Speaking the language of the body
One day in Paris, several years ago, I was in the subway with my friend Ioannis. Just to give you a little background, Ioannis is an osteopath of remarkable finesse and intelligence who has probably studied almost all manual therapies. We were discussing the amazing results we had with Bowen (a technique he mainly uses, despite all the studies of other therapies) and then he said to me: "Bowen is speaking the real body language". It struck me and I never forgot that sentence. These few words, coming from Ioannis, must have meant something very important.
At that time, thanks to the more than satisfactory results I obtained with this method, I only practised Bowen (despite studying in osteopathy). I asked myself then if it was the sequence of moves, the order in which we are going to do them that was so important. A legitimate question: several therapies also use "sequences" and point mapping, such as Niromathé for example. But I doubted that this was the real language of the body. Indeed, even if we forget one or two moves, or if we make a mistake in the order that is suggested to perform them, both Niromathé and Bowen continue to give excellent results. Also, attributing the efficiency of the method to the sequence of moves was too simple: we fall into the ready-made recipe. The functioning of the body is much more complex than a sequence of moves.
Some time passed, and the moment came to present my thesis to finalise my six years of studies in osteopathy. I had chosen a subject that would serve the Bowen method: the therapeutic pause. Although my thesis was completed, I did not have the authorisation to defend this work, like 14 students of the same group. This very surprising and unjustified situation was not going to stop me and it is by publishing this thesis with les Éditions Sully first, in French and then with Handspring Publishing in English, that I created my own jury: « The Therapeutic Pause in Osteopathy and Manual Therapy - The Somatosensory Integration Time ». It was during the writing of this book, because it was necessary to "rewrite" what was presented in the form of a thesis in a more literary style, that I realised, intensely, the role of the nervous system in manual therapy. It became evident, thanks to the reading of several dozen scientific studies, and particularly the work of A.D. Craig, that everything, absolutely all the information collected at the level of the skin, and of the whole body, would inexorably reach the CNS.
I had to find answers to questions that all Bowen therapists ask themselves: when I do manual therapy, why does the patient come back and say that he has slept better, that he feels less stressed? Why, in addition to the pain that diminishes, do we see patients enjoying life again ? Our action must have had an influence on the regulation of homoeostasis! And what part of the method "encourages" this regulation? The therapeutic pause is one of the answers, as I described it in my book. That's where to start. Then there are other answers, which you can read in Diane Jacobs' book, "DermoNeuroModulation - Manual Treatment for Peripheral Nerves, Especially Cutaneous Nerves".
More recently, I went even further and decided to continue my writing. Another book is in preparation, which will cover in much more detail and depth the role of manual therapy in the regulation of homoeostasis.
So, what is this language of the body?
Most manual therapy techniques will aim for a specific tissue in the body. The targets may be fascial, articular, myofascial, muscular, soft tissue, fluidic, cranial structures and more. Therapists are taught to feel them, and adjust them. Let’s take an example: a therapist feels a contracted muscle, and using one technique or the other, wants to make that muscle relaxed because he thinks that the problem comes from the muscle (or the bone, or the joint, or the fluid circulation, etc.). The therapist wants to adjust what he sees or feels as “abnormal”.
I think it is a mistake. I think we should understand first the reason for the contraction in the muscle. What makes the muscle contract? What is the physiology of that contraction? At the cerebral level, at the cellular level, why is the muscle contracting? We all should respond to this question.
Never a muscle will decide to contract by itself, for any reason. It is not its role. The muscle is not responsible for the contraction, it only does what it is told to do. So, where is the signal for the contraction coming from? Yes, of course, from the CNS which sends through a lower motor neuron an information to contract. So, why do we make the muscle (or any other structure) responsible for the contraction (or any imbalance) and apply on it all kinds of techniques, forcing it to relax (or adjust in any sense)? Poor muscle must feel persecuted! Why don’t we talk directly to the part of the body that makes all decisions and that makes the muscle contract? Why don’t we try to make it change its mind?
I have no choice but to accept what is so obvious: I have to learn to talk to the CNS and let him make all the decisions about its own body. The receptors of the somesthesia are within my reach, I have to learn how to use them to propose changes to the CNS. And I have to wait, let him handle the situation and normalise itself. That's the real language of the body.