Posted online July 2017
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During the past 3000 years, many diagnostic methods have been developed to discover the causes of human pain and dysfunction. In l964, a significant step forward in the evaluation of neurological disturbances related to functional-structural impairments was made by the chiropractor Dr. George J. Goodheart Jr. and his development of applied kinesiology (AK).1-4
The manual muscle testing (MMT) applications that Goodheart delineated have been taken up by practitioners in a broad cross-section of the healing arts, including chiropractors, osteopaths, psychologists and psychiatrists, acupuncturists, nutritionists, naturopaths, bodyworkers, and kinesiologists. AK's approach to specific health problems has been presented in the Townsend Letter; however, a broad overview of the neurophysiology underlying this unifying concept of health-care diagnosis has not been published before.5-7
Figure 1: The "Triad of Health" suggests that structural, biochemical, and psychosocial factors are components in functional disorders that are amenable to manual muscle testing assessment and treatment.
Influence of AK Worldwide
Goodheart's work drew a large following of doctors and recognition. He was the first chiropractor officially appointed to the US Olympic Sports Medicine team.8 In 1976 the International College of Applied Kinesiology was founded to promote the research and teaching of AK.9 In Europe, some 3000 MDs and osteopaths now use AK as part of their diagnostic regimen.
The first book to describe the value of AK to other professions, AK and the Stomatognathic System, was authored by Harold Gelb, a dentist, and Goodheart in 1977.10 Gelb founded the Craniomandibular Pain Center at Tufts University College of Dental Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts. He and his team have been using MMT and the methods developed by Goodheart and the International College of Applied Kinesiology in the evaluation of patients with TMD ever since, and have published a substantial body of research on the relationship between muscle imbalances and TMD.11,12 Significant inroads into the dental profession have been made by AK.13-15
Many other "name techniques" have evolved from AK that also incorporate many of the same MMTs and neurological reflexes and procedures as part of their diagnostic systems, including Neuro Emotional Technique (NET), Neural Organization Technique (NOT), clinical kinesiology, Contact Reflex Analysis (CRA), Total Body Modification (TBM), Thought Field Therapy (TFT), behavioral kinesiology (BK), and Ulan Nutritional Systems, in addition to nearly 100 systems of "kinesiology" around the world.16-22 Emotional Freedom Technique, commonly known as EFT, is a popular form of "energy psychology" and has been described in the Townsend Letter. Its founder, Gary Craig (an engineer from Stanford), gives Goodheart credit for its development. Goodheart demonstrated the effect of the meridian system upon human muscle function for Craig and his teacher Dr. Roger Callahan (the founder of TFT) and, from their use of these insights, developed methods that have spread around the world.23 The ability to improve mental health problems with applied kinesiology techniques is now beginning to emerge, with much credit going to the innovative techniques of the chiropractors Goodheart and Walker, the psychiatrist John Diamond, the psychologists Roger Callahan and Fred Gallo, and many others.
In 1970, Dr. John Thie (the first chairman of the International College of Applied Kinesiology USA) wanted "kinesiology" to be available for the general public, while Goodheart wanted to continue teaching AK only to professionals licensed to diagnose and treat patients. Goodheart challenged Thie to write a book for the public. Thie's book Touch for Health is a best-seller in the self-help domain.24
Before AK's expansion of the applications to which the MMT could be put, the actual testing of muscles had been firmly established by Kendall and Kendall, who held that a muscle from a contracted position against increasing applied pressure could either maintain its position (rated as "facilitated" or "strong") or break away and thus be rated as "inhibited" or "weak."25 The testing of muscle strength itself has been widely practiced in manual medicine for almost a century, whose reliability and validity have recently been shown.26-30
Figure 2: Hamstring Manual Muscle Test
Since the original discovery that muscle inhibition related to neurological disturbances and could be used to diagnose neuromuscular problems, the AK examination system has broadened to include evaluation of nutritional, acupuncture, cerebrospinal fluid, lymphatic and vascular function, and many other controlling or disturbing factors that influence health and neurological function.1-4 The investigation of these other causes of muscle weakness and their correction developed into the current practice of AK for the broad number of different professions that use it for their own purposes. Each of these areas of human function has been shown to affect the muscular system, and AK and allied health systems' research evidence in this regard is constantly growing.9,31 Even the American Medical Association has accepted that the standard method of MMT used and taught in AK is a reliable tool and advocates its use for the evaluation of disability impairments.32
Knowing precisely what a specific malfunctioning factor in patients' functional ensemble does to muscle strength can greatly enhance their understanding of their health problem. As is well known in modern therapeutics, the location of a primary complaint does not necessarily correlate with the symptoms for which the patient seeks care. Take for example the patient whose low back "slips out" when he bends over to pick up a pencil. He thinks that bending over caused the incident; the doctor knows that the spine does not usually develop a problem from such simple activity. There probably was a subclinical and preexisting condition in the area in the form of muscular imbalance or pathology. This may be why the MMT has the predictive capacity to diagnose problems before they emerge.30,33
Principles and Theories
When muscle dysfunction is found, the clinician proceeds with examination to find what therapy restores proper function. Application of the therapy, if successful, immediately improves muscle function. Reexamination at a later time determines if the correction is maintained. Thus the system (1) finds disturbance, (2) determines how to fix it, (3) determines if the corrective effort is successful, and, most importantly, (4) determines if the correction is stable. If the correction is not stable, further examination is done to find the reason so it can be eliminated.
But what distinguishes AK is its emphasis upon proprioceptive responses of the muscle rather than the strength of the muscle itself. It essentially sees muscle function as a transcript of the central integrative state of the anterior horn motor neurons, summing all excitatory and inhibitory inputs from the entire organism.31 In other words, the locus of muscle dysfunction ultimately rests with the nervous system.
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