Applied kinesiology (AK) is a technique used in many forms of holistic healing. The holistic veterinary world is using it just as frequently as many holistic human practitioners. Though AK can be a useful technique, the way it is used often gives erroneous results while the practitioner is lead to believe that AK is infallible. Because it looks like a simple technique, practitioners often use AK to shorten the time it takes to learn the great variety of holistic techniques. However, in-depth study, clinical experience and excellent use of the six senses we were born with usually produces the most consistent and best results. Applied kinesiology should take its place next to all the other diagnostic tools available to the holistic veterinarian.
Applied kinesiology originated in 1964 from the work of a chiropractor named George Goodheart. He noticed that, when the there were no skeletal deformities, weak muscles contributed to postural defects. One patient's anterior serratus muscle was weak, causing the scapula to stand wing outwards. Dr. Goodheart massaged the origin of the muscle, the serratus became stronger and the winged appearance of the scapula became normal. From there Dr. Goodheart explored muscle testing to aid his therapeutic chiropractic skills and to fine-tune his diagnostic skills. An organization formed called the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) and his technique was taught to chiropractors and other practitioners. As AK became more popular and used by people with little medical background, the potential for abuse of the technique became apparent. In 1983 the ICAK issued a statement which included the following:
“. . . Many unique observations have been made in applied kinesiology which have given a better insight into body function. It is the ICAK's position that applied kinesiology examination should be combined with standard physical diagnosis, laboratory, x-ray, history and any other special examination procedures of the physician who is using applied kinesiology as an adjunct to diagnosis. AK examination should enhance standard diagnosis, not replace it.
“Applied kinesiology methods add information to an examination, but they should not be used as the major investigative endeavor. . . . Rarely, if ever, should a diagnosis be made on a limited and restricted examination. . .
“. . . The ICAK specifically does not approve of the use of manual muscle testing as a single method in determining an individual's nutritional needs. Research sponsored by the ICAK revealed a random response to blind testing of nutrition when the latissimus dorsi muscle was tested. . . “(1)
Since the early days when chiropractors were the primary users of AK, there are now as many systems of AK as there are practitioners willing to teach. People test for mental disorders, physical diseases, toxins, allergies, energy imbalances, acupuncture points and nutritional supplements. AK is being touted for all the lay practitioners of any discipline as well as the professionals, and they are often told they do not need any knowledge to use the system. “Just test the body, it does not lie.” Unfortunately, it is very important to have knowledge to understand if the tests are in agreement with the clinical picture, and often the AK tests and prescriptions do not agree with the clinical picture.
Becoming clear about AK
Most people believe that the body doesn't lie and that AK is infallible. In part that is true, but the reality is that the human mind can totally influence the outcome of the muscle test. In the teaching of AK students are told about the influence of the mind, however they are also told that if they approach their testing in a certain way that they will not be influenced by their mind. A classic example is used in AK demonstrations everywhere. The patient is found to test with a strong muscle, then is asked to think a negative thought (2). The muscle test then becomes weak. How many veterinarians (or other practitioners for that matter) go through the day and never have a negative thought? The client may be obnoxious, the receptionist may have called in sick or the animal may be difficult to work with. All these and many more incidences can lead to negative thoughts while we are working.
Several other factors enter into the picture when the practitioner is trying to do accurate muscle testing. The ideal is to have the practitioner's mind completely clear so the results of the test are accurate. When meditating, the most difficult thing to do is to clear the mind so there are no thoughts. Even people who practice meditation seriously find it difficult to clear their minds, so it is not surprising that a busy practitioner would have difficulty. Also in order to have totally clear minds we, as humans, have to be able to separate ourselves from being judgmental about the outcome of the condition we are treating. Most people have not reached that level of personal growth where they are totally non-judgmental and are willing to leave the results of the treatment up to the animal, or the universe, or God or whatever you want to call the higher power. Practitioners often feel responsible for doing the healing.
The basic philosophy behind holistic medicine is to get away from the crutch of the blood test, the x-ray, and the technologically-derived diagnosis and to develop a sensitivity to the animal and its whole self. The more the muscle testing is relied upon and not sensitivity to the animal, complete histories and physical exams as well as intuition, those items that we should be particularly good at as “wholistic” practitioners, the more the muscle test becomes another blood test or x-ray.
When a dog comes into the clinic with known high liver enzymes, the diagnosis is a liver problem. So the tendency is to line up some therapies (homeopathic, herbal or whatever) and muscle test for the correct one. In being a “wholistic” practitioner a complete history should be taken and a thorough physical exam performed. Instead of using our knowledge and six senses, very often an AK system is used to check the body out. There are as many systems of AK as there are people who think them up, since AK can be used to answer any question in any format that requires a yes or no answer. When doing a body scan using AK the practitioner already knows in his/her mind that this dog has a liver problem so, naturally things in the scan are found that support a liver problem. Other problems may be found as well, and some that were never thought about, but how accurate is it? Perhaps it is accurate, perhaps not. Another practitioner can come along and test the same animal using a different system of AK and often make a different diagnosis. Who is right? Correct diagnosis requires input from multiple sources.
