According to the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK), “Applied Kinesiology (AK) is a system that evaluates structural, chemical and mental aspects of health using manual muscle testing combined with other standard methods of diagnosis. The combined terms “applied” and “kinesiology” describes the basis of this system, which is the use of manual muscle testing to evaluate body function through the dynamics of the musculoskeletal system. Treatments may involve specific joint manipulation or mobilization, various myofascial therapies, cranial techniques, meridian and acupuncture skills, clinical nutrition, dietary management, counseling skills, evaluating environmental irritants and various reflex procedures.”
AK grew out of Dr. George Goodheart’s analysis of his day to day chiropractic practice. Like most chiropractors in 1964, Dr. Goodheart believed that structural balance and optimal alignment of the parts of the body was integral to the health of the individual. He knew that correcting structural imbalances would reduce or eliminate most health problems. However he also began to realize that structural balance could not be obtained when muscles were overly tense or too limp. Dr. Goodheart began experimenting with the principles outlined in the classic book, Muscles: Testing and Function written by Kendall and Kendall. He discovered that a weak testing muscle may be made to test strong through the massage of its extreme ends where its tendons attach to bone. This technique is now referred to in AK today as “origin-insertion technique”. It is still used by AK practitioners throughout the world to establish muscular balance (and thus structural balance as well).
However, as time went on Dr. Goodheart observed that a percentage of his patients did not respond to this technique. He realized that the origin-insertion technique often failed to strengthen weak testing muscles and reestablish muscular balance. To explain this, he theorized that muscular imbalances may be the result of problems not just in the origin-insertion area of the muscle itself but also in any of the other areas represented by the three sides of the chiropractic “Triad of Health”. In other words the muscular imbalance may be the result of structural, chemical, or mental problems.
Each side of the triangle is dependent on the entire triangle working in unison and dysfunction of any one side may affect the other sides. For example, certain foods or chemicals may cause mental disturbances. Anxiety (mental) may cause the release of adrenaline (chemical), which may increase muscle tension (structural). Tension in the neck (structural) may cause headaches and depression (mental).
Each of the healing professions typically specializes in only one side of the triangle. For example, the structural professions include chiropractic, massage, osteopathy, dentistry. The chemical professions include nutrition, medicines, homeopathy, allergists and the mental professions include counseling and psychology. Obviously when a patient seeks care from one of these specialized healing professions, the specialists will use the concepts and techniques with which they are experienced. However chiropractic will not relieve a headache if the primary cause of that headache is a nutritional imbalance. In Dr. Goodheart’s book, Applied Kinesiology, A Training Manual and Reference Book of Basic Principles and Practices he states:
“To pictorially illustrate this point, if the only tool one has is a hammer, the whole world looks like nails. What all of these specialists need are better techniques for diagnosing the causes of the problems of their patients and determining which treatments are likely to be successful.”
From this point, Dr. Goodheart investigated the capacity of the muscle testing technique to comprehensively test all three sides of the triangle. He discovered that specific health problems may cause specific muscles to test weak. In addition, the muscle that tests weak due to a health problem can be used as an indicator to determine possible treatments and treatments that cause the muscle to test strong may positively influence the health problem. His use of muscle testing provided him with a diagnostic tool to determine which intervention would be most appropriate for each disturbance. In his book Dr. Goodheart expounds on this point.
“Since muscle testing uses the patient’s body itself as the instrument for performing diagnostics, it provides a direct method for studying the effects upon the body of just about any kind of healing modality.”
When a patient seeks the care of an AK doctor for a particular problem, the doctor will typically perform a very thorough examination that will include muscle testing. The muscles tests are used to evaluate the physiological response to a physical, chemical, or mental stimulus. In some cases, the examiner may test for environmental or food sensitivities by using a previously strong muscle to find what weakens it.
This physiological response is then integrated with the clinical history and the results of the physical exam, laboratory tests, x-rays and/or other appropriate diagnostic methods to determine the best course of treatment for the patient’s condition. Treatments may include specific joint adjustments, massage and myofascial release techniques, dietary management, reflex procedures as well as homeopathic remedies. It is important to note that AK procedures are not intended to be used as a single method of diagnosis. Applied kinesiology examination should enhance standard diagnosis, not replace it.
It is important to note that through the years the basic concept of AK has been borrowed and applied to other techniques. Typically the name kinesiology becomes part of the title of that technique. For example, we now have clinical kinesiology, dental kinesiology, and behavioral kinesiology. There are over 80 different forms of therapy now using the term kinesiology and each case the technique is built around the basic principles of muscle testing developed by Dr. Goodheart.
Many studies of Applied Kinesiology have failed to demonstrate clinical efficacy. For example, some scientific studies have shown that applied kinesiology tests are not reproducible. These studies have concluded that “When AK is disentangled from standard orthopedic muscle testing, the few studies evaluating unique AK procedures either refute or cannot support the validity of AK procedures as diagnostic tests”. In addition, muscle testing has not been shown to distinguish a test substance from a placebo under double-blind conditions, and the use of applied kinesiology to evaluate nutrient status has not been shown to be more effective than random guessing. The evidence to date does not support the use of manual muscle testing for the diagnosis of organic disease or pre/subclinical conditions.” Another study concluded that “There is little or no scientific rationale for these methods. Results are not reproducible when subject to rigorous testing and do not correlate with clinical evidence of allergy.”