(Investigator 155, 2014
therapy known as Applied Kinesiology (AK) is often confused with
Kinesiology, (also known as Human Kinetics).
is a legitimate
form of therapy and assessment using principles that include
biomechanics, physiology and anatomy, to study the movement and
performance of the human body, and was originally developed to enable
accurate assessments to be made of the degree of physical incapacity of
persons injured in accidents. Later it came to be used in testing polio
patients and in such areas as sport, fitness training, and the
rehabilitation of persons injured in traffic and occupational
accidents. By contrast, AK is an alternative form of therapy based upon
nonsensical, pseudo-scientific concepts.
differences between them, AK has effectively purloined the Kinesiology
name; as Dickson (1990) indicated, through misuse the terms
"Kinesiology" and "Applied Kinesiology" have become virtually one and
the same in the mind of the general public, so that when people speak
about Kinesiology they are generally referring to AK.
its origins in 1964
with Chiropractor George Goodheart, who, although he claimed it was
based on the Kinesiological muscle testing principles of developed by
practitioners such as Kendall, Kendall and Boynton (1954), in actual
fact it has little real similarity to Kinesiology.
contrary, AK is
based upon pseudo-science and metaphysics, predominantly from ideas
taken from Chiropractic, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Furthermore, it appears that much of the inspiration for AK was derived
metaphysically; rather than basing his theories upon years of
scientific research, as Pollack and Kravitz (1985) indicated, Goodheart
evolved much of the fundamental concepts of AK directly from
spontaneous psychic revelations that he experienced. As a result AK is
essentially an assortment of alternative health theories including the
chiropractic concept of Innate Intelligence, and various other
to Frost (2002),
Goodheart discovered that, "…the relative test strength of a muscle
could reflect the influence on the condition of one or more of five
main systems" (p. 10).
This "discovery" was similar to a TCM concept, the belief that human
health is governed by the Law of the Five Elements. This metaphysical
concept "connects" the five TCM elements, Fire, Water, Earth, Metal and
Wood, with five body systems, which Goodheart defined as the nervous,
lymphatic, vascular, cerebrospinal and meridian. These systems, it is
claimed, are, "…so intricately interwoven, each with the other, that
it is impossible to separate them." (Valentine, 1987, p. 16).
concept of TCM that Goodheart introduced into AK was the concept of Chi
- a mysterious form of life-energy. In vitalistic terms Chi is
essentially the energy or life-principle that animates the human body.
It is claimed to flow through invisible and undetectable channels,
(meridians) within the body, and, adhering to common vitalistic
beliefs, AK therapists claim that, to ensure good health, this energy
must always be maintained in a balanced condition. As Hall, Lewith,
Brien, and Little (2008) noted, one of the primary objectives of AK is
to constantly evaluate the body's energetic balance (Chi), and where
necessary, to select appropriate healing modalities to readjust and
restore balance to the internal flow of this "energy".
procedures feature prominently as a means of diagnosis in AK, indeed
Frost (2002) describes them as, "…the central tool of AK." (p.
63). As such, AK is "primarily a diagnostic technique" (p. 2) that uses
these various manual muscle-strength tests, along with standard
examination procedures, to determine particular health problems.
underlying principle of
AK is that there exists a natural relationship between the muscles and
the bodily organs; as Ankerberg and Weldon (1991) indicated, each of
the large muscles is physically, "… and magically related to a
specific body organ, and these in turn are related to a specific
acupuncture meridian" (p. 161). AK asserts that any
abnormality, or malfunction, in any of the major organs produces
corresponding weakness in the major muscles that can be detected by, "…using
an indicator muscle…to evaluate the structural, mental/emotional and
biochemical functions of the human organism." (Frost, 2002, p. 2).
tests are applied on
some thirty-two muscles and practitioners claim they can detect
physical feedback, a form of "body language", from the muscles, which
enables them to determine the specific problems and which of the
various organs is unhealthy. Not only that, but they also claim that
the messages obtained via the muscles are always correct!
testing is a useful technique in Kinesiology and physiotherapy, AK
takes the concept out of the practical realm and into one of fantasy.
They claim, for instance, that the muscles are so incredibly sensitive
to the presence of any substances that can cause negative responses
that the muscle-strength testing can enable practitioners to determine
the specific substances that are antagonistic to the particular
individual. These not only include certain chemicals, but sensitivities
to a vast range of modern-day products, including fluorescent lighting,
insecticides, artificial food chemicals, colouring and preservatives,
even sugar, which many AK practitioners classify as a "negative food
(1999) was present at
a demonstration where AK techniques were used to "demonstrate" the
body's specific responses to either glucose, which they classified as
"bad" sugar, and fructose, a "good" sugar. Although the demonstration
was successful when the subjects were aware which substance they were
receiving, when a double-blind situation was applied the results
clearly indicated there was no relationship whatsoever between the
"good" or "bad" sugar and the responses of the subjects.
author has witnessed
similar tests claimed to prove the dangers of sugary soft-drinks.
Subjects were requested to hold their arm rigidly in a horizontal
position and when the demonstrator "attempted" to push the arm down
they failed. After taking a mouthful of the soft-drink the test was
repeated and the demonstrator was easily able to push the arm down.
