Search This Blog

Friday, October 4, 2013

Muscle Testing: Science or Pseudo-Science?

My chiropractor suggested vitamin-B12 after pushing on my arm?
I meet two types of people at conferences. One includes those hard-boiled guys (and occasionally gals) who demand empirical evidence to support something. “Show me the science,” is their mantra.
If I say blueberries are brain food, they want to see three studies to support that claim. If I talk about how coenzyme Q10 benefits cellular energy, they want a textbook illustration to validate its role in the electron transport chain.
I like the second group better. They believe in science, but they’re open-minded to also accept empirical evidence. Don’t get me wrong. If an “expert” claimed she could talk to angels to cure cancer, these folks wouldn’t buy it for a millisecond.
But they also don’t need
hard science to validate everything. Science doesn’t have double-blind, placebo based studies about water, yet we praise its numerous benefits. We don’t understand exactly how aspirin works; we just know that it does, and if we have a headache, we’ll sure as hell take it.
 At a recent conference, a colleague who clearly falls into the former group came to my booth, smiling cynically. “I was just talking with a chiropractor that wanted me to try something called muscle testing,” he said. “Something about holding my arm out to test for imbalances. I just told him I was busy and walked away.”
His smug look and I’ve got it all figured out attitude got me thinking about how many things we accept that don’t have a ton of science to support them. That got me curious about muscle testing. Here’s what I found.
What is Muscle Testing?
Chiropractors and other alternative practitioners sometimes use something called applied kinesiology (AK), also called muscle testing. To avoid confusion: AK is an entirely different ballgame than kinesiology, the scientific study of human movement, which is my background.
Based on concepts rooted in Chinese medicine, muscle testing or AK can detect your body’s imbalances and nutrient requirements. Based on pressure a practitioner applies to a large muscle, AK can detect:
   Energy blockages
   Organ health
   Nutritional deficiencies
   Food intolerances
   Your body’s response to a particular herb or nutrient

Now, if that all sounds woo woo to you – and admittedly, it did for me at first – let me explain the concept more fully.
Discovered in the mid-1960s, chiropractor George J. Goodheart began teaching muscle testing to other practitioners, and a movement was born. Today, researchers estimate almost 38% of chiropractors use some form of muscle testing.
The premise here is that every muscle has a corresponding acupuncture meridian. Weak muscles signify an underlying illness that corresponds to a particular organ.
So let’s say you had a weak chest muscle: that might detect liver issues. A weak muscle near your groin, on the other hand, could signify adrenal deficiencies.
What Can I Expect During an AK Session?
Practitioners use a variety of methods for muscle testing, including joint manipulation, cranial therapy, and dietary counseling. I’ll briefly explain some of the most common modalities for AK.
The classic AK test is the arm-pull-down test, or "Delta test," where you resist as someone pushes downward on your extended arm. The practitioner will properly position your arm to isolate the muscle in focus and minimize other muscles from interfering.
A corresponding weak or strong muscle provides your practitioner clues about corresponding allergies and other ailments.
Other methods include nutrient testing, where a practitioners determines how your muscle responds to an herb or other nutrient. A practitioner might also ask you to chew something and then test your saliva to determine your body’s reaction.
“That the body recognizes and reacts instantly to nutrients and other chemicals is difficult to refute,” write Tom and Carol Valentine in their book Applied Kinesiology. For instance: “AK practitioners have shown that carbon tetrachloride invariably weakens the pectoralis major, which is associated with the liver, and that alcohol will weaken the sartorius and gracilis muscles in any individual with reactive hypoadrenia.”
Another modality involves lying down and holding small tubes in your left hand. These tubes might contain food, medication, or a potential allergen. The practitioner will push on your right arm. A strong arm means you don’t have a reaction to that substance. A weak arm could signify a potential allergic or other reaction.
Every practitioner will apply different testing modules. If you determine AK might be something that benefits you, I would suggest finding a reputable professional and trust his or her methods.

