The Differences Between Bowen Therapy & Massage

As a Bowen Therapy Practitioner, few people know about or understand what Bowen Therapy is. Although, it is starting to become more known, there needs to be  a lot more education and awareness (both to other health practitioners and the public) before it becomes well known like remedial massage, acupuncture, and other health care modalities.

When I’m asked what I do for work, if I answer with ”I am a remedial massage therapist” the conversation keeps flowing. However, if I say “I’m a Bowen Therapist,” I will 90% of the time get a response, “what is that?”

Whilst Bowen Therapy and Massage have similarities such as promoting relaxation, reducing stress, muscular tension/ stiffness / pain, reducing headaches, improving mobility and circulation they also have some key differences.


Bowen Therapy

  • Bowen Therapy (Bowtech Bowen) sessions comprise of a series of gentle movements over soft tissue – muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Between each set of move, the practitioner pauses for a couple of minutes for the client’s body to respond (this is when a client may feel sensations e.g. warmth, coolness, tingling however, it is very individual). Once the body has responded, the next moves are done.
  • Bowen Therapy addresses the entire body, rather than focusing on a single complaint.
  • It is very gentle, subtle and calming, making it a great treatment for all ages including babies and elderly. It requires minimal pressure and minimal intervention with no vigorous manipulation.
  • Bowen Therapy assists with emotional issues such as anxiety, hormonal issues such as menopause and digestive issues such as constipation, plus more.
  • No oil is used in a Bowen Therapy session, and light clothing may be worn.
  • Treatment lasts between 45-60 mins
  • There are very few contraindications with Bowen Therapy



  • Massage is a very hands on treatment.
  • There are different styles of massage
  • Depending on a clients presentation, the massage will focus on a single complaint or address the entire body with a full body massage.
  • The pressure is suited to the client
  • Oils are used in treatment.
  • A client can choose the length of treatment.


Both Bowen Therapy and Massage are fantastic treatments and can play a vital role in your physical and mental wellbeing.

The Different Types of Oncology Massage

The word massage brings up differing ideas for many people. With an abundance of techniques on offer how do you know what is right for you, especially if you have had extensive medical intervention such as treatment for cancer? Oncology massage isn’t necessarily a technique, but more an adaptation of techniques so they are appropriate for the changes that have occurred once treatment for cancer has taken place.

During treatment:

In the cancer treatment phase, the focus of oncology massage is on relaxation and allowing a place of calm where the body can heal. The body is already undergoing extensive medical intervention, so the last thing it needs is a vigorous massage where it requires a few days to heal post the massage itself.  Gone are the days where feeling sore after your massage is something to gloat about. If you are currently in the treatment phase for cancer, then restorative, relaxing, therapeutic massage is more beneficial. At this point in time think about the benefits that oncology massage can bring such as reducing pain, anxiety, depression, nausea and fatigue (Cassileth & Vickers 2004). Easing bowel issues associated with chemotherapy, pain medication or immobility is probably not what you think of when dreaming about a massage, yet is one of the greatest benefits patients talk about.

For rehabilitation:

Post cancer treatment, when you enter the rehabilitation phase, massage should be more about improving range of motion, allowing scar tissue to integrate nicely into the fascial network, improve sleep patterns and energy levels and helping you achieve a better quality of life by reducing the lingering side effects of your treatment.  This may also include things such as oncology sports massage where patients who are running marathons, dragon boat racing or getting back into shape can have appropriate pre game, post game and conditioning massage whilst still taking into consideration any long term changes that occurred to the body due to their cancer treatment, such as bone density loss, lymph node removal and scar tissue formation.

In palliation:

Palliative massage is taking it back a step to relax the body and improve quality of life. A more tranquil massage helps calm the nervous system, easing pain, allowing for more restful sleep and peaceful being. This takes into account the many medications a patient might be on helping to improve comfort at this time. Fragile skin, easy bruising, pain and restlessness are easily dealt with by the skilled hands of a therapist trained in oncology massage.

Lets be honest…..all massage is essentially about quality of life!  So no matter where you are on the roller coast ride post a cancer diagnosis, oncology massage is a suitable treatment that is easily adapted to best suit your needs and requirements. And as those needs and requirements change, your therapist will just keep adapting.

