Applied kinesiology (AK) is the study of muscles and the relationship of muscle strength to health. It incorporates a system of manual muscle testing and therapy. AK is based on the theory that an organ dysfunction is accompanied by a specific muscle weakness. Diseases are diagnosed through muscle-testing procedures and then treated. AK is not the same as kinesiology, or biomechanics, which is the scientific study of movement.
AK is not designed for crisis medicine. For example, an AK practitioner cannot cure cancer, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, or infections. This therapy is designed to be a part of a holistic approach to preventive medicine. The goals of AK are to (1) restore normal nerve function, (2) achieve normal endocrine, immune, digestive, and other internal organ functions, (3) intervene early in degenerative processes to prevent or delay pathological conditions, and to (4) restore postural balance, correct gait (walking) impairment, and improve range of motion.
AK is based on principles of functional neurology, anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and biochemistry as well as principles from Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and massage. It was developed from traditional kinesiology in 1964 by George G. Goodheart, a chiropractor from Detroit, Michigan. He observed that each large muscle relates to a body organ. A weakness in a muscle may mean that there is a problem in the associated organ. Goodheart found that by treating the muscle and making it strong again, he was able to improve the function of the organ as well. For example, if a particular nutritional supplement was given to a patient, and the muscle tested strong, it was the correct supplement for the patient. If the muscle remained weak, it was not. Other methods of treatment can be evaluated in a similar manner. Goodheart also found that painful nodules (small bumps) may be associated with a weak muscle. By deeply massaging the muscle, he was able to improve its strength. Goodheart's findings in 1964 led to the origin and insertion treatment, the first method developed in AK. Other diagnostic and therapeutic procedures were developed for various reflexes described by other chiropractors and doctors. Goodheart incorporated acupuncture meridian therapy into AK after reading the writings of Felix Mann, M.D.
Goodheart considered AK to be a therapeutic tool that incorporates feedback from the body. He said that "applied kinesiology is based on the fact that the body language never lies." He felt that the body's muscles were indicators of disharmony. Once muscle weakness has been ascertained, the problem may be solved in a variety of ways. If a practitioner approaches the problem correctly, he believed, making the proper and adequate diagnosis and treatment, the outcome is satisfactory both to the doctor and to the patient.
According to AK, each muscle in the body relates to a specific meridian or energy pathway (acupuncture
The first part of AK is muscle testing, which is used to help diagnose what part of the body is functioning abnormally. Muscle testing involves putting the body into a position that requires a certain muscle to remain contracted, and then applying pressure against the muscle. The testing does not measure strength but is meant to reveal stresses and imbalances in the body through the tension in the muscle. The test evaluates the ability of a controlling system (like the nervous system) to adapt the muscle to meet the changing pressure of the examiner's test. AK practitioners also examine structural factors such as posture, gait, and range of motion. Some chiropractors use AK to help them evaluate the success of spinal adjustment. A leg muscle is tested for strength or weakness to determine whether the adjustments made are appropriate.
According to AK, common internal causes of muscle weakness include:
- dysfunction of nerve supply (nerve interference between spine and muscles)
- impairment of lymphatic drainage
- reduction of blood supply
- abnormal pressure in cerebral fluid affecting nerve-to-muscle relationships
- blockage of an acupuncture meridian
- imbalance of chemicals
- dysfunction of organs or glands
- excesses or deficiencies in nutrition
Physiological reactions to chemicals, including those associated with nutrition and allergies, may also be evaluated using AK. The AK protocol for testing chemical compounds is to place the substance on the patient's tongue so that he tastes the material, and the normal chemical reactions of ingestion begin. In some cases, the substances are inhaled through the nose. The AK practitioner then tests the associated muscle-organ pattern to determine where or if there is a strength or weakness. The patient does not need to swallow the substance for a change in strength or weakness to be identified. David S. Walther, a diplomate of the International College of Applied Kinesiology, has indicated that "it is possible that the central nervous system, recognizing the compound being ingested, relays information to the organs and glands preparing for use of the compound. If the compound is recognized as beneficial, the energy pattern is immediately enhanced, influencing not only the organ or gland, but also the associated muscle."
AK has been used as a diagnostic health tool for a variety of conditions.
- tennis elbow
- heel spurs
- wound healing
- intermittent claudication (pain on walking)
- restless legs
Vascular system health
Nervous system health
- migraine and other headaches
- trigeminal neuralgia and other face pains
- Bell's palsy
- addictions (like smoking)
- Meniere's disorder
- neuralgia (severe, throbbing pain)
- travel sickness
- phantom limb pain
- paralysis of leg or arm after a stroke
Respiratory system health
Urinary system health
- cystitis (bladder inflammation), especially in the elderly
- early prostate enlargement
- non-specific urethritis (inflammation of tube from the bladder)
Reproductive organ health
- menstrual pains
- irregular or excessive menstrual activity
- pelvic pains and endometriosis
- menopausal flushes
- painful, nodular breasts
- preparation for childbirth
- vaginal pain
- post herpetic (shingles) pain
- impotence and infertility
- pain after operations
- painful, prominent scars
- wrinkles or bagginess of face
- psoriasis and eczema (skin diseases)
- excessive perspiration
- canker sores
Immune system health
- recurring tonsillitis (inflammed tonsils)
- persisting weakness after a severe illness
Sensory organ health
- tinnitus (ringing ears)
- tired eyes
- retinitis pigmentosa and pterygium retinitis (diseases of the retina)
Digestive system health
The second part of AK involves the treatment phase. Goodheart and other practitioners of AK have adapted many treatment methods for the problems that are diagnosed with muscle testing. Examples of treatment methods include special diets, dietary supplements, chiropractic manipulation, osteopathic cranial techniques, acupuncture/meridian therapies, acupressure, deep muscle massage, and nervous system coordination procedures. For example, an AK practitioner might treat asthma by looking for weaknesses in specific lower back and leg muscles that share a connection with the adrenal glands. The practitioner will strengthen these muscles and help the adrenal gland produce bronchodilators, chemicals that relax or open air passages in the lungs.
