Bowenwork for Migraine Relief: a Case Report

  • Sandra L. Gustafson, MHS, BSN, RN American Bowen Academy
Keywords: neck pain, MMYOP2, bodywork technique, activities of daily living, well-being


Introduction: Migraine is a complex neurological disorder characterized by episodic, neurogenic, cerebrovascular inflammation and hypersensitization of brain tissues and the central nervous system, causing severe pain and debility. Research literature points mostly to pharmaceutical prophylactic and symptomatic treatments, nonpharmaceutical, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) approaches, acupuncture, massage and bodywork studies, and none has been published on Bowenwork for migraine intervention. This prospective case report describes one migraineur’s response to Bowenwork (a soft-tissue bodywork technique) with cessation of migraine, neck pain, and analgesic consumption, and improved wellbeing and activity function.

Methods: The client received 14 Bowenwork sessions over a four-month period using the self-reporting Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile version 2 (MYMOP2) to evaluate clinically meaningful changes. Baseline MYMOP2 data were recorded prior to the first and subsequent Bowenwork sessions to track changes in migraine and neck pain occurrences, other symptoms, medication use, functional ability and sense of well-being. Specific Bowenwork procedures were applied in each session to address various symptoms. The client did not receive other migraine treatment during this study.

Participant: A 66-year-old Caucasian female with a history of debilitating migraine since childhood, and severe neck pain and jaw injuries resulting from two motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) sustained as an adult. She had previously sought medical, pharmaceutical and CAM treatments for migraine, neck pain, and right-sided thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) symptoms, with no satisfactory relief.

Results: The client progressively reported decreased migraine and neck pain until acquiring a respiratory infection with prolonged coughing spells causing symptoms to recur (session 11). Prior to session 12, she experienced an allergic reaction to ingesting an unknown food allergen, requiring three days of prednisone and Benadryl treatment, exacerbating neck pain, but not migraine. At session 14, her MYMOP2 data showed no migraine, neck pain or medication use, improved activity function, and sense of well-being. Symptoms in her right arm and thumb persisted to a lesser extent.

Conclusion: Bowenwork progressively offered migraine and neck pain relief for one chronic migraineur, with multiple somatic symptoms. Extenuating factors (jaw tension, TOS, respiratory infection, and allergic reaction) added complexity in monitoring progress and selecting appropriate Bowenwork procedures. Further research on Bowenwork’s efficacy for migraine treatment on larger populations is needed.


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How to Cite
Gustafson, MHS, BSN, RN, S. L. (2015). Bowenwork for Migraine Relief: a Case Report. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Research Education &Amp; Practice, 9(1), 19–28.