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Why getting closer to your toes will keep you going to the gym
March 2012 - European College of Bowen Studies
If you can't touch your toes and experience hip, back, knee or ankle pain, it's almost certainly due to having short hamstrings.
Many people have short hamstrings, which in time can lead to long-term back pain. In the shorter term, can make many forms of exercise more painful and difficult to recover from" commented Julian Baker, a teacher and practitioner of the Bowen Technique.
A major breakthrough in treating hamstring injuries and their limited flexibility means this could all change. The advance in therapy means people who are unable to touch their toes could now do so.
The implications of reaching your toes are huge according to the director of the European College of Bowen studies, who describes this development as the impossible dream for sports therapists and athletes.
Hamstring problems are not only one of the most common and time-consuming injuries to treat in athletes; they are also indicated in back pain and sciatica.
A recently published study by Coventry University showed the application of The Bowen Technique to have improved the long-term flexibility of hamstrings significantly, after only one treatment.
The study tracked the physical progress of 116 people whose hamstring performance was first measured electronically while performing a straight leg raise. They were then treated once and followed up with a second measurement after seven days.
"I'm astonished by the long-term effects of this therapy treatment" added Julian."I had expected some of the immediate improvements to drop away, but for most of those who trialled the therapy to maintain and increase their flexibility was a real surprise.”
Research from the trial shows that not only did the Bowen Technique treatment significantly increase hamstring flexibility, but these changes held and even increased over seven days, without further treatment.
"Achieving improvement in such a short time frame is an impressive result for any physical research. The hamstrings are completely key to the body's well-being - if they are suitably flexible, they will reduce pain levels and the incidence of injury.
The Bowen Technique is a treatment, which addresses body tension, allowing reduced pain and better movement. The treatment involves light rolling movements over muscles, ligaments and tendons. Short breaks between moves are a feature of the technique, which works by connecting the body's nervous systems, allowing the brain to regulate pain signals.
After using it to recover from breaking his back during SAS parachute training, the adventurer Bear Grylls described himself as 'hooked' on the Bowen Technique.
The European College of Bowen Studies Website can be found at
February 2012 by BBC Radio 2 Presenter Janey Lee Grace
It’s official – four out of five of us suffer with back pain at some point in our lives and specifically lower back pain. It can be totally debilitating and can strike at any time, and accounts for massive loss of income and productivity as people take time off work.
Dr Hilary Jones was talking about this recently and alongside drugs he rather sensibly suggested that good posture can play a part, alongside trying treatments such as massage and acupuncture. I couldn’t let that comment go without doing yet another big up for the ‘Bowen technique’. I’ve been banging on about it for years and in my defence Tim Smith who works alongside me on the radio admitted he’d had some treatments for a frozen shoulder and been amazed at its effectiveness.
I first came across Bowen when I was pregnant with my second child. Helpful midwives and friends all cheerily informed me that back pain was common in pregnancy, and “not to worry, it will probably go after the birth.” I didn’t particularly care for two more months of mild agony, so I decided to try the Bowen technique.
Fiona Meekes, the Bowen practitioner I saw was a calmly confident former NHS Director of Nursing. “Bowen is not a miracle,” she told me, “but it is amazing! It was devised by Australian Tom Bowen, working alongside osteopaths before developing the treatment on animals”. (At this point my shoulders tensed a little).
She goes on… “Some physios, osteopaths and doctors are now training to practise Bowen too.” She had a track record in successfully treating back pain, RSI, migraine, hayfever, arthritis, MS, and many other conditions. “Sometimes one treatment is all that’s needed,” she told me. Chequebook in hand, I vehemently decided that I was all hers.
Bowen is amazingly gentle and done fully clothed. The therapist gently ‘rolls’ muscles and then leaves you for a few moments to allow your body to ‘take on the information’. This is the point where you may suspect a charlatan at work, but apparently it “allows the body’s energies solo space in which to heal.”
Feeling greatly relaxed, 20 minutes later I had to pace around the room and drink lots of water. So had Bowen convinced my body to decide to heal its own muscular problems? Well I had limped in to see her as if carrying the weight of the world on my lumber region but lo, after the session I leaped up the steps from the basement treatment room like a veritable miracle from the New Testament!
I’ve since recommended it both on and off the radio to hundreds of people. I wish I’d kept a file of letters and emails from people thanking me for the recommendation and saying how it’s cured or greatly alleviated their symptoms, some of them have suffered with pain for many years and had been about to have surgery. One 85-year-old man had been told it was unlikely he would walk again. He went on to drive, walk and indeed play golf! A treatment (in London) usually costs around £50 but the beauty is you rarely need more than three.
Tackling the source of back pain