Potential Cure or Quackery?
How scientific is it to have someone push down on your arm and then tell you what nutrients you’re deficient in? That was my initial thought as my cynical friend first mentioned muscle testing.
Research revealed that it all depends on the source: do a quick Google search and you’ll find reputable source that validate or completely dismiss AK.
Quackwatch, alternative medicine’s worst enemy, quickly shoots down muscle testing. “Controlled studies have found no difference between the results with test substances and with placebos,” writes Dr. Stephen Barrett. “If you encounter a practitioner who relies on AK muscle-testing for diagnosis, head for the nearest exit.” They go on to cite numerous studies that dismiss AK as a legitimate therapy.
Siding with Dr. Barrett is the American Cancer Society, which argues "available scientific evidence does not support the claim that applied kinesiology can diagnose or treat cancer or other illness.” Likewise, the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology claims “no evidence of diagnostic validity” for applied kinesiology. 
But not everyone is so cynical. “There are many different forms of muscle testing one can use to achieve… results,” says Dr. Joseph Mercola. He calls muscle reflex testing “next to prayer the most powerful healing technique I am aware of.”
Other experts take an equally open-minded view.
“Muscle testing is an excellent tool that may offer insight to the specific areas of an individual's life that may be causing problems to their overall health,” says the Longetivity Medical Health Center web page about AK. “The biofeedback the body provides through muscle testing has enabled many people to gather additional information about their body and lifestyle to make significant and lasting changes to positively affect their health.” 
We don’t have a ton of studies that validate AK. I did, however, find a really compelling one concerning allergies.
The International Journal of Neuroscience did a pilot study to determine whether muscle testing benefitted people with hyper-allergenic responses.
Seventeen subjects proved positive on AK muscle testing screening procedures, indicating allergic reactions. Testing confirmed 19 of the 21 food allergies (90.5%) suspected based on the AK modalities practitioners used.
So if someone says “Show me the science about AK,” well, there’s not much, but this study alone is pretty convincing for allergies at least.
My Take
“I am absolutely convinced, without question, that prayer is the most powerful therapeutic move one can do,” says Dr. Mercola. This comes from a medical doctor who demands hard science to substantiate claims.
Yet, like water and aspirin, we don’t have a ton of studies to prove that prayer works. Millions of people, however, undoubtedly know that it does work and couldn’t give a rat’s tail about naysayers that claim it doesn’t.
Critics argue no available evidence supports AK to diagnose any illness. I agree: AK and other alternative therapies should complement, not replace, your conventional health care providers.  
Listen, I’m all for Western medicine in certain instances. Science has done wonders for, say, treating cancer and organ transplants. I always say if I’m in a car crash, I want the very best doctors and medicine money can buy.
 But Western medicine has failed us in other ways. For one, it completely ignores the millennia-old wisdom of Eastern medicine and philosophy. It has failed to fully utilize the healing benefits of acupuncture and other alternative therapies, often judgmentally dismissing such treatment as quackery.
As an adjunct to conventional therapies, if you’re open-minded it couldn’t hurt to try AK, and it might even be the magic bullet you need. I’ll tell you a story that diminished my cynicism.
I have a friend who went to several specialists who couldn’t pinpoint the culprit for his allergies. You’ve probably had that experience too: you see doctor after doctor, and yet you get the same old tired story with no solutions for your problem.
My friend went to a chiropractor that applied AK. Within three sessions, they had detected what triggered his allergy. “I spent thousands of dollars and countless hours to basically have doctors imply I was crazy or it was all in my head,” he told me. “My chiropractor actually listened to me and better yet, remedied my problem.”
That to me is more valuable than a hundred studies validating AK. ___________________________________________________________________________
You have permission to do so, free of charge, as long as the byline and
the article is included in its entirety:

Fitness expert and strength coach Jini Cicero, CSCS, teaches intermediate exercisers how to blast through plateaus to create incredible transformations. Are you ready to take your fitness to a whole new level?  Find out now!  Take Jini's "Are you Ready?" Quiz at © 2011 Jinifit, Inc.

If you use the article you are required to activate any links found in the article and the by-line. Please do not use this article in any publication that is not opt-in (spam).


Post a Comment