UR Studies the Healing Power of Touch

Polarity Therapy May Restore Energy During Radiation

September 02, 2003

Picture yourself lying down in a dimly lit room, listening to soothing music, and receiving a form of touch therapy designed to ease stress and release energy. For a group of patients at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, this is one of the most pleasant ways imaginable to fight the fatigue that often comes with radiation treatment.

            A year ago Sara Matteson, Psy.D., instructor of radiation oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, began researching the value of polarity therapy. It’s a technique similar to acupuncture, except that a polarity practitioner uses his or her hands and a light touch, rather than fine needles, to unleash tension and restore energy. Seventeen cancer patients voluntarily enrolled in Matteson’s project; she will evaluate results later this year and may expand the program.

            “People really seem to like it because it’s so relaxing,” says Matteson, an investigator of both traditional and alternative therapies. “The goal of our office is to find methods of reducing the distressing side effects of cancer treatment, and we hope this will be one method of doing so.”

The patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups. They began by answering detailed questions about their level of fatigue and other symptoms. Group 1 received standard clinical care without polarity therapy, Group 2 received standard care plus one polarity therapy session, and Group 3 received standard care and two therapy sessions. The patients also help to evaluate the therapy by filling out questionnaires.

 Radiation-induced fatigue is a common problem that is not well understood, Matteson says. Most other research focuses on preventing side effects at the site where radiation is administered, such as burns or skin irritation. Her unique approach grew out of discussions with a colleague, who survived cancer and personally used polarity therapy to reduce fatigue.

            Judith Moss, the polarity therapist working with Matteson, is one of a handful of trained therapists in New York. Only 1,200 practitioners are registered by the American Polarity Therapy Association, which requires 600 hours of training.

            Moss compares polarity therapy to jump-starting a sluggish automobile battery. “When the right contact is made, the energy can flow properly again,” she says. Unlike massage, polarity therapy takes place while a person is fully clothed, and does not involve deep tissue manipulation, which can be uncomfortable.

           

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