this unravelling process could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 7 days at which time the body would go into a holding pattern. A reassessment would be required to evaluate the client again, then another session carried out to restart the unravelling process once again if necessary.

In clinical practice on average it is common to receive reports from clients that they can feel the body going through the unravelling process for approximately 2 – 4 days. There is often a very similar pattern experienced with body aches which move from one location to another (e.g. shoulder to knee), some sweating, emotional releases with some clients, but above all a very deep sense of relaxation and change taking place. In addition many clients report noticing their symptoms leaving their bodies in the reverse order to which they arrived.

The actual application of the technique is interesting in itself, as it is distinctly different from any other technique attempting to achieve the same goal.

In the first instance, a three part integrated body balance is applied which is partly performed with the client in a prone position and then finished with the client in the supine position. The work generally commences in a prone position, around the lumbar area and then quickly moves to the thoracic area before returning to the legs and sacrum. There are a few resting periods between the various sequences of 'moves', which are carried out before moving the client into a supine position.

The prone work, including resting periods, usually takes about 15 minutes to perform. Once the client is in the supine position, additional releases are applied to the diaphragm, neck and knees – this also takes another 10 – 15 minutes to complete. Other optional procedures may be blended into this integrated body balance to add specificity or release when necessary. There are optional procedures for the shoulders, elbows and wrists, pelvis, ankles, coccyx and TMJ complex.

The integrated balance which is applied to the body via the specialised moves, is directed to areas where proprioreceptors (spindle cells and Golgi tendon organs) abound. However, it is not just single stimulation of these points which elicits such a comprehensive and powerful response in each individual – rather it is the configuration in which the moves are carried out.

Consequently the integrated balance once applied synthesises an orchestrated response involving alpha and gamma motor neurones, various spinal reflex arcs, the motor cortex of the cerebrum, the basal ganglia and the cerebellum.

It is reasonable to state that the Neurostructural Integration Technique® once applied creates a powerful context for change to take place in the musculoskeletal and visceral systems via what can only be described as a specific decoding of the nervous system and a comprehensive resetting of the body.

Once the session is over the client is given aftercare recommendations which basically reminds them that their body will go through a process of re-organisation for a few days and to take it easy during this time by doing nothing too physically strenuous. The client is also advised to keep up daily walking and sufficient intake of water to help flush the lymphatic system and assist the musculature to return quickly to stable balance.

Although to the client the session seems simple, noninvasive and gentle, the results are nevertheless very surprising and often miraculous. While this is the case for the client, the practitioner comes to expect these wonderful results, as dependability is one of the key characteristics of the NST technique.

Typically clients will require only 2 – 3 sessions for their health problems to be resolved. Additional sessions may be required for those with chronic health problems or who require ongoing psychological and/or nutritional support

I am often asked "will NST cure this condition or that condition"? My response is always the same – NST will cure nothing! It is simply a process that enables the body to regulate itself, and throughout this process many symptoms will disappear. That is to say that the symptoms in the first place were simply a product of the complex blockage existing in the body. While this may appear to be just semantics I stress that the distinction is very important to keep in mind. NST is synonymous with contextual healing – a lost art which is now having a resurgence and gaining both popularity with practitioners and clients alike. Another well-known example of a contextual healing approach is homeopathy. Interestingly many individuals have dubbed NST as tactile homeopathy!

The following list of symptoms frequently disappear in response to an NST session; acute and chronic pain including back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, leg pain, facial pain, headaches including migraines, sinusitis, digestive problems, colitis, constipation, urinary disorders, menstrual problems, infertility, prostate problems, visual problems, learning disorders and emotional depression.

While the above conditions are the most classical there are many other disorders which generally respond favourably to treatment as well. Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Glandular Fever and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to name a few.

The following case studies are typical of NST sessions

A An 8 year old girl, presented with impaired co-ordination, scoliotic pelvis, perception disorder of the muscles, and heavy binocular squint (especially when tired). The child had previously received the best possible medical care available. After the first application of NST the child said she "felt different"; after the second application of NST she was able to ride her scooter and walk up and down the stairs, an activity she was previously unable to do without the help of somebody else. For the first time in her life she felt pain after muscular exertion. After the third application of NST her physiotherapist asserted that the scoliotic pelvis was now straight, as were relevant points on the scapulae as well. At the same time the co-ordination and perception of the muscles had improved so much that even a forward somersault was possible. After the fourth application of NST – incredible but true – the ophthalmologist asserted that the child squinted no longer. In fact this test was carried out when the child was quite tired, having come straight from school. She continues to improve. Dr. Michaele Bückmann, Dusseldorf, Germany, 1998.

B David S a 30-year-old accountant presented complaining of lower back pain due to a football injury that had persisted for 11 years. Although very skeptical during his first NST session he admitted to feeling 80% better within the following days. "Okay I feel heaps better, but how could such light moves on my body possibly provide this much relief"? His second visit convinced him, as he now remains absolutely pain free. Pam Bolger, Melbourne, Australia, 1998.

C A 61-year-old woman presented with a very long history of chronic tension in the shoulders and severe weekly migraine attacks and chronic insomnia. She had previously tried allopathic medicine, osteopathy, massage, acupuncture, and according to her "everything else possible." She came with a somewhat skeptical attitude because everything else she had tried provided only temporary relief. After the first session she was sleeping better and the tension had gone from her shoulders. She had also experienced a week without a migraine attack. After the second session her energy levels where very high, she was pain free and felt "wonderful". To date she has required no further sessions. Judith Smale, France, 1999.

In Conclusion

The Neurostructural Integration Technique® is a very powerful and effective advanced Bowen Therapy which can be used to resolve a plethora of health problems, both acute and chronic, in a gentle, timely and safe manner. Results are consistently long lasting for even the most severe and chronic cases.

Its place in the field of bodywork is well established, as evidenced by the many hundreds of practitioners around the world.

The Neurostructural Integration Technique® is held in high esteem for its remarkable clinical effectiveness and high level of dependability.

Further Information

For further information on NST training or practitioner information please contact Michael J. Nixon-Livy. His address is 7, rue du Docteur d'Argelos, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France. Telephone/facsimile number: +33 442 93 54 26. Further information on the technique can also be found at


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About Michael J Nixon-Livy

Michael J. Nixon-Livy is an international teacher and health practitioner who was born in Australia in 1954. He started his career in complementary medicine in 1974, in nutritional science, psychology, human relations and various bodywork therapies. He is an Applied Physiologist and has a Diploma in Solution Focused Therapy (Eriksonian therapy). In 1991 he started the process of choreographing the advanced principles of the late Australian bodywork genius, Tom Bowen, into a practical, dynamic and teachable system. In 1995 he completed this undertaking and the Neurostructural Integration Technique® was founded. Today he lives in France and teaches the Neurostructural Integration Technique® to professional health practitioners in Britain, Germany, the USA, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, France and Australia.

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