Polarity was initially developed in the 1940s by Randolph Stone, ND, DC, DO. Pierre Pannetier, ND continued Dr. Stone's teaching after the mid-1970s. Polarity integrates the three principles and five charkas of Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine, and draws from ancient Hermetic philosophy. Touch with the hands is used with the intention of influencing flow of body energy. Polarity treatment may also involve exercise and lifestyle changes. Energy-based bodywork and education are used to promote energetic and cleansing principles of eating and increased self-awareness. Polarity yoga is said to balance the human energy field. Bodywork is thought to remove energy blockages and strengthen energy fields. Dietary changes (believed to purify or build health), counseling, yoga, craniosacral therapy, and other bodywork techniques may be employed.
There is limited scientific study of the effects of polarity in humans. Polarity therapy has been used to improve pain, anxiety/stress, and side effects from surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy (including nausea, hair loss, neuropathy/nerve pain, radiation burns, or hardening/scarring of tissue in mastectomy patients). However, these effects have not been thoroughly evaluated or proven with scientific research.
Polarity is based on a theory that energy flows through the body along five predictable pathways, and that this flow can be affected by the placement of therapeutic hands at specific points to correct disorders or imbalances. It has been hypothesized that cells in the body have negative and positive poles that are involved in this flow of energy. Polarity therapists believe that the clockwise flow between the positive and negative aspects of the body's electromagnetic field must be in balance and flow freely to maintain health. The spinal column is thought to have five neutral energy centers (ether, air, fire, water, earth), with each of these areas corresponding to bodily functions. Practitioners aim to access a patient's energy using palpation, observation, and patient interviews. Polarity shares some principles with the yin-yang concept in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the chakra system in Ayurvedic medicine.
Polarity providers believe that maintenance of good health requires free flow of life energy through the body, without areas of excess or depletion. Polarity therapy uses four different approaches with the goal of balancing life energy: body work, nutrition, exercise, and counseling. A session may consist of bodywork treatment and a combination of work in the other three areas. An overall goal of the polarity approach to health and well-being is to give clients multiple tools to use in maintaining a balanced way of life. Responsibility and self-esteem are often encouraged.
Polarity treatment often begins with a detailed consultation and case history. The client may lie on a treatment couch in underwear or light clothing, and the therapist may use physical manipulation techniques and apply pressure to points on the body. Three levels of touch are used: light, medium, and deep, which are theorized to stimulate the neutral, positive, and negative fields.
Sessions usually take 60 to 90 minutes. Duration of treatment may vary, but one session per week for up to eight weeks, with occasional follow-up treatments to maintain health, may be suggested. Dietary advice may also be suggested, based on the concept that types of foods and ability to digest can cause blockages to energy fields.
Polarity yoga consists of a group of simple exercises with the intention to relax, ease pain, cleanse, improve muscle tone, or energize patients. Postures use gentle rocking and stretching movements combined with vocal expression. Home use of polarity yoga exercises may be encouraged.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Polarity therapy may improve self-reported fatigue and quality of life. More research is needed in this area.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Serious adverse effects have not been reported. Polarity is not recommended as the sole treatment approach for potentially serious medical conditions.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.