Bowen Therapists, unlike many bodyworkers have a unique ability of being able to influence many Hormonal symptoms in the body, from hot flushes, mood swings, heavy, irregular or painful periods, hormonal headaches, bedwetting, stress, poor sleeping and much more. The shift in symptoms can happen dramatically following the first treatment for some, or can occur over a few weeks with others. The shift occurs due to the nature of Bowen Therapy as being able to influence the body neurologically.
On the surface it seems miraculous, however when we reveal that the culprit is simply the placement of our Pituitary Gland, you can see that it's not magic, just a clever way of helping restoring equilibrium to this area of the brain. This tiny pea sized gland is lovingly referred to as the "Master Gland" due to it's ability to influence the hormone control of many parts of our Endocrine System - we'll talk about this in a minute.
The Pituitary gland is suspended in fascial tissue at the base of our brain in an area known as the "Turkish Saddle" (or Sella Turcica) which is a small indentation in the sphenoid bone of the skull.
Now, the bones of the skull are mobile in infants, this is why they have a soft delicate fontanelle on the front and back of their skull to allow for rapid growth, and sutures which mould during childbirth. However as we become adult, the fontanelles close over, the bones complete their growth and the fibrous joints between the bones allow for just a little movement. However, when there are tensile forces placed on the soft tissue of the skull, neck or jaw, tension can and does buildup, creating subtle changes to the placement of the sphenoid and other skull bones. Just like elsewhere in our body, if there is incorrect tension of the bones, there is simultaneously tension in the surrounding soft tissues, this can adversely effect the function of the organs in that area, in this case, you guessed it - the function of the Pituitary Gland can be affected!
OK, so about know you are wondering how this disturbs the Endocrine system - well the Pituitary gland does not perform as well under pressure. It has 2 lobes which main function is to control hormonal release and for those who love their Anatomy and Physiology here's a rundown of the hormones that it regulates and how this affects us -
controls the release of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). ACTH stimulates Cortisol production in the Adrenal glands above the kidneys so this has a massive affect on our stress response, particularly long term, so think poor sleep, agitation, irritability, weight gain, tiredness.
Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) - these hormones ensure normal functioning of the ovaries and testes so think sperm production, low libido, irregular periods, development in puberty, Oestradiol production.
Growth hormone - maintains healthy body composition and growth in children and in adults aids health bone and muscle mass.
Prolactin - stimulates breast milk production
TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) stimulating the thyroid gland to produce hormones.
ADH (Anti Diuretic Hormone) - this hormone prompts the kidneys to increase water absorption in the blood. The Pituitary gland receives this hormone which is made by it's neighbour the Hypothalmus, and is in charge of releasing ADH into the bloodstream.
So, the Pituitary gland has many roles to play and if it is under pressure from surrounding tissue tension there is going to be an inevitable adverse effect on the gland working to it's best potential and the creation of these hormones will start to suffer.
There are examples in Medical and peer reviewed journals demonstrating the presence of pressure from surrounding tissues has affected the function of the Pituitary Gland - one such example was of a 37 year old woman whose chronic sinusitis created compression on the Pituitary and led to high levels of prolactin in her system.
Bowen Therapy has some unique techniques which address tension throughout the body and specifically the soft tissue of the neck and jaw, which can in turn influence the sphenoid bone and the delicate fascia in which the Pituitary gland is suspended.
So, on a practical level, here are some case studies of clients that I've worked with -
Karen (not her real name) was a 28 year old lady who came to see me with neck pain many years ago. While talking, she told me of her complicated medical history and she described her Secondary infertility issues. She had a 2 year old and had been trying to conceive for over 12 months. Her periods were extremely heavy lasting up to 10 days and she was having 40-45 days between periods. On assessment, Karen had a deviation in her lower jaw on opening her mouth, tension in her jaw muscles on the right side, and the left side of her neck was certainly in spasm. On the first session, I worked on Karen's neck and jaw and she returned a fortnight later with her neck feeling fantastic and reporting that her strangely her period had arrived early on day 30 of her cycle, it had lasted 5 days and was much lighter. Again, I worked on her neck which had improved dramatically, the Sphenoid and pteregoid area of her jaw - her jaw was moving freely and the muted sensation she had in her right ear ( that she had forgotten to tell me about initially) had improved. Karen cancelled her 3rd appointment as she had been caught up with work, but I received an excited text 6 weeks after her last session with me letting me know that she was pregnant!
John (also not his real name) was a 68 year old gent who came to me with a 6 week history of sciatic type pain in his lumbar sacral area, he told me that he had suffered with anxiety and insomnia in this time also. When I examined John, he had a short Left leg which on testing showed that he had an issue with his neck though he denied any neck problems. A short targeted session (IOS style), John didn't have any unusual tension in his lower back, glutes or piriformis muscle, I worked on John's neck and found one side of his neck tight and also one side of his jaw - working on these muscles, he was surprised that when he hopped up to walk around the clinic his pain level had dropped substantially. He returned 2 more times and by the 3rd session he was holding symmetry, he was pain free and was perplexed that he was now sleeping great and felt much calmer. On this last session John had remembered that the sciatic pain had started after he had stumbled and fallen hitting his jaw on the doorframe - as his jaw was not near his lower back he had not thought to mention this.
Margaret, a 58 year old lady was struggling with Menopause - she come on recommendation of a friend hoping for some reprieve from her hot flushes - she was a businesswoman and was finding the 10 or more hot flushes a day left her unable to concentrate fully, sleep well and she felt completely overwhelmed and embarrassed. She was reluctant to go on the HRT offered by her GP due to her concerns about breast cancer, and had tried several herbal preparations before coming to me as a last ditch effort - she was worried she would have to retire early from a job which she loved. I worked on Margaret's lower back, kidney area, hip flexors, neck and finally her jaw which she told me had been clicky for many years. I saw Karen 4 times in total - once a week for 3 weeks than a month later. Over that time the tension around her kidneys and hip flexor loosened and she noticed her movement improved, but more importantly the clicky jaw was gone and with it the hot flushes reduced - now 2-3 hot flushes a week with a huge reduction in their intensity - Margaret was sleeping better, concentrating well and coping well once again with work.
The widespread effect of tissue tension in the body is well documented, but spare a thought to the effect that the tension is having on your internal organs also. If you are having any sort of distressing hormonal symptoms, your local Qualified Bowen Therapist may become your new local bodyworker - you don't know how good you can feel again!
About the author - Nat Stanicic is a Bowen Therapist, Pilates Instructor and Menopause educator in Noosa, Qld Australia. She was a Registered Nurse and midwife for almost 30 years and is an advocate for Women's physical and mental lifelong wellbeing.