The practice of kinesiology requires that it be used in conjunction with other standard diagnostic methods by professionals trained in clinical diagnosis. Most practitioners of AK are chiropractors, but naturopaths, medical doctors, dentists, osteopaths, nutritionists, physical therapists, massage therapists, podiatrists, psychiatrists, and nurse practitioners are also involved. In 1991, 37.2% of 4,835 full-time chiropractors in the United States who responded to a survey by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) said they used AK in their practice. Subsequent NBCE surveys indicated that 31% of chiropractors in Canada, 60% in Australia, and 72% in New Zealand use AK.
Most practitioners of AK utilize a holistic approach and evaluate a person from a triad-based health perspective. Generally, chiropractors approach health and healing from a structural basis, medical doctors generally from a chemical basis, and psychiatrists and psychologists from a mental or emotional basis. Applied kinesiologists attempt to work with all three areas of health, and in some cases, include a spiritual dimension.
The use of AK is often included in insurance coverage if the policy covers chiropractor benefits. The cost of the AK examination is similar to the costs of other chiropractic practices.
AK should only by used by trained professionals with the necessary expertise to perform specific and accurate tests. The AK examination should be combined with a standard physical diagnosis, which often includes laboratory tests, x rays, health and dietary history, and other special tests. An AK examination should enhance a standard diagnosis, not replace it. The total diagnostic work-up should be used to determine the final diagnosis.
The use of manual muscle testing to evaluate nutrition is particularly a problem if it is done by a lay nutrition sales person as a tool to sell his/her product. The person should have the educational background to evaluate nutritional needs as well as have a high level of knowledge in the use of proper muscle testing techniques.
If AK is performed by a trained practitioner with the appropriate educational background, side effects from the muscle-testing procedures should be minimal.
Research and general acceptance
AK is a tool that is used by many health care professionals, and especially by chiropractors. A literature review published in 1999 by researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Foundation for Allied Conservative Therapies Research in Chapel Hill stated that, although AK appears to be a promising methodology, there is a lack of research results relevant to clinical practice and outcomes of AK care. They found this lack of results surprising, since cost, satisfaction, utilization, and changes in symptoms are the important results of clinical practice. In addition, they determined that some studies that were supposed to be an evaluation of AK procedures did not actually use clinical practices and principles of AK. However, from studies adhering to AK principles and employing standardized training by well-trained practitioners, they did state there was some evidence that AK is an objectively verifiable phenomenon. They suggested that "future studies of AK should focus on outcomes of care, including symptoms, function, costs, and safety. Only well-designed studies that account for the individual nature of AK diagnosis and treatment and preserve the proper clinical context of AK treatment will be informative. Understanding the individual components of the process of AK treatment remains important. Studies addressing validation of isolated AK procedures need to meet the methodological challenges of studying appropriate subjects that reflects the current recognized practice and understanding of AK. Further evaluation of the basic physiologic phenomena involved and correlation of AK manual muscle test results will also advance understanding of this diagnostic and therapeutic system."
Holdway, Anne. Kinesiology: Muscle Testing and Energy Balancing for Health and Well-Being. Rockport, MA: Element, 1997.
Valentine, Tom, Carol Valentine, and D.P. Hetrick. Applied Kinesiology. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1989.
International College of Applied Kinesiology. 6405 Metcalf Ave., Suite 503, Shawnee Mission, KS 66202. 913-384-5336. <http://www.icakusa.com and <http://www.icak.com>.
GEORGE GOODHEART (1918-)
Dr. George Goodheart was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1918 and became a second-generation doctor of chiropractic. He graduated from the National College of Chiropractic in 1939 and is recognized as the founder and developer of Applied Kinesiology. After he joined the U.S. Air Force as an aviation cadet in World War II, he received a promotion to major at the age of 22. He was the youngest ever to attain that rank. He served in active duty from 1941-1946 and continued as a member of the Air Force Reserve until the mid-1950s.
Dr. Goodheart held numerous positions of distinction during his career, including director of the National Chiropractic Mutual Insurance Company and director for the International College of Applied Kinesiology-U.S.A. He also lectured and taught throughout the United States, Japan, Europe, and Australia; and he was the official doctor of chiropractic for the Lake Placed Winter Olympic Games in 1980. He contributes to a variety of trade publications on a regular basis.
In 1998 Dr. Goodheart received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International College of Kinesiology. Earlier, in 1987 he was honored with the Leonardo da Vinci Award from the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential, and he was cited for his research by Logan and Palmer Colleges of Chiropractic. He represented the State of Michigan as a delegate to the American Chiropractic Association and was a fellow at the International College of Chiropractic. He resides with his wife, JoAnn in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, where he enjoys skiing and tennis.