Other common name(s): polarity balancing, polarity energy balancing
Scientific/medical name(s): none
Polarity therapy is based on the idea that a person's health and well-being are determined by the natural flow of energy through the body. Polarity refers to the positive and negative charges of the body's electromagnetic energy field. Practitioners use touch, movement, and other methods to help this energy flow.
Available scientific evidence does not support claims that polarity therapy is effective in treating cancer or any other disease. However, it is sometimes recommended by physicians as a tool for relaxation when conducted by a trained professional.
How is it promoted for use?
Polarity therapy is based on the theory that a smooth flow of energy maintains health, while disruptions in the flow caused by trauma, stress, poor nutrition, and other factors lead to energy imbalances, fatigue, and illness. There are believed to be three types of energy fields in the human body: long-line currents that run north to south on the body; transverse currents that run east-west in the body; and spiral currents that start at the navel and expand outward.
Practitioners of polarity therapy claim they can identify the sources of energy blockages and disruptions by observing symptoms such as headaches, tight shoulders and back muscles, muscle spasms, pain, abdominal discomfort, and even tumors. They also claim polarity therapy can be used to promote relaxation and range of motion, relieve tension, increase energy, and reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling. They further state that polarity therapy enhances the body's ability to fight off serious illness, including cancer.
What does it involve?
The first polarity therapy session includes detailed questions about physical and mental health, diet and exercise, health concerns, work, and more. The patient lies on a massage table while the therapist scans for imbalances and checks energy flow in the body. The polarity therapist may use a variety of techniques to balance and clear energy field paths. Some of these include twisting the torso, spinal realignment, curling toes, rocking motions, and moving the hands or crystals along the body's natural energy pathways. Some techniques are similar to those used by chiropractors (see our document, Chiropractic). Other aspects of polarity therapy may include supportive counseling, deep-breathing exercises, diet changes, hydrotherapy (see our document, Hydrotherapy), stretching, and yoga (see our document, Yoga).
Because polarity therapy is based on the unique needs of the patient at the time, no two sessions are exactly alike. Most often, weekly sessions are suggested for six to eight weeks, although this may vary depending on the person and his or her needs. During a successful session of polarity therapy, the patient is said to reach a state of deep relaxation. A polarity therapy session lasts about an hour or more. Generally, polarity therapy is recommended for use in addition to standard medical care.
What is the history behind it?
Polarity therapy was developed in the late 1940s by Randolph Stone, a chiropractor, osteopath, and naturopath. Dr. Stone studied several forms of traditional medicine practices from India and China. He taught that each person is responsible for his or her own health and that simple steps such as those involved in polarity therapy improve physical and spiritual well-being. According to the American Polarity Therapy Association, about one thousand polarity therapists are registered in the United States. Various schools and people from around the world teach polarity therapy. Some organizations have training programs to certify polarity therapists. However, these organizations are not regulated by any government agency.
What is the evidence?
Claims that polarity therapy is an effective treatment for cancer and other serious diseases have not been proven. The existence of energy field paths in the human body has also not been proven. Little clinical research has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals on polarity therapy. A very small pilot study looked at fatigue in women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer and found that the women who got polarity treatments reported better quality of life a few days afterward. However, no treatment was used in the comparison group, and the patients’ expectation of improvement may have affected the results. A 2007 review study that looked at research on complementary methods to help cancer-related fatigue did not find enough evidence to recommend polarity therapy for this problem.
Patients often report feeling relaxed and less tense after a polarity therapy session. Some physicians encourage patients to undergo bodywork therapies (such as polarity therapy and massage) because some make people feel better, if only for a short time. Others believe the prolonged physical contact involved in hands-on techniques is relaxing and therefore helpful to some people.
Are there any possible problems or complications?
Polarity therapy, when done by a trained professional, is considered safe for relaxation purposes. Improperly applied techniques may cause injury. People with cancer and chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease should talk to their doctors before having any type of treatment that involves manipulation of joints and muscles.
Relying on this treatment alone and delaying or avoiding conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.
More information from your American Cancer Society
The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be found on our Web site (www.cancer.org) or ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-ACS-2345).
The ACS Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management
Cassileth B. The Alternative Medicine Handbook: The Complete Reference Guide to Alternative and Complementary Therapies. New York, NY: W. W. Norton; 1998.
National Institutes of Health. Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons: A Report to the National Institutes of Health on Alternative Medical Systems and Practices in the United States. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office; 1994. NIH publication 94-066.
Polarity. Aetna InteliHealth Web site. Accessed at www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH?d=dmtContent&c=358862 on June 2, 2008.
Roscoe JA, Matteson SE, Mustian KM, Padmanaban D, Morrow GR. Treatment of radiotherapy-induced fatigue through a nonpharmacological approach. Integr Cancer Ther. 2005;4:8-13.
Sood A, Barton DL, Bauer BA, Loprinzi CL. A critical review of complementary therapies for cancer-related fatigue. Integr Cancer Ther. 2007;6:8-13.
Wilson W. Polarity therapy: in introduction. American Polarity Therapy Association Web site. Accessed at www.polaritytherapy.org/page.asp?PageID=24 on June 2, 2008.
Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.
Last Revised: 11/01/2008