Living Well With Lipoedema

Have you ever heard the term Lipoedema? Chances are you haven’t, but I’m sure you’ve seen women who suffer with this condition and noticed the unusual characteristics of its presentation.

What is Lipoedema?

Lipoedema is a chronic disease which affects up to 11% of the female population (you read that right!), yet it is barely recognised by the medical fraternity and is often misdiagnosed as obesity or Lymphoedema. It is a symmetrical build-up of fat tissue predominantly in the legs and arms, though it can present in almost any part of the body.

What are the symptoms of Lipoedema?

  • Symmetrical accumulation of fatty tissue in the legs and/or arms, not including feet/hands. There can be fat rings around the ankles or wrists (cankles)
  • Texture of skin is soft, like a baby’s
  • Legs can be very sensitive to touch
  • Easy bruising
  • Fat pads can occur at the hips and knees
  • Hypermobility
  • Aching and pain, especially on the inner thighs and knees
  • Decreased mobility
  • Diet and exercise have little effect on the affected areas
  • Symptoms generally start at times of hormonal change, ie, puberty, pregnancy and menopause
  • Small waist and upper body in comparison to the lower half

When I first learnt about Lipoedema in 2006 there was little research, if any, and we were taught that Lipoedema was a condition where there were too many fat cells which were diseased and continued to grow. Now there is research which suggests that these diseased fat cells are encased by connective tissue.  This is important because it could be part of the explanation as to why diet does not reduce the size and appearance of the fat.

How to Live Well With Lipoedema?

Getting a diagnosis is difficult.  Sufferers of Lipoedema are often told by their GPs they are fat and need to diet and exercise more, even when they explain that they have been doing these things already with no result.  There is often fat shaming, which can lead to depression, anxiety and loss of self-esteem.

A physio or OT who specialises in lymphatics will be able to diagnose.  There are a few GPs, vascular specialists, podiatrists and plastic surgeons who may be able to identify it, but these are few and far between.

You don’t need a diagnosis to start conservatively treating Lipoedema if you suspect you have it.  Here a few things that are recommended:

  • Psychological/emotional support
  • Following an anti-inflammatory way of eating. While this doesn’t alter the shape of the legs it can help with pain management and general health
  • Exercise in whatever way you can manage – walking in water is one of the best ways to manage the condition but whatever exercise you enjoy is best, as long as it doesn’t cause you pain
  • Compression therapy – stockings and pumps
  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage
  • Dry brushing/opening lymph nodes

Gather a team of natural therapists to help manage your Lipoedema:

  • Remedial Massage Therapist with training in Manual Lymphatic Drainage – ask them about their qualifications and experience with Lipoedema
  • Physiotherapist/OT with training in Manual Lymphatic Drainage
  • Nutritionist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Osteopath/chiropractor

There are numerous Support Groups available online, some of whom hold regular catch ups.

The 4th Lipoedema Australia National Conference is being held in Sydney from 17-19 June 2022.  This is a fantastic opportunity to meet other Lipoedema sufferers and hear the latest in research and treatment options.

Combining Massage & Floatation (REST) Reduced Environment Stimulation Therapy) Sessions


For a comprehensive body mind recovery session, I cannot go past recommending this combination to Clients!

As a massage therapist at City Cave Bella Vista, I am always advising my clients how fabulous it would be to have a float session after their massage treatment. You are now primed for the experience, your body is flooded with neurotransmitters, you are feeling blissful, calm, Reduction in muscular tension, Reduction in stress hormone cortisol, feeling good. Now let’s take your recovery to the next level, Put on a your robe walk to your float room where you shower and step into a shallow pool saturated with generous amount of Magnesium sulphate ( 400kgs Epsom salt ) water is set at body temperature , You are now Floating.

There is a lot of positive research on the affects of floatation on mental health

The most recent article that I read on a study reporting the benefits of Floatation Session – 31 Participants with High Anxiety sensitivity.

Floatation ” Generated a significant anxiolytic effect characterize by reduction in state of anxiety and muscle tension and increases in feelings of relaxation and serenity. Significate blood pressure reductions “. (1)

This is ideal for Mood disorders including PTSD. The above study registered with participants that were both medicated and non-medicated.

