The Bowen Technique - Treating children with Asthma and Respiratory problems
Written by Alastair Rattray. Published on 25 April 2004.
A talk given to the Bowen Therapists European Register at the AGM on Sunday 5 October 2003
The Bowen Technique - Treating children with Asthma and Respiratory problems
The Child Asthma Project started because of the remarkable case of two-year-old "Tiger" in November 1999. Treating Tiger's mother at the Blenheim Project in Portobello Road, West London (an organisation providing support for people with drug and drink problems), she told me of her deep anxiety over Tiger's asthma. Tiger had suffered from asthma since a baby and was always wheezing and often having attacks, about every 10 days or so. Her steroid dosage had recently been increased (a very poor long-term prognosis), but as Tiger had reacted badly, her parents had decided to stop all medication.
Tiger was brought in the following week. Treating a moving body which declares everything you do as "ticklish" is a nightmare, and what appeared to be a pretty unsuccessful delivery of Tom Bowen's work, actually was a great success. Within about 10 minutes, the wheezing had declined considerably. Since that first treatment, Tiger has never suffered another asthma attack. She was treated several times after that initial treatment and is now a normal, healthy child.
Astounded by the easy success of this first treatment, I decided to research the effects of Bowen on children with asthma. The project range was to cover children up to about 14 as after that, changes such as puberty, stresses such as exams, relationships, teenage problems and adult workplace stresses, could add to the reasons for the asthma and complicate the treatment. With children up to 14, one is often treating for one condition only which makes it much easier to measure the effects of Bowen on that condition. Also, children often seem to respond quickly so, having a group with similar factors, a limited number of procedures used and a likely quick response seemed to make it a good environment to get clear results to take forward for further discussion with the medical profession.
A number of typical cases help to illustrate the similarity in results, while the triggers for the asthma attacks were quite different. Helen was a 13 year-old who had been an asthmatic all her life. She also had chronic sinusitis for the previous three years along with daily headaches and nosebleeds. If she started any illness, such as a cold, asthma always followed. She missed school, on average, at least one day a week and, typically, PE four out of five times. She could not go out with her friends as she was always feeling unwell. Her mother also had described her as "small". Helen received her first treatment on 1 August 2000. She responded immediately with the sinuses clearing somewhat by the end of the treatment. She received regular treatment for 5 weeks, by which time the nose bleeds had stopped and the headaches had gone. She was then treated only occasionally, but immediately if she developed any illness. Each time, she responded well. It was only about a month after starting that Helen was regularly going out with her friends. Only once did she develop an asthmatic cough but responded immediately to treatment. She was on regular daily medication but very soon they found that they were forgetting to administer it as she was so normal. She has never had another asthma attack. By November 2000 it was also noticeable that she had grown significantly. Helen's trigger for asthma was simply any illness, especially a cold.
Alex and Hannah had both been put on inhalers. Six year old Alex had regular, severe attacks similar to an asthma attack which was very frightening for the parents. He had been on his inhaler for 14 months. His three-year-old sister had been coughing all the time for 18 months. They both received one treatment. Within a few days both were back to normal and have not required either treatment nor medication since then.
Two year old Isabel, who appeared in Discovery Health's programme on Bowen and asthma, had been hospitalised four times and was frequently unwell. A week after her first treatment she went down with another cold and rapidly developed asthma. When I saw her, it was clear she needed to be taken to hospital as she was grey and wheezing, with no energy. One minute after the asthma procedure, she perked up, got down, asked for a drink and within five minutes was a normal smiling child again. She did have another turn a few weeks later but not nearly as severe and rapidly responded to Bowen.
Bliss was a 13 year old who suffered frequent asthma attacks leading to her being sent home from school every week. Her mother was not well, and Bliss had had to call an ambulance on two occasions when her mother had collapsed. It seemed that anxiety was the trigger for her as the attacks often started at 6.00 am on a Monday morning. She responded well to Bowen but then by the following Monday was unwell again. However, it became obvious that anxiety was not the probable trigger. When closely questioned, we found that she had lunch with her grandmother on Sundays. A large, favourite, very hairy dog was the trigger! Bliss would come home on Sunday evening and have her clothes in her room all night leading to the attack . The house was completely cleaned, visits to the dog stopped and the attacks stopped. Her recent visit to the doctor for a check up led to the comment after a test: "If I had not known you were an asthmatic, I would pass you fit for the army!" The family are delighted.
