Asthma and Bowen


   IMG_4082Asthma is a distressing condition which affects the airways in the lungs and causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest.

People with asthma have sensitive airways which become inflamed when exposed to a trigger and irritants.  As the symptoms worsen, the diaphragm and other inspiratory muscles begins to work faster and harder to help draw air into the narrowed airways. This can cause the diaphragm to become tighter and weaker especially when air becomes trapped in the swollen airways – known as hyperinflation.[1]

During an asthma attack, other muscles (known as accessory muscles) are also recruited to help with respiration including the ribs, neck, back and abdomen and over time with uncontrolled asthma, all these muscles can also become chronically tight, weak and compromised. Any dysfunction in the thorax will have an adverse effect on the overall body mechanisms.[2] A study carried out to determine the correlation between pulmonary function, posture and body composition in patients with asthma, concluded that adults with asthma display specific postural disorders that correlate with lung function and body alignment. [3]

The diaphragm is not only the main muscle for respiration but it also acts as a pump for the circulatory system and assists in fluid dynamics throughout the body.  In uncontrolled asthma the diaphragm may be under constant contraction, just like any overworked muscle and will not be able to relax. This will not only have an influence on effective breathing but also on circulation too.

Other studies have shown that stress is also another trigger for asthma.  Children shown to be suffering with chronic stress who are further exposed to a negative event showed a significant increased risk of new asthma attacks. [4]

How can Bowen Help?

Bowen offers assistance to asthma sufferers by working on all aspects of the breathing mechanism, including the ribs, spine, diaphragm and other muscles of breathing. This will improve the overall breathing dynamics of that individual, improve the circulation and assist in reducing symptoms.

During an asthma attack there is also an inflammatory response to allergens which cause the airways to swell and narrow. This inflammatory reaction of the body is an autonomic nervous system response. It is evident that the nervous system has connections with the immune system through various communication transmitters and hormones allowing the system to detect and regulate inflammatory responses to maintain health. The parasympathetic nervous system can apply its anti-inflammatory effect via the vagal nerve pathway. [5] Among many of the functions of the vagus nerve, it is responsible for regulating heart rate and breathing and is also a major player in regulating inflammation.

Specific Bowen moves act on the nervous system and also the vagus nerve which helps create relaxation and calming effects throughout the body.

Case Study

Ryan is a typical example of how Bowen can help with asthma.  Ryan is a four year old who had been suffering with asthma symptoms for most of his life.  He was a chesty baby since birth and was initially in the special care baby unit where he was treated with antibiotics before discharge home. He continued to have respiratory and nasal problems ever since and was admitted for a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy at the age of 3. When he presented to the Bowen Clinic, he was experiencing acute attacks of asthma at least every month and was unable to run about without coughing, wheezing, getting out of breath and resorting to using his inhaler.  He was also waking up every night with a cough and suffered with hayfever which exacerbated his asthma.  He was using regular asthma medication and also required oral steroids every time he had an acute attack.

After his first session of Bowen his Mother notice a marked improvement. He was able to run and jump about without symptoms and began sleeping throughout the night from 6pm -7am. His breathing had also become noticeable quieter and calmer. He also had an episode of vomiting when he bought up a lot of mucus.  He had not used his reliever inhaler since his first session. Ryan had 2 sessions of Bowen.

Ryan returned to clinic 2 months later in the month of May as he had recently contracted scarlet fever which had affected his asthma control. He would have usually started with hay-fever symptoms this time of year but so far he was symptom free. His reliever use was still very infrequent.

This case history shows how Bowen therapy may help in asthma and childhood respiratory illnesses.

It is also very effective in helping newborns who may be congested and full of mucus which they are unable to cough up or suffering with colic. Babies can also be quite unsettled, stressed and jangled after birth especially following a difficult delivery and Bowen can very effective in these cases.

Author: Nicola Wybrow


Bowen is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment and medication should not be discontinued or adjusted without medical advice or supervision by a GP or suitably trained nurse / practitioner. Asthma is a condition that is self-managed according to symptoms and severity following consultation, education and review by a trained medical practitioner.  Bowen practitioners will not and cannot advise on medication.




[1] Mechanisms of hyperinflation in asthma: Cormier Y, Lecours r, Legris C; Eur Respir Journal. 1990 June 3(6):619-24


[3] Correlation between pulmonary function, posture, and body composition in patients with asthma

[4] The role of acute and chronic stress in asthma attacks in children: The Lancet Volume 356, Issue 9234, 16 September 2000: 982–987


[5] Restoring the Balance of the Autonomic Nervous System as an Innovative Approach to the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis:  Freida A Koopman, Suzanne P Stoof et al: Molecular Medicine. 2011 Sept-October; 17(9-10): 937-948

May 2015