PT is a type of hands-on energy work that has been around for more than six decades, yet there's very little published research on it. Now, however, a randomized controlled trial (RCT)-considered the gold standard for scientific evaluation-has reported that PT may be able to help cancer patients by alleviating fatigue and improving quality of life.
Published in the peer-reviewed journal Integrative Cancer Therapies, the new preliminary ('pilot') study involved 45 women who were under-going radiation therapy for breast cancer. During the three-week treatment period, the women were randomly split into three groups: the first received the standard care (passive controls); the second received three massage-therapy sessions (active con-trols); and the third received three PT sessions instead. At the beginning and end of the study, the researchers assessed the women's cancer-related fatigue and health-related quality of life.
The results showed that the women's fatigue ratings were reduced after three weeks of PT. Based on scores from the Brief Fatigue Inventory, a nine-item questionnaire, women in the polarity group experienced small improvements in their fatigue compared with the massage and standard-care groups. However, based on the patients' self-reported fatigue diaries, improvements were considered "large" in the polarity group compared with the other groups.
Women receiving PT also experienced an improvement in their health-related quality of life compared with those receiving the standard care. However, the effect size (described as "medium") was similar to that of the massage group (Integr Cancer Ther, 2011; 10: 27-37).
Nevertheless, these findings support a previous study by the same researchers, from the University of Rochester in NY, also showing that PT may be useful for reducing fatigue and improving the quality of life in breast-cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.
That study, involving just 15 women, found a statistically significant improve-ment in both cancer-related fatigue and health-related quality of life in the 10 patients receiving PT compared with the five control patients not receiving the treatment (Integr Cancer Ther, 2005; 4: 8-13).
However, the researchers still don't believe that the evidence is strong enough to recommend PT for the treatment of cancer-related fatigue other than in a research setting.
"Larger studies showing statistical significance are needed before such a recommendation can be made," they said in their latest report.
Still, the research is promising-and it's got people talking about PT, which could be useful for a variety of health problems other than cancer-related fatigue.
What is polarity therapy?
As with other forms of energy medicine-such as therapeutic touch and reiki-PT is based on the idea that electromagnetic and energy fields run throughout the human body, and that an obstruction of energy flow in one area of the body will negatively affect the entire body physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
PT, in particular, believes that this energy flows via positive (top or right) and negative (bottom or left) poles, attracting and repelling in a way similar to a bar magnet. In healthy bodies, the energy settles into a state of harmonic neutral polarization that flows freely and unobstructed. But, in unhealthy bodies, the proper flow of the energy current is blocked by stress, and is manifested as fatigue, pain, nausea and illness-and as side-effects from medical treatments (Integr Cancer Ther, 2011; 10: 27-37).
PT aims to trace and release these energy blockages through the use of a combination of skilled touch, stretch-ing postures, nutrition and verbal interaction.
Does it work?
Very little published clinical research has been conducted on PT-mainly because of the difficulties involved in designing a standardized protocol for such a holistic, personalized treatment. As PT practitioner Lisa A. Megidesh points out, "The study could not be limited to the use of a single defined polarity protocol because, over a series of treatments, many different protocols are used, depending on the energetic imbalance that presents itself at each session." Researchers nonetheless have recently designed a protocol that is more compatible with the holistic nature of PT, making quality studies possible (J Body Mov Ther, 2007; 11: 129-40).
One such recently published study investigated the effectiveness of PT in reducing stress and depression, and improving the quality of life in American Indian and Alaskan Native family care-givers looking after individuals with dementia. A total of 42 family caregivers were randomly assigned to either an eight-session trial of PT or an enhanced respite control condition (ERC) that included respite care for the dementia sufferer and a choice of activities for the caregiver. The results showed that the PT group improved significantly more than did the ERC group in terms of stress, depression, bodily pain, vitality and general health (Gerontologist, 2009; 49: 368-77).
Another study, published in Energy, the newsletter of the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA), looked at the effects of PT in 70 hospitalized patients with a range of conditions, as well as in 21 hospital medical staff.
Both the patients and staff reported feelings of restfulness, peace and deep relaxation after receiving PT. The trial, however, was not randomized (Integr Cancer Ther, 2011; 10: 27-37).
Other clinical research shows that PT can alter the body's extremely high-frequency electromagnetic field (EMF). Specifically, there were consistent and dramatic decreases in the amounts of gamma radiation in the body's EMF, thereby suggesting a possible mechanism for the energy treatment's beneficial effects (Altern Ther Health Med, 1999; 5: 51-6).
There are also numerous case studies indicating that PT may be useful for a variety of acute and chronic conditions, including autism, arthritis, eating disorders, attention deficit/hyper-activity disorder (ADHD) and cerebral palsy (Altern Complement Ther, 2001; 7: 296-303).
More patients and patience
More research involving larger numbers of people with other conditions is needed to truly test the effects of PT, and particularly with regards to how it works and what actually happens to the patient undergoing such therapy. Nevertheless, the future acceptance of this form of energy healing looks promising.
Factfile: Polarity therapy in practice
Polarity therapy was developed in 1947 by Dr Randolph Stone, an Austrian-born chiropractor, osteopath and naturopath who moved to the US with his family at age 13. After extensive study of a number of traditional forms of natural healing-including Ayurvedic, yogic and cabalistic forms-he developed his own unique system that he called 'polarity therapy'.
In the 1960s, Dr Stone began to teach the therapy and, in 1984, a group of practitioners formed the American Polarity Therapy Association (APTA), a governing body that regulates the profession. A dual level of certification was established, requiring 155 hours of training to become an Associate Polarity Practitioner and 675 hours to become a Registered Polarity Practitioner. In 2010, APTA had roughly 900 members (Integr Cancer Ther, 2011; 10: 27-37).
A polarity therapy session usually lasts 60 to 75 minutes, and involves gentle stretching and rocking with different intensities of touch. Because the sessions don't require undressing and are non-invasive, many people prefer polarity therapy over other healing-touch methods or energy medicine such as massage and acupuncture (Gerontologist, 2009; 49: 368-77).
To find a qualified polarity therapist in your area, visit the APTA website at www.polaritytherapy.org or go to www.polarity.tk, the website of the UK Polarity Therapy Association.
WDDTY VOL. 22 NO. 3