applied kinesiology


What Is It?
How Does It Work?
What You Can Expect
Health Benefits
How To Choose a Practitioner

Evidence Based Rating Scale 

What Is It?

Applied kinesiology is a technique used to diagnose and treat health problems by identifying weakened muscles. It should not be confused with conventional kinesiology (from the Greek word kinesis, meaning movement), which is the scientific study of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement.

Universities award advanced degrees in conventional kinesiology, and graduates usually work in the physical therapy divisions of hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Applied kinesiology (AK), on the other hand, is a completely different field, practiced by chiropractors and other healthcare providers who have completed specialized training. While certification in AK can only be achieved by a licensed health-care professional, there are some programs available to the lay person, who want to learn how to use AK as a self-care technique.

Applied kinesiology was developed in the 1960s by Dr. George J. Goodheart, Jr., a Detroit chiropractor. It is based on the concept that adverse changes in muscle function can occur as