As practitioners gain experience in alternative medicine they are constantly being exposed to new treatments, nutritional supplements and other natural compounds. Every practitioner must observe the results they obtain with each new product. An observation made about many AK practitioners is that their patients generally receive many different supplements at one time making it difficult to evaluate the results of each supplement. Certainly there are times in serious or complicated diseases when several or even a large number of supplements and/or treatments is appropriate, but most of the time the owner pays a large bill and nobody knows which remedy is working. Animals often come to this author's practice receiving multiple supplements, homeopathics and herbs, a practice commonly referred to in a derogatory way as polypharmacy in conventional medicine. The best holistic practitioners keep their protocols simple; it is less confusing to the practitioner, the owner can see specific results and the energy of the animal is more focused on healing the specific problem.
In holistic medicine, the common thought is that all of the treatments are harmless, consequently the practitioner can use any therapy and it will be safe. Yes, the therapies are generally safe, however homeopathic can suppress disease as easily as allopathic medicine; homeopathic can cause severe and even life threatening aggravations; herbs can be too cooling or warming for a particular case or cause a severe detoxification reaction; and chiropractic adjustments can cause joint degeneration (4) if performed incorrectly.
Nutritional supplements are often prescribed in very unbalanced proportions by AK practitioners. This author has seen many cases where practitioners, especially lay people and human practitioners who believe (note the word believe, it does not mean they have studied anything) that animals need calcium in the same way humans require calcium. Most animal supplements, especially for horses, already contain too much calcium and very little other minerals in correct balance. Every practitioner who believes calcium is necessary will muscle test every animal they see and the majority will be put on calcium supplements, even if their diet already contains an excessive amount of calcium. A quick analysis of the diet would tell the practitioner the correct answer. Interestingly, when an AK practitioner is either making a great deal of money off a product, or believes a product is good, every animal seems to end up needing the product. When the practitioner moves onto a different product, suddenly all the animals need the new product. This phenomenon indicates a certain amount of the operator's belief system is involved with the prescription and AK analysis. Prescribing intelligently goes back to the basics of the five senses with the addition of intuition and ancillary tests such as AK as an aid.
Prescribing based on applied kinesiology tends to follow the practitioner's current belief system and the patient's body and energy system at the moment in time of the test, rather than sound knowledge. An example of this occurs with adrenal gland testing. With people and animals, adrenal glands are often affected by stress, so most AK practitioners identify the adrenals as being low in function and proceed to treat with adrenal stimulants. However, when functional tests are done on the adrenals (not yet available to veterinary medicine), such as a salivary cortisol test over twenty four hours, the results often show an abnormal rhythm to the excretion of cortisol, with many people having low cortisol during the day (when most blood or AK tests are taken) and high cortisol in the evening or night (5). Treating these people with adrenal stimulants makes them feel better for a short time, then they are worse than before.
One useful way to learn from AK testing is to study each remedy, supplement or treatment in detail for each case and see how well the treatment fits the entire picture of the case. In reality, most practitioners are too busy to spend that kind of time for the majority of cases. If practitioners would spend the time, a great deal of information could be gathered and the practitioner would have an understanding of the methods of treatments and why they succeeded or failed. For example, classical homeopathy as a science is based on taking a case that includes the entire picture of the animal's life, not just the moment an AK test is done. This author has seen many cases treated with homeopathy using AK that are confused, difficult to treat, and difficult to understand the thinking process the previous practitioner went through to pick the remedy, since in many cases the remedy does not fit the clinical picture of the case.
Applied kinesiology can be most useful in areas where the practitioner has arrived at a diagnosis and is not sure between two products, or is not quite sure which is the best direction to make a chiropractic adjustment after good diagnostics have been done. Using AK to figure out a dosage of a particular product is straight forward and is often a good way for practitioners to feel more confident learning about new products. Usually once experience has been gained, the need to rely on a test should be less since intuition and knowledge should have taken over. If the practitioner chooses to use one of the detailed systems of AK diagnosis, a complete workup should still be done using all the other tools and skills the veterinarian has acquired.
Applied kinesiology can be a useful way to learn more about an individual animal, but should not be used at the expense of all the other tools available to the veterinarian for diagnostic purposes.
Can our results be consistent when a great deal of reliance is placed on the AK results and not on our skills as practitioners? Do we grow personally and professionally? AK can be a useful tool to learn with, but how often do we take the time to learn as much as we could from it? Give these questions some serious thought before blindly muscle testing every animal that walks, crawls or romps though the door.
1. Valentine T, Valentine C, Hetrick DP. Applied Kinesiology. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT. 1987: 134-135.
2. Diamond J. Your Body Doesn't Lie. Warner Books. New York, NY.
3. Benskey D and Barolet R. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Formulas and Strategies. Eastland Press, Seattle Press. 1990.
4. Leach RA. The Chiropractic Theories. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, MD. 1994.
5. Jefferies WM. Cortisol and immunity. Med Hypoth 34:198-208, 1991.