Henna is a seven-year-old who regularly needs her puffers, often in the mornings, whenever doing exercise, and last thing at night. Sometimes she also needs it during the night when she gets very wheezy. She responded immediately to Bowen. However, the wheezing would return spasmodically. It became obvious that she was a very anxious child as her whole back would become very tense. Both parents worked but an aunt was at home for them. It finally transpired that she was in the midst of moving from a small school where she was very settled to a school ten times larger. She was very happy at first and the wheezing virtually stopped. However, the new environment has created more tension again and so the wheezing has returned for the time being. This is a continuing case.
In September 2002, we created a web site, www.relieve-childhood-asthma.com (developed by Sota35 who are now offering a development and management package for therapists). This site has a considerable number of hits to its credit on a daily basis. There have been many requests for help and advice from around the world. Amongst these was a mother frightened by what appeared to be blood being brought up by her five year old. The hospital said she was OK but the mother was not convinced. However, there seemed to be no indications of temperature nor illness. When questioned by email it transpired the child had been eating beetroot!
One case arrived from a parent in Vietnam. The two-year-old son was having frequent asthma attacks and the medication was not working. His grandfather had died of an asthma attack and the mother said she was "very frightened. Please help!" There seemed to be only one solution for me. Either I took the next plane out to Vietnam or I tried to teach her how to do the asthma procedure by distance learning. Five days after the email was sent, the parent wrote "I have been practising all night, but how fast are the moves?" A few weeks later, when asked how things were going, she replied that the child was fine but that his six-year-old brother was having daily attacks and neither the medication nor the Bowen were working. Replying that there must therefore be a trigger, I listed the likely causes. She replied a few days later to say that no one had advised them to stop dairy products. As soon as they had done so, the child was 50% better each day. Soon after, a thank you note arrived to say both children were now fine and "we are all sleeping well again!" A few months later the six year old woke with a cough one night and asked for Bowen. He was fine in ten minutes. A computer book has now been developed to teach people in such countries how to administer the asthma procedure to children as many of the requests for help come from countries without Bowen therapists. Wherever possible, therapists are identified throughout the world.
There are many possible triggers for an asthma attack as the cases have illustrated. Amongst the most common are: a cold or illness, animal hair (cats, dogs, horses) dairy products which produce more mucus, stress/anxiety, cigarettes/dust/dust mite, physical exercise, rapid change of temperature (cold/hot) and in adults, excess alcohol. What has been clear throughout the project is that children have responded well and quickly to Bowen. However, we have always needed to spot the triggers to reduce the incidence as much as possible as well.
The results of the project have been very encouraging so far. Of the almost 50 cases treated, 26 are ones with enough history to be included in any report at this time, though we keep getting feedback from cases which have disappeared from time to time. They are always positive. Of those 26 cases, 22 are known to have responded very well. No case has been identified as not having any response at all. What has been noticeable is that the positive results have been the same whether medication is being taken or not.
Why does Bowen work so well? The Diaphragm is key to breathing in and out. It is dome- shaped and flattens to pull air into the lungs. It then relaxes to allow air to come out. When someone is wheezing, it is often because the Diaphragm is partially in spasm and not working fully. In an all-out asthma attack (the same applies to a panic attack), the Diaphragm goes into complete spasm, pulling air into the lungs, but not allowing any out. The use of the Bowen Emergency Asthma Procedure causes the energy being held by the Diaphragm to release, thereby allowing the person to breath normally again. There have been a number of cases where it has been used very successfully. The Emergency move is illustrated on the web site.
Also included on the web site is an excellent paper by Bernard Garrett about the need to identify and handle a case of acute respiratory attack as early as possible.
The strategy which has been used very successfully so far has been to treat the child maybe 3-4 weeks in a row, or at least until the situation is under control. Then they can be treated maybe every 2-3 weeks for a while until they are no longer wheezing, getting ill, and probably not needing to use their ventilator. It is essential that it is the Doctor who would decide when they no longer need to have medication. However, should the child become ill, catch a cold, or become wheezy at any time, they need to receive a Bowen treatment immediately, on day one. This is to ensure that the triggers do not kick-in and take over. This usually happens less and less frequently until the attacks seem to have stopped.
For children aged under about 6 years old, only the child asthma procedure needs to be used. This is a very powerful set of moves for a small child and sometimes leads to them simply going to sleep immediately afterwards. Wheezing and coughing can also reduce quickly.
Asthma in children involves the whole family and seems to hover like a great black cloud over everything they do. It causes many children to miss school, become ill on a regular basis as well as, potentially, leading to regular crises. Of all the conditions we treat, asthma is probably the one with the greatest potential for a sudden, life-threatening situation to develop. It is so easily treated with Bowen that all Bowen therapists need to look for the opportunities that are all around us. During the winter months especially, children catch colds more frequently and so the incidence of asthma attacks are even more frequent. We just need to find the cases that we can help so easily. They are all around us.
© Alastair Rattray
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