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What Is Manual Muscle Testing and Applied Kinesiology and Why Should I Care?
What is Manual Muscle Testing and Applied Kinesiology and why should I be interested in it?
Manual muscle testing (MMT) is a method of using muscle strength and response to test function in the body. Applied kinesiology is more of an art than a precise method of using a manual muscle test to assess the state of the body. Applied Kinesiology (AK) is a system that assesses the structural, chemical and mental aspects of health using manual muscle testing in combination with other standard methods of diagnosis according to the International College of Applied Kinesiology.
A brief history of manual muscle testing and applied kinesiology:
Manual muscle testing was developed in 1915 by Robert W. Lovett, MD, while trying to determine muscle weakness in polio patients. Then in the 1940s Henry and Florence Kendall published a book called “Muscle Testing and Function” which defined specific muscle tests to isolate each specific muscle. Frank Chapman, DO first described small tender lumps under the skin that he associated with organ system dysfunction in the 1920s.  These small sensitive nodules are called Chapman’s reflex points or neurolymphatic points as they are called in AK. dr. George Goodheart was a chiropractor practicing in Michigan and the founder of AK. dr. Goodheart published the Handbook of Applied Kinesiology Research in 1964. He made many observations while performing the muscle tests developed by the Kendalls in relation to Chapman’s neurolymphatic points. dr. Goodheart noted that certain muscles were associated with Chapman’s neurolymphatic points. This correlation is used in AK to indicate an organ that may be under stress. A chiropractor named Terrance Bennett identified points in the body that he associated with the circulatory system and called them neurovascular reflex points in the 1930s. These neurovascular reflex points are also connected to certain muscles. AK uses acupressure meridian points and cerebrospinal fluid flow to treat the dysfunction. Although all four of the aforementioned methods are used in AK, the primary method of treating dysfunctional or “weak” muscles is through chiropractic adjustment.
How is muscle testing used?
“…MMT may not only test actual muscle strength; it may also test the ability of the nervous system to adapt the muscle to the changing pressure of the examiner’s test. An optimally functioning nervous system will immediately attempt to adjust muscle activity to meet the demands of the test.”  There are several factors that can influence the muscle response to the manual muscle test. They can be structural (dealing with the nervous system), lymphatic, dealing with the circulatory system, cerebrospinal fluid flow, or the acupuncture system. The goal of applied kinesiology and manual muscle testing is to address the root of the problem in the body. Chiropractic adjustment is the primary and initial treatment when using AK. There are times when a chiropractic adjustment fails to solve the problem. AK can then be used to further assess the body to determine if the problem is an organ or body system under stress.
According to a study published in 2008 in the Journal of Chiropractic and Osteopathy, “the rationale for adding manual muscle testing to chiropractic diagnostic methods is that most of the other parameters of dysfunction identified in patients with low back and neck pain have not been shown to be preceded by pain, but only to is followed. An important exception is muscle strength, which can predict future low back and neck pain in asymptomatic individuals.”
Pain is an indication that there is a problem in the body. After all, pain is a symptom, not the underlying problem. Addressing the underlying problem is the only way to move the body toward proper function and away from dysfunction. Muscle weakness and imbalance are a much better indicator of dysfunction in the body than pain.
What else can a muscle test tell me?
As mentioned earlier, there are several factors that can affect how a muscle responds to a muscle test. It has been proven that there is a correlation between the weakness of certain muscles and problems in the related organ. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics in 2004 reported a case of a young man with lower back pain that could not be resolved with oral anti-inflammatory drugs or local cortisone injections. The patient then tried chiropractic adjustments that did not resolve the problem. By assessing AK, the author was able to identify a congenital abnormality of the colon that the patient initially forgot to identify. This abnormality was the root cause of the young man’s lower back pain. After proper treatment of the colon, the back pain subsided. 
Manual muscle testing and applied kinesiology are assessment methods used in conjunction with other more typical diagnostic tools to determine the cause of dysfunction in the body. The body has a very powerful ability to heal itself when given the opportunity. Ending pain and recognizing and eliminating dysfunction increases the body’s ability to heal itself.
1. Chapman reflex points. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapman_reflex_points
2. Cuthbert, SC and Goodheart, GJ (2007). On the reliability and validity of manual muscle testing: a review of the literature. Chiropractic and osteopathy Chiropr Osteopat, 15(1), 4.
3. Schmitt, WH and Cuthbert, SC (2008). Common mistakes and clinical guidelines for manual muscle testing: the “hand test” and other incorrect procedures. Chiropractic and osteopathy Chiropr Osteopat, 16(1), 16.
4. Chaso, M. (2002). Assessment of Chapman’s neurolymphatic reflexes through applied kinesiology: A case report of low back pain and congenital bowel abnormalities. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 66-72 (view, other). doi:10.1016/j.jmpt.2003.11.009
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