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Applied Kinesiology

Applied kinesiology is different from kinesiology, a field of scientific study of the movements of the human body. The science of kinesiology is sometimes called academic kinesiology and sometimes applied kinesiology, which can be very confusing. It is important to understand which kind of kinesiology you are considering. The information below refers only to applied kinesiology as a complementary practice and not to the science of human movement.

Other common name(s): muscle testing, manual muscle testing, AK

Scientific/medical name(s): none


Applied kinesiology (AK) is a technique used to diagnose illness or choose treatment by testing muscles for strength and weakness.


Available scientific evidence does not support the claim that applied kinesiology can diagnose or treat cancer or other illness.

How is it promoted for use?

The basis of applied kinesiology is that any problem with an organ is accompanied by weakness in a corresponding muscle. For instance, a weak muscle in the chest might indicate liver disease, while weakness of the lower back or leg muscles may be the result of lung problems. Practitioners claim that by finding the weak muscle they can identify the underlying illness and make decisions about treatment. They believe that strengthening of the weak muscles shows that the internal organs have strengthened as well.

Applied kinesiology is sometimes used to try to determine whether a particular food or other substance weakens or strengthens a person. The food or substance may be placed under the tongue or held in the hand as a muscle is tested. Applied kinesiology may also be used to check emotional responses to situations or other people. This is done by muscle testing as the patient imagines being in the situation, says the person’s name, or pictures the person nearby.

Applied kinesiologists claim muscle weakness may also be caused by a number of internal energy disruptions, such as nerve damage, poor drainage in the lymph system, reduced blood supply, chemical imbalances, or organ and gland problems. Practitioners may recommend that people confirm the diagnosis with standard diagnostic methods, such as laboratory tests and x-rays.

Applied kinesiology is usually used for evaluation purposes, but claims have been made that after undergoing an AK session, it is possible to observe the "spontaneous remission" of cancer.

What does it involve?

Applied kinesiologists are often chiropractors, but they may also be naturopaths, doctors, nurses, or other health care workers. They assess patients by observing posture, gait, muscle strength, range of motion, and by touching the patient. These observations may be combined with more common methods of diagnosis, such as a health history, a physical examination, and laboratory tests. Practitioners may also test for environmental or food sensitivities.

During the treatment, the patient might be asked to hold a body part in a certain position while the practitioner tries to push it out of that position. The relative strength differences are supposed to help the applied kinesiologist diagnose internal imbalances. The practitioner might also press on key "trigger points" to find out if they cause muscle weakness.

To restore muscle strength, the applied kinesiologist may apply manual stimulation and relaxation techniques to key muscles. The treatment may also include joint manipulation or movement, diet changes, reflex procedures, manipulation of the head, or other types of treatment.

What is the history behind it?

Applied kinesiology was developed by Michigan chiropractor George J. Goodheart, Jr in 1964. Dr. Goodheart reported that a patient with an immobile shoulder visited his office. An examination revealed no abnormalities, even though the patient had complained of the problem for more than 15 years. When Dr. Goodheart pressed on small nodules near the origin of the pain, the muscle strength returned to normal and the shoulder's motion was restored. By "tugging" on particular trigger points, Goodheart claimed he could stimulate muscles to regain lost strength and function. He later incorporated disease diagnosis into his kinesiology system.

Today, practitioners who use applied kinesiology include chiropractors, naturopaths, physicians, dentists, nutritionists, physical therapists, massage therapists, and nurse practitioners. Certification to practice as an applied kinesiologist is available from the International College of Applied Kinesiology. To reach the highest level of certification, more than 300 hours of instruction, several proficiency exams, and submission of original research papers are required. However, this college is not recognized by the Council on Chiropractic Education, the agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education for the accreditation of programs offering the doctor of chiropractic degree. It works to ensure the quality of chiropractic education in the United States.

What is the evidence?

A few researchers have investigated kinesiology muscle-testing procedures in controlled clinical studies. The results showed that applied kinesiology was not an accurate diagnostic tool, and that muscle response was not any more useful than random guessing. In fact, one study found that assessments by experienced applied kinesiologists of nutrient status for the same patients varied widely. In addition, when muscle testing was compared to laboratory testing for the nutrients in question, muscle testing did not correlate to laboratory results that showed adequate or deficient nutrients.

A German group of researchers tried applied kinesiology to see if it would be helpful in diagnosing nutritional intolerances in children. Different applied kinesiologists got different results for the same patients, and there was no significant relationship between muscle testing and laboratory tests for these conditions.

More recently, dentists used applied kinesiology to test patients for tolerance to 2 types of dental material. Each subject's result was recorded. Later, applied kinesiology was used to test the same patients so that neither the tester nor the patients knew which material was being used. The results did not match the previous results any better than random chance, leading the researchers to conclude that the method was not reliable.

Although some claim that research supports applied kinesiology, the studies cited are often about academic kinesiology (the study of human movement), not the practice of applied kinesiology. In addition, a review of more than 50 research papers published by the International College of Applied Kinesiology found that the studies did not meet basic standards for scientific research.

Some personal accounts of successful applied kinesiology treatments do exist. However, available scientific evidence does not support applied kinesiology to diagnose or cure cancer or any other disease.

Are there any possible problems or complications?

Applied kinesiology procedures are considered relatively safe, although conclusions drawn from them may be incorrect. Treatment that is based on applied kinesiology has occasionally resulted in harm, including at least one death, due to incorrect diagnosis or treatment selection. Relying on this diagnostic method alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical diagnosis and treatment for cancer, may have serious health consequences.

Additional resources

More information from your American Cancer Society

The following information on complementary and alternative therapies may also be helpful to you. These materials may be found on our Web site (www.cancer.org) or ordered from our toll-free number (1-800-ACS-2345).

Dietary Supplements: What Is Safe?

The ACS Operational Statement on Complementary and Alternative Methods of Cancer Management

Complementary and Alternative Methods and Cancer

Placebo Effect

Learning About New Ways to Treat Cancer

Learning About New Ways to Prevent Cancer


Barrett S. Applied kinesiology: Muscle-testing for allergies and nutrient deficiencies. Available at: http://www.quackwatch.org. Accessed March 13, 2007.

Haas M, Peterson D, Hoyer D, Ross G. Muscle testing response to provocative vertebral challenge and spinal manipulation: a randomized controlled trial of construct validity. J Manipulative Physiol Ther.1994;17:141-148.

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International College of Applied Kinesiology. What is Applied Kinesiology? Accessed at: www.icak.com on March 13, 2007.

Kenney JJ, Clemens R, Forsythe KD. Applied kinesiology unreliable for assessing nutrient status. J Am Diet Assoc.1988;88:698-704.

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Jarvis WT. Applied Kinesiology. National Council Against Health Fraud. Accessed at: www.ncahf.org on May 30, 2008.

Pothmann R, von Frankenberg S, Hoicke C, Weingarten H, Ludtke R. Forsch [Evaluation of applied kinesiology in nutritional intolerance of childhood] PubMed Abstract [Article in German] Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2001;8:336-344.

Staehle HJ, Koch MJ, Pioch T. Double-blind study on materials testing with applied kinesiology. J Dent Res. 2005;84:1066-1069.

WholeHealthMD. Applied Kinesiology. Accessed at: www.wholehealthmd.com on June 2, 2008.

Note: This information may not cover all possible claims, uses, actions, precautions, side effects or interactions. It is not intended as medical advice, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with your doctor, who is familiar with your medical situation.

Last Medical Review: 11/01/2008
Last Revised: 11/01/2008