A great Stress Reducer, it is another tool to use as a support mechanism in our daily lives.

Let talk about Magnesium,

The high concentration of magnesium sulphates in the water in float pools helps regulate some important minerals in the body like calcium, potassium, and sodium – Magnesium natural muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory all putting yourself in a better position to drift off to sleep.

Most frequently found in studies is the increase in Theta- Activity, (brainwave state)

Theta waves are high-amplitude but slow-cycling brain waves — frequenting only 4-7 times per second. Theta waves are associated with dreaming sleep, super learning, creativity, daydreaming, and deep meditation. (Ideal for creativity, insight & inspiration) when your brain is producing theta brain waves, you will feel deeply, deeply relaxed. (2)

Anxiety, Muscular Tension, Mood Disorders and Insomnia are positively affected by Floatation.

The overall feeling is that together the benefits overlap with Massage Therapy and Floatation (REST) making them a power couple for all of us in needs of Reduced Stress, Increase creativity.


(1) The elicitation of relaxation and interoceptive awareness using floatation therapy in individuals with high anxiety sensitivity. Justin S. Feinstein, Sahib S. Khalsa, Hung Yeh, Obada Al Zoubi, Armen C Arevian, Colleen Wohlrab, Marie K. Pantino, Laci J Cartmell, W. Kyle Simmons, Murray B. Stein and Martin P Paulus.

(2) Curing the sick and creating supermen – How relaxation in floatation tanks is advertise on the internet – Kristoffer Jonsson, Anette Kjellgren

-European Journal of Integrative Medicine 6 (2014) 601-609

How oncology massage differs from other massage

Massage therapist performing massage on patient

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, just the diagnosis alone can send them into a state of anxiety, grief or fear. Add the pressures that come with regional treatments (surgery or radiation therapy) or systemic treatments (chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy) and the body undergoes changes that can be life long.  Research is showing that massage may offer great results with anxiety, depression, pain, nausea and fatigue, as well as helping achieve improved range of motion in restricted areas, sleep and a sense of wellbeing. However, massage needs to be appropriately adapted to make sure no harm is done to a body that is already undergoing extensive medical treatment or suffering long lasting side effects.

Regular remedial massage is often too deep and vigorous even long term post treatment.  You may be someone who enjoyed regular massage prior to your diagnosis, however finding a therapist who is qualified in oncology massage will benefit you greatly now that a diagnosis has occurred. Bone density loss, platelet count, lymph node biopsy/removal/radiation and fatigue levels are just some of the things a massage therapist should be asking you about prior to determining your treatment. Nerve sensitivity or chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy could be flared up if too much massage is received to an area. A qualified therapist will also ask you about any bowel aggravation caused by chemotherapy, pain meds, scars or reduced mobility. Not a conversation you might usually have with your massage therapist, however one you will benefit from once you experience an abdominal massage.

Often times, massage is seen as just a luxury. Patients wonder why we need to gather so much information about their medical history. When massage is appropriately applied, the benefits are great. However, a body undergoing or having undergone extensive medical intervention can be overloaded with massage and end up feeling worse.  Oncology massage is not a one size fits all prescription.  Each and every treatment will be modified for the patient dependant on where they are in treatment and the side effects they are currently feeling. Positioning on the massage table may also be modified due to surgical sites, lymphoedema, pain, nausea and medical devices such as ports, catheters or stomas.

Oncology Massage and Lymphatic Drainage are not the same.  You may find that an oncology massage therapist is also trained as a lymphedema therapist however these two treatments are very different. An oncology massage therapist is trained to deliver a safe massage to someone whose lymphatic system is under additional pressure due to lymph node biopsy, removal or radiation therapy.  They make sure that pressure and direction of massage techniques do not overload an already compromised system.

 Many oncology massage therapists are also trained to work with scar tissue. Scars can be restrictive not only to local muscles and joints but can also create a pull through fascia that creates issues further afield. Scars can be tender or even painful and sometimes it is the look of a scar that creates an emotional trauma.  All of this can be a negative impact on patients long-term quality of life. An oncology massage may involve work on the scar to improve range of motion, reduce pain, improve the look of the scar and help patients get back to doing daily tasks and hobbies with greater ease.