Applied kinesiology is a series of tests that locate weaknesses in specific muscles reflecting imbalances throughout the body. Specific massages or acupressure techniques are used in an attempt to rebalance what has been revealed by the kinesiology tests. Thus, applied kinesiology is used as both an assessment tool and a limited therapeutic modality.
Applied kinesiology claims to be a healing system that detects and corrects imbalances in the body before they develop into a disease and that restores overall system balance and harmony. It is used to alleviate muscle, bone, and joint problems, treat all manners of aches and pains, and correct many areas of imbalance and discomfort.
Nearly all applied kinesiology tests are subjective, relying on the practitioner's assessment of muscle response. Applied kinesiologists may be chiropractors, naturopaths, doctors, nurses, or other healthcare workers. To become certified to practice as an applied kinesiologist, individuals attend the International College of Applied Kinesiology and must have 300 hours of instruction, pass proficiency exams, and must write and submit research papers in the field of applied kinesiology. The International College of Applied Kinesiology is not recognized by the Council on Chiropractic Education (the agency recognized for the accreditation of programs offering the doctor of chiropractic degree).
In 1964, American chiropractor George J. Goodheart founded what has become known as applied kinesiology when he linked oriental ideas about energy flow in the body with western techniques of muscle testing. Goodheart noted that all muscles are related to other muscles. He observed that for each movement a muscle makes, there is another muscle or group of muscles involved with that movement; one muscle contracts while another one relaxes. So when he was presented with a painful, overly tight muscle, he would observe and treat the opposite, and necessarily weak, muscle to restore balance. This was then a very new technique.
Goodheart argued that there is a definite and real connection between muscles, glands, and organs, and that by testing the strength of certain muscles he could learn about the health or condition of the gland or organ to which it was related.
The manual testing of muscles or muscle strength is not new and was used in the late 1940s to evaluate muscle function and strength and to assess the extent of an injury. Applied kinesiology measures whether a muscle is stuck in the “on” position, acting like a tense muscle spasm, or is stuck “off,” appearing weak or flaccid. It is called manual testing because it is done without instruments, using only the kinesiologist's fingertip pressure.
During the first and longest appointment, which lasts about an hour, the kinesiologist conducts a complete consultation, asking about the patient's history and background. During the physical examination, the patient sits or lies down while the kinesiologist holds the patient's leg or arm to isolate a particular muscle. The practitioner then touches a point on the body that he believes is related to that muscle, and, with quick, gentle, and painless pressure, pushes down on the limb. Patients are asked to resist this pressure, and, if they cannot, an imbalance is suspected in the related organ, gland, or body part. This diagnostic technique uses muscles to find the cause of a problem and is based on traditional Chinese medicine and its idea that the body has common energy meridians, or channels, for both organs and muscles. Kinesiologists also claim they are able to locate muscle weaknesses that stem from a variety of causes such as allergies, mineral and vitamin deficiencies, and problems with the lymph system. Once the exact cause is determined, the kinesiologist uses his fingertips to work the appropriate corresponding acupressure points in order to rebalance the flow of energy and restore health. A complementary program of nutrition therapy is often recommended.
There is no preparation needed with the exception of making an appointment to see the kinesiologist. Before being examined, the patient may want to write down specific areas where they are having pain and track the time and circumstances around when the pain comes and goes. This information may be helpful to the kinesiologist.
There are no major risks associated with this gentle, noninvasive therapy. It is generally safe for people of all ages and has no side effects.
Since interpretation of the muscle tests is both complex and subjective, it should only be performed by a licensed health professional trained to look for “subclinical” symptoms (those that have not yet become a major problem). Kinesiology is more of a diagnostic technique and should not be thought of as a cure for any particular problem.
There is a minimal risk associated with receiving unfounded nutritional advice from a practitioner. Recommendations to eliminate certain foods or food groups could lead to an unbalanced diet and potential nutrient deficiencies. This could initiate or worsen an existing or potential health condition.
If applied kinesiology does what it claims, patients should expect muscle testing to reveal the cause of their physical complaint and to be told how to correct it.
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Weintraub, Michael I., Ravinder Mamtani, and Marc S. Micozzi, eds. Complementary and Integrative Medicine in Pain Management. New York: Springer, 2008.
Leonard C. Bruno, PhD
Revised by Laura Jean Cataldo, RN, EdD