What is Bowen therapy?

A comprehensive guide to Bowen therapy and whether it's covered by your health insurance.


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Bowen therapy is a natural, holistic remedial technique that is used to treat musculoskeletal or related neurological problems. Also known as Bowen technique, it is a non-invasive therapy that focuses on the body’s soft connective tissue.

If you’re undergoing treatment from a Bowen therapist, you may be able to claim a rebate for the service cost from your private health fund. The good news is that Bowen therapy is covered by many Australian health funds. Read on to find out how the therapy works and what health cover is available.

What is Bowen therapy?

Bowen therapy aims to treat the causes rather than the symptoms of health problems. It consists of a series of gentle, subtle moves performed on the body’s muscles and connective tissues, with no forceful manipulation involved. It can be used to reduce pain, improve mobility and treat everything from acute sports injuries to chronic conditions.

While many health funds cover the therapy, it's important to note that the Department of Health’s 2015 Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance found that “the effectiveness of Bowen therapy in improving health outcomes in people with any clinical condition is unknown”.

Citing a clear lack of high-quality research, the report advised that future research, if conducted, should focus on assessing the effectiveness and safety of Bowen therapy in specific patient populations.

Is Bowen therapy covered by private health insurance?

Bowen therapy is covered under the extras cover policies offered by a number of Australian health funds – you can see a full list of those funds below. Bowen therapy is typically included in the natural or alternative therapies cover section of an extras policy, and you’ll typically need to choose a high-level extras policy if you want a rebate for Bowen therapy treatment.

The maximum amount you can claim for Bowen therapy will also depend on the policy you select. As well as an individual annual limit on the amount you can claim for Bowen therapy, your fund may also impose a combined annual limit on the maximum amount you can claim for all natural therapies. Make sure you’re aware of these limits before assessing your treatment options.

Find health insurance policies with natural therapies cover

How can I make sure my health fund covers Bowen therapy?

If your extras policy covers Bowen therapy, you may need to satisfy a few other conditions to ensure that your health fund will provide a rebate. Some funds will only pay your claim if you are treated by a therapist who has completed a Diploma in Bowen Therapy at an Australian Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

In other cases your claim will only be paid if the provider is a member of the Bowen Association of Australia, the Bowen Therapists Federation of Australia or the Australian Traditional Medicine Society Limited, so check with your fund for any requirements.

Finally, you will also have to serve a waiting period before you can claim any benefits, with most funds imposing a two-month waiting period on all natural therapies.

Which funds offer cover for Bowen therapy?

The following funds provide cover for Bowen therapy treatment:

What are the benefits of the therapy?

  • Gentle and non-invasive. There is no forceful manipulation involved in Bowen therapy. It is a gentle and non-invasive technique used to improve overall health.
  • Relaxing. Many patients find Bowen therapy relaxing and claim that it can help relieve stress.
  • Treats a wide range of conditions. Bowen therapy can be used to treat a wide range of health issues, including everything from sports injuries and back pain to migraines and fibromyalgia.
  • Safe. Bowen therapy is safe to use on everyone from newborns to the elderly.

What conditions can Bowen therapy be used to treat?

Bowen therapy can be used to treat a wide range of health problems, including:

    • Back pain and sciatica
    • Acute sports injuries
    • Neck/shoulder problems
    • Knee, ankle and foot problems
    • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
    • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
    • Tennis elbow
    • Digestive and bowel problems including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Earache and migraines
  • Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Stress disorders
  • Asthma
  • Rehabilitation following stroke
  • Pelvic tilt and uneven leg length

How was Bowen therapy developed?

The history of Bowen therapy can be traced back to Geelong, Victoria, in the 1950s, where it was developed by a man named Tom Bowen. Although he had never received any formal training in any bodywork modality, Tom knew that soft-tissue manipulation could produce many positive benefits for a patient’s overall health and wellbeing.

Tom started using his own techniques to treat workmates part time and as word spread he eventually set up a full-time practice. Through this practice he developed what is now known as Bowen therapy (or Bowen technique).

Today, the Bowen Association of Australia (BAA) comprises 695 Bowen therapy practitioners around Australia, and this natural therapy has spread to more than 30 countries around the world.

What to expect with Bowen therapy

If you’re planning on receiving Bowen therapy treatment, make sure you choose a therapist who is properly registered with the Bowen Association of Australia.

A Bowen treatment session typically involves a range of small movements at varying gentle pressures, each of which is performed on various areas of the body. Treatment involves light cross-fibre manipulation of muscles, tendons and ligaments, with no force or excessive pressure applied.

Treatments usually last for between 30 minutes and one hour, with the Bowen therapist sometimes leaving the room for short periods to give your body a chance to respond to treatment.

As Bowen therapy is not an ongoing therapy, patients may experience relief after one session. However, patients with chronic conditions may need additional treatment sessions.

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