Angela Iremonger has been running a Bowen Therapy clinic from Penny Brohn for the past 21 months. In addition, she is now offering McLoughlin Scar Tissue Release (MSTR) therapy. We caught up with her to find out more about Bowen Therapy and what it can do for people living with cancer….
Scar tissue – why is it such a problem?
Whether you’ve gone through planned surgery or had an accident, your in-built repair system reacts in the same way; it’s on a mission to repair the damage and things can get pretty chaotic. When there’s a cut to be healed, there’s no time to produce neat bands of collagen and then gently smooth them down in a relaxed and orderly fashion. Once the debris has been cleared (imagine some of your cells behaving like Pacman – that’s pretty much what ‘clearing the debris’ is like!) and the bleeding has stopped, it’s all about making good in the quickest way possible. Tough fibres randomly form to link the newly produced collagen, granulation tissue fills the wound and everything is pulled together as the new skin forms.
It is nothing short of a miracle what our bodies are capable of, but sometimes there are side-effects from this frenzied dash, and these can have an impact, years, even decades, after healing has completed.
In the past, people assumed (and were often told) that they’d have to live with any discomfort they felt, but luckily there’s more awareness now that it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
What exactly is McLoughlin Scar Tissue Release?
It’s a hands-on therapy working on and around the scar. It’s generally pain-free and has the effect of softening and releasing the fascia (the connective tissue), bringing some normality back to the area. The name comes from the person who created this particular form of therapy, Alastair McLoughlin, with whom I trained. He was a Bowen tutor and spent years perfecting this technique which was primarily based on Bowen-type moves.
What can I expect from a session?
I’d ask you to lie or sit on a couch and would work directly onto the skin, making small moves across and along the fibres of the scar. In between sets of ‘passes’, we’d take a short break to let things settle before continuing. These breaks could be anything from two to five minutes. The session would generally be no longer than 30 minutes and for small scars, could be a lot shorter or could be incorporated into a Bowen session.
Hopefully you’d find the session relaxing. The room overlooks the garden so I always have the window open to let the sounds of nature drift in. It’s wonderful to hear the water splashing in the fountain and the birds singing. Sometimes there’s the buzz of people talking in the garden and I love it when we can hear the choir practising. I must be one of the few Bowen/MSTR therapists who can offer live music!!
How many sessions would I need?
Depending on the size of the scar, most need no more than three sessions at weekly intervals. If the scar is large, we might decide to do one bit at a time.
Does it work?
Sometimes you can see physical improvements, other times people report that they have more feeling where numbness was an issue, or that there’s less pain or discomfort, or more mobility where the scar is on a joint. Some people feel a ‘disconnect’ with the area of the body affected, or have some sort of emotional response when they think about the scar or what caused it, and often these feelings dissipate after one or two sessions. As with any complementary therapy, there is no guarantee and everyone responds differently.
Never think it’s too late to give it a try though. Scars can be as old as you like and still respond well. The only restriction is that the scar needs to be at least eight weeks old and fully healed.
Have you used this form of therapy on anyone who’s had surgery for cancer?
Yes, although some might prefer to wait until after their five-year check. One of my clients had had surgery to remove a kidney and came for MSTR less than two years afterwards. She was experiencing numbness and occasional soreness, plus felt very emotional when thinking about it. The emotional impact lessened after just one session and after three, the scar had become softer, less ‘ropey’ and the numbness had improved.
Are there any scars that don’t respond well?
There have been some successes with burns scars, but they are more difficult and can be less responsive. Keloid scars don’t respond well either as they tend to grow back. I actually have a small one on my hand so perhaps I should persist with this over a longer-term to see if it makes any difference.
Angela’s clinic is open every weekday (plus Wednesday evenings) at Penny Brohn National Centre. The only exception is on Tuesday afternoons when she is based at The Loop in Bristol. Appointments must be made in advance by ringing 07432 103277 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More information is on her website www.theboweneffect.co.uk. MSTR sessions of up to half an hour cost £25. Bowen sessions, which may incorporate MSTR, cost £40 for up to an hour. Prices are slightly higher at the Bristol clinic.