Polarity Therapy in Hospice Care

By Anna C. Palmer
[Energy Work]

Polarity therapy is a holistic energy healing modality developed by Randolph Stone, DO, DC, ND, between 1940 and 1980. Stone integrated his studies of ayurvedic medicine in India with his Western knowledge of osteopathic and naturopathic medicines, allowing laypersons to apply hands-on techniques to balance energy. He also created recommendations for diet, yoga, and attitude adjustments to enhance health and wellness. 

This article discusses the basic principles of polarity therapy and how they may be applied to working with clients who are in the final months or days of their life.

The Principles of Energy Movement 

Polarity therapy teaches that energy is constantly in movement. Life force energy arises from a source and informs all life, splitting into two oppositely charged currents when life begins. This is seen in our physical form, as in the right and left hemispheres of the brain. The interplay of these currents creates the underlying energetic patterns in our bodies, including our energy centers (chakras) and fields. 

Our energy expands outward to experience life, and we feel the results of that experience as sensations when the energy cycles back toward us. Without opposite charges, or poles, no energy could flow, and no movement would be possible.

Expansion. The first impulse of life is outward expansion, as our cells reproduce geometrically in the womb (two, four, eight, etc.) to build a physical form. This is a positively charged impulse. 

Contraction. Energy continues to expand until it is exhausted (like ripples in a pond) or until it is pulled back by an oppositely charged electromagnetic force toward its origin or source. This is an inwardly directed, negatively charged impulse. 

Neutral Center. The third impulse is for balance between expansion and contraction. This is a neutrally charged point of stillness—the eye of the storm. 

Because of the nature of energy to move between oppositely charged poles through a neutral field, Stone named his modality polarity therapy. 

Impact of Stress on Energy Movement 

Stressors stimulate our body’s fight, flight, or freeze responses as a way of meeting the challenges of life. Any of these responses serves us well in the short term. When the stressors are unrelenting or greater than we can emotionally, mentally, or physically process, stress causes symptoms of distress. Many of the symptoms we consider stress-related are somatic and can become debilitating over time if unrelieved. Hospice clients often experience these symptoms due to their disease process and the stress of dying. 

Some examples of stress-related symptoms are:

• Anxiety or panic attacks.

• Breathing changes.

• Changes in appetite.

• Constipation or diarrhea.

• Increased muscle tension and pain.

• Indigestion. 

• Over- or underactivity.

• Sleeplessness.

Stone taught that pain and distress are the results of blocked energy. Relieving the energy block allows the body to self-correct, balance, and heal, thereby relieving the symptoms of distress. 

Polarity Therapy and End-of-Life Care

Polarity therapy is an ideal modality for end-of-life care. The use of touch in itself is therapeutic in a culture that tends to isolate the dying. Since hospice clients also tend to have physical challenges, a touch modality that is gentle is desirable. Polarity therapy can be done with the client in bed or in a chair, making the treatment easier for the client and the therapist. I quickly discovered that offering polarity foot reflexology was an acceptable form of touch for my clients and that it brought quick results in symptom relief. I bring a portable stool to assist me in achieving a comfortable position. 

Polarity Therapy and Zones of Energy

Stone learned that as energy pulses outward and back inward, zones of positive, neutral, and negative energy are set up. Energy congestion in any zone will resonate with the corresponding zones. Therefore, relieving congestion in one zone will also relieve congestion in the corresponding zones. Massaging the foot in the zone that corresponds with the symptom brings relief of the symptom.

Mapping the body’s energy

When we practice polarity reflexology, we are also working with the longitudinal energy lines. The interplay of our positively and negatively charged currents creates energy centers, or chakras. (The word chakra means “wheel.”) The chakra centers spin and throw off lines of force up and down the body. Our fingers and toes represent the margins at which the lines of force turn and are drawn back to the energy centers. 

The chakra centers contain related mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual qualities that arise from the nature of energy expressed by that center. Our hands and feet can be mapped to show how this wireless energy pattern can be stimulated to reflex back to the chakra centers, and thus to the organs and glands related to those centers. 

Polarity Therapy Protocols for the Hospice Client

I use two methods when performing a polarity foot reflexology treatment. The first is gentle massage to work out tender, tense, or flaccid areas on the feet. The second is to hold points to polarize the energy patterns. This simply means gentle contact with two hands on two different points while waiting for the energy pulses to equalize, or pulse together.

Polarity foot reflexology may be performed by a therapist, family member, or hospice staff member. Be aware that muscle tissue is often decreased in a hospice client and deep-tissue contact is generally not appropriate. 

Working with the Dying

One of my mentors in hospice care was a heart-centered physician who sat quietly on the edge of the beds of his dying patients. He would say to the anxious families, “Your loved one is letting go of his body. Now is the time to nourish not the body, but the spirit.” I watched the tension drain from the room; families may not know much about medicine, but they know a lot about spirit. Hospice care at the end of life allows families and clients to spend their time nourishing one another. 

The polarity practitioner can play an important role in offering that nourishment. Approaching the client without an agenda gives permission for the client to have her experience without judgment. This places the practitioner in the position of witness, the most powerful gift we can give to our clients. In the silent space of acceptance and witnessing, clients often experience insights into their lives, including any unfinished business.

As a therapist, you must also examine how you feel about interacting with a terminally ill person. Have you considered your own beliefs around death and dying? Are you fearful of dying? Have you recently experienced a loss? Are you able to interact without judgment? Can you work in an environment that may be emotionally charged? Are you able to function as part of a team, caring for someone and handing off the pieces that are better handled by another team member? 

Self-care for the therapist is vital during this process. Working with clients with whom we resonate can stimulate our own issues. Having someone to talk to, receiving bodywork, and establishing rituals to clear yourself before and after a session are some ways to maintain care for yourself in what may be a very emotionally charged situation. 

Polarity therapy is a gentle and effective modality for working with clients at the end of life. As therapists, we know that health is always present in the body. Working within a hospice setting offers an intimate, rewarding experience of supporting the natural processes of life as our clients let go of the physical body. 


General Polarity Foot Reflexology Session


Massage the following areas:

• General, gentle, full-body massage.

• Massage up and down the tendons on the tops and bottoms of the feet.

• Massage between the toes.

Massage the following corresponding areas on the bottom of the feet:

• Diaphragm Area (lower margin of transverse arch).

• Shoulder Area (upper margin of transverse arch).

• Kidney Area (medial central area).

• Colon Area (up lateral right foot, across foot at arch, and down lateral left foot).

• Hips and Pelvic Areas (heel girdle).

• Sacrum (base of heel).

Polarize the following areas:

• Hold the tips of the toes and polarize Great Toe to Great Toe, Second Toe to Second Toe, Third Toe to Third Toe, Fourth Toe to Fourth Toe, and Fifth Toe to Fifth Toe.

• Contact cuboid bones on both feet and hold for one minute.

• Hold both heels in the palms of your hands for one to several minutes.