Although they insisted this was "evidence" that sugar produced muscular
weakness, in fact it was simply a trick. On the first occasion the
demonstrator applied only a small amount of force but, on the second
occasion, they applied a much greater force.
the claims made
regarding the ability of AK techniques to test for allergies are quite
absurd. For instance Frost (2002) claims that holding a bottle
containing antagonistic substances at homeopathic concentrations, (12C)
is sufficient to trigger a response in hypertonic muscles (p. 61); yet,
in fact, a substance at that homeopathic level would be unlikely to
contain even a single molecule of the original substance.
Koch and Pioch (2005) noted, when the claims that AK could detect
allergenic dental materials were tested using valid test procedures,
the results were no better than random guessing; studies by other
researchers such as Teuber and Porch-Curren (2003) revealed similar
results. The conclusion reached by such testing was that there is no
evidence whatsoever to support the use of AK as a means of detecting
of their alleged
metaphysical basis it is not possible to test many of the AK concepts,
however the muscle-strength tests is one area that can be
scientifically tested. In this respect muscle-strength testing for
chiropractic research by Haas, Peterson, Hoyer and Ross (1994)
indicated that muscle response appeared to be an entirely random event,
and, as such, appeared to be of questionable value for spinal screening
and post-adjustive evaluation.
Lüdtke, Kunz, Seeber and Ring (2001), specifically designed to
assess the reliability and validity of AK muscle testing, concluded
that the AK muscle testing procedure was useless as a diagnostic
procedure and indeed was no better than random guessing. Hall et al.
(2008) also concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support
the claims of AK concerning the validity of muscle responses;
essentially, they are completely unreliable as a means of diagnosis.
question as to why AK
appears to actually operate on some people has been examined by various
authors and the most common explanation is that it is a form of
suggestion. Jarvis (2000) compares it to the psychophysiologic
responses that occur when suggestion is used with such techniques as
clinical hypnosis; indeed there appears to be some degree of validity
in such theories.
much of this differential sensitivity, the muscle weakness/tension
which is used as a diagnostic tool in AK, to a simple ideomotor
response, the unconscious triggering of specific reflex actions, what
Carroll (2003), described as, "…the influence of suggestion on
involuntary and unconscious motor behaviour." (p. 172). As Erickson
(1961) indicated, ideomotor responses are commonly used in hypnotic
how easily subjects can be influenced by suggestion is the Chevreul's
Pendulum where, even though a subject attempts to hold a pendulum
perfectly still, when someone suggests the pendulum will begin to swing
from side-to-side, backwards and forwards, or even in a circle, despite
the subject's best efforts they are generally unable to prevent it
swinging in the direction suggested.
developed a great deal
of popularity with the alternative therapy community, possibly due to
the fact that Goodheart developed a less technical approach for
alternative therapists, many of whom were untrained amateurs, and his
insistence that AK could be used successfully with almost all forms of
alternative therapy, (Ankerberg and Weldon, 1991, 158-159). This
attitude has changed somewhat, and the latest status statement by the
Executive Board of the International College of Applied Kinesiology,
(1992) stresses that it, "…be used in conjunction with other
standard diagnostic methods" and that the practice of AK be limited
to licensed health care professionals trained in proper clinical
time AK has spawned a
large number of variations, each with their own particular form of
"energy imbalance" testing techniques and treatments; these include: -
Behavioural Kinesiology: Based on the work of Diamond (1979), it
is designed to test for the effects of electro-magnetic pollution and
offers a variety of devices to protect against EMF radiation;
Gym: A form of educational kinesiology, that promotes using posture and
movement to facilitate and improve learning;
Contact Reflex Analysis (CRA): It claims there are seventy-five
reflex points on the body and that thousands of disorders can be
diagnosed simply by the application of the practitioner's finger or
hand to one of these;
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): Also known as Energy
Psychology claims that negative emotions are due to disturbances in the
body's energy field. It claims to offer fast and effective relief from
a wide range of emotional problems such as trauma, anxiety, phobias,
anger, sadness, grief, guilt, etc.;
Health Kinesiology (HK): Claims to use muscle testing to identify
multiple deficiencies in the energy flow and to indicate in what order
they need to be dealt with. It also uses a technique known as the
Energy Tap, in which substances causing allergies are placed over a
specific acupuncture point on the belly and then eight pairs of
specific acupuncture points are tapped;
Jaffe-Mellor Technique (JMT): Patients are "diagnosed" while
holding a glass container of a substance that causes a physical
reaction, when weaknesses are detected the practitioner uses
Acupuncture and Acupressure to balance the internal flow of energy;
Neural Organization Technique (NOT): This process claims
that blocked neural pathways are the basis of such disorders as
cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, Down's syndrome, colour-blindness,
bedwetting, nightmares, and various other problems, (Barrett).
there is no
evidence to support any of the claims made by practitioners of AK; it
is simply a concoction of arcane vitalistic teachings with no real
scientific basis; as Ankerberg and Weldon (1991) commented, "…applied
kinesiology is not a practice that should be trusted or utilized. Those
who claim it is a valuable adjunct to health concerns are simply wrong."
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