Sandra Gustafson MHS BSN RN
Practitioner and Instructor

What is Bowenwork?

Bowenwork is a gentle, soft-tissue bodywork technique that resets dysfunctional myofascial tensions and facilitates the body’s innate healing mechanisms. Bowenwork affects the nervous system, inducing a shift towards deep relaxation by resetting the autonomic nervous system (ANS) from sympathetic (fight/flight) dominance to a more parasympathetic (relax/restore) state. This influences optimal function of internal organs with improved digestion and assimilation of nutrients, capillary circulation, tissue healing, reduction of tissue swelling and elimination of waste products from the body.

The late Mr. Tom Bowen, from Geelong, Australia, developed his technique from the 1950s – 1980s and helped thousands of people including infants, children and adults, disabled and elderly folk, with a variety of acute and chronic conditions. Bowenwork is now taught and practiced in many countries worldwide.

How is Bowenwork performed?

The technique is performed in a unique, minimalist fashion that involves the practitioner applying series of light, rolling moves over specific areas of skin, fascia, muscles, tendons and ligaments, which are then interspersed with short hands-off pauses to allow the body to integrate the effects of the work. Bowenwork is usually performed through loose, light clothing (i.e., people do not need to undress) and without application of massage oils or lotions to the skin. Clients usually lie on a bed or massage table, or can be seated comfortably to receive the work. A session usually lasts between 20 – 45 minutes and a series of 2 – 3 sessions, one week apart, is often recommended to address most clients’ symptoms. Due to its profound relaxation effects, Bowenwork is effective in helping reduce stress and pain, optimizing the body’s functional and healing capacity, and can be used for a wide range of conditions.

What is Bowenwork helpful for?

As a Bowenwork practitioner for over 24 years, Sandra has used the technique for patients who were on long-term pharmaceutical medications for migraine, fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, chronic back, neck or shoulder pain, among other health conditions. Bowenwork moves affect the brain and nervous systems’ control of tension in muscles and soft tissues; improving neck, spinal, arm and leg range of motion and facilitate optimal postural alignment. As a result of its calming effects on the nervous system, many patients experience significant pain reduction, regain physical function and mobility, and improved quality of life. Additionally, they may require less pain medication.

Chronic inflammation and pain

Clients living with chronic pain pose a significant challenge for healthcare practitioners and their care-givers. Prolonged pain and inflammation have deleterious effects on physical, psychological and emotional health, and lead to decreased ability to perform activities of daily living and enjoyment and quality of life. Gentle, relaxing bodywork, like Bowenwork, helps to down-regulate hypersensitivity, reduce swelling, and improve a client’s ability to cope with painful conditions.

Scar tissue

Bowenwork may help to reduce scar tissue due to its effect on freeing fascia that is adhered and fibrosed. In his speech at the 2015 American Massage Therapy Association national convention, ice-skating legend and Olympic medalist, Scott Hamilton (supporter of Pituitary Network Association!) attributes the extensive bodywork that he received on scar tissue, after undergoing abdominal surgery for cancer treatment, to his ability to return to his career as a star ice-skater and perform complex and tricky maneuvers such as back-flips on the ice!

How can Bowenwork support pituitary health?

According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Psycho-Oncology, relaxation and mind-body techniques appear to be supportive as adjuvant therapy in cancer treatment for helping patients cope with stress and treating neuropsychiatric symptoms such as mood changes and depression. The pituitary gland is intimately involved in stress-responses, particularly via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). Bowenwork can help reduce anxiety and the ‘fight/flight’ responses that can trigger over-activation of the HPA, and is a safe, complementary therapy to support patients during pre- and post-treatment for pituitary disorders and coping with side effects of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

How can I find a Bowenwork practitioner?

Certified Bowenwork practitioners are listed on the American Bowen Academy website:

Sandra Gustafson can be contacted at: bw******@so***.net or visit her website:

Sandra Gustafson MHS BSN RN has worked in integrative medicine for over 25 years, before it was even called by that name.
Over the past two decades, patient-driven demands for more inclusive healthcare programs have led to conventional medicine seeking ways to incorporate
the holistic views and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to support medical diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

Sandra’s career began as a registered nurse, specializing in emergency and intensive care, followed by a 4-year study of naturopathy,
and a Master of Health Sciences degree. Along the way, she discovered Bowenwork, an Australian bodywork technique that nurtures the
body’s innate ability to heal, reset dysfunctional tension patterns and improve postural alignment.

Today, as a nurse, holistic healthcare consultant and Bowenwork practitioner in an integrative healthcare office in Santa Rosa, CA,
Sandra works with clients to facilitate optimal health and recovery using her skills in nursing, nutrition, herbal medicine and Bowenwork.

Bowenwork is a gentle, relaxing bodywork technique that supports the whole body in restoring wellbeing. It works primarily through the application of light
‘rolling moves’ over specific locations on the body that interact with the nervous, muscular and fascial systems, sending signals through the tissues
that ‘the emergency/stress is over’ and facilitates a shift in the autonomic (unconscious) nervous system, enabling the body to rest, repair and restore.

In the early 1990’s, a client came to see Sandra for chronic back pain and joint discomfort. Sandra recognized that the client’s hands, feet and face
seemed to be enlarged, and referred her to an endocrinologist for further investigation. The client was diagnosed with acromegaly due to a posterior
pituitary tumor that was not only increasing excess growth hormone, but excess prolactin production, too. The early diagnosis led to the client being able to have successful surgery to remove the tumor. After surgery, the client returned to Sandra’s office where she received several Bowenwork sessions to support her
body in restoring itself and adjusting to normal hormone levels again.

More information about Sandra can be found at:

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