Today’s Therapist International Trade Journal - Issue 59 Jul Aug 2009
The Bowen Technique - Pain in the neck becomes history by Janie Godfrey
It is always a delight when a treatment relieves someone of pain that has been plaguing them for years, even decades. As complementary therapists, we probably see a greater percentage of patients who report having ‘tried everything’ and who have been in pain for a considerable period of time – mainly because we are one of the last stops on the ‘tried everything’ train!
This was the case with hairdresser, Gladys Rideout. She was long accustomed to just living with the pain, as nothing seemed to relieve it. She started work in hairdressing in the early 1960’s. She was fine for a few years, then found that in the colder weather she would get bouts of fibrositis, a condition marked by inflammation of the white fibrous
connective tissue, such as muscle sheaths, that results in pain and stiffness.
This was concentrated in her shoulders and arms, particularly the left shoulder. At first, she would use a hot water bottle to ease the pain. But as she got older, so it would get more painful in the winter.
The doctor gave her painkillers, which helped for a time but by the time she was 50, she was always in some sort of pain. It had really focused in her neck as a result of the way she was standing and working with her left arm lifted up nearly all the time.
At this point she was diagnosed with cervical spondylitis, as the doctor was sure it was degenerative disease rather than inflammatory disease. In this condition, the discs and the facet joints become worn. The degree of wear varies from person to person, but what is happening is that the discs become thinner and this causes the spaces between the vertebrae to become narrower.
In addition, spurs of bone can form at the edges of the vertebrae and the facet joints. The nearby muscles, ligaments, and nerves can become irritated by these degenerative changes.
Symptoms can vary from mild to severe and there can be flare-ups with over-use of the neck, or if a neck muscle or ligament is sprained. The typical symptoms that will be brought to your clinic include: Pain in the neck. This may spread to the base of the skull and shoulders. Movement of the neck may make the pain worse. The pain sometimes spreads down an arm to a hand or fingers. This is caused by irritation of a nerve which goes to the arm from the spinal cord in the neck. The pain tends to wax and wane with flare-ups from time to time. However, some people develop chronic (persistent) pain. Some neck stiffness, particularly after a night's rest.
Headaches from time to time. The headaches often start at the back of the head just above the neck and travel over the top to the forehead.
Numbness, pins and needles or weakness may occur in part of the arm or hand. (Be sure the patient has seen a doctor about this symptom, particularly).
When Gladys came for Bowen treatment, she had great pain in the left shoulder/neck area, which she had had “as long as I can remember”. This was undoubtedly due to the constant use of her arm over the decades of being a hairdresser, but she had been retired for 9 years and the pain and inflammation in this area were still there, despite two steroid injections.
Her left shoulder, at the point just before it curves up to the neck, had a swelling about the size of a small plum, which was painful and hard feeling.
At its worst, pain would radiate up her neck into the back of her head and her face would go red on the left side. In addition, when moving her left arm, she would get tingling down the centre of her back.
The Bowen Technique has some procedures that address Gladys’ sort of problem brilliantly. The trapezius muscle is repeatedly addressed at different points during what is called ‘Page Two’, which also has moves which perform a little semi-circle over rhomboid major, rhomboid minor and then drop over the end of levator scapula. These moves aim to create more freedom of movement between the scapula and the spine and the scapula and the neck.
Also, the upper section of trapezius, at the back of the neck, is treated again with gentle moves that complete the initial Bowen treatment while also going over the underlying splenius capitis. The results are relaxed muscles, freer fascia and increased blood and lymph circulation.
After her first Bowen treatment, Gladys was very tender down the left side of her back and neck the day after. The swelling on the left shoulder disappeared on the second day after treatment and she could move her arm “amazingly” – right round behind her back, even. The neck/shoulder area was still a bit tender but “nothing like it was”. She had not had any episodes of her face going red on the left side since the Bowen treatment.
This resolution has held for some years now with only a few brief recurrences of some of the problems and these were always after strenuous activity, i.e., lifting heavy things, or the preparations, work and excitement for a family wedding. These recurrences cleared quickly on their own.
For about a year after this resolution, Gladys would come for periodic Bowen treatments, about every 8 weeks or so but now, she just rings if she has a problem – and I haven’t seen her for well over 18 months, so she must be doing just fine.
© E.C.B.S & Janie Godfrey Janie Godfrey is a Bowen Technique practitioner in Frome and has been in practice since 1999.
Contents provided by the European School of Bowen Studies (ECBS)
For further details about the Bowen Technique please contact Karen on 01954 260 982 / 07714 995 299 or email info@BowenByKaren.co.uk