Animal Bowen (the Bowen technique adapted for animals): use of a gentle hands-on therapy for chronic musculoskeletal pain in dogs

      The Bowen Technique is a unique hands-on therapy developed by Tom Bowen of Australia in the 1950s–60s and adapted for use in animals by Carol Bennett in 1997. It consists of a specific sequence of gentle, precise rolling moves done with thumb and fingers over muscle and tendon edges, across the direction of tension. A short waiting period follows each set of moves. Definitive mechanism(s) of action remains to be identified; however, autonomic nervous system modulation (heart rate variability studies) has been documented in humans. The technique has also been reported effective for back, hip, neck, and shoulder pain in human studies. Five geriatric dogs (13–16 years old) of various breeds were presented in a case series at a small animal clinic for primary complaints of stiffness, poor ambulation, and difficulty lying down/getting up. Four had hindlimb proprioceptive deficits; three had arthritic changes to coxofemoral joints and/or lumbar spine; three showed active indicators of pain (chronic pacing/panting; irritability; social withdrawal). All were on NSAID and/or nutritional therapy with unsatisfactory results. One dog had acupuncture weekly for over 1 year but no longer tolerated the needles. Treatment consisted of Animal Bowen at weekly or biweekly intervals. Three dogs were pain scored [0–10; average starting score 6.7 ± 0.6 (mean ± S.D.); range 6–7] by owner before and after treatment. All five dogs showed significant positive changes in attitude, and four had notable improvement in ease of ambulation, after the first treatment. Improvement was progressive over treatment course. Average post-treatment score was 2.3 ± 2.1 (0, 3, 4); average pain score reduction was 4.3 ± 1.5 (range 3–6) after two to six treatments for the three dogs scored. One dog had complete resolution of hindlimb lameness of 5 years duration after three sessions. Animal Bowen, used alone or in conjunction with standard analgesics and other treatments, can be an effective therapy for chronic musculoskeletal conditions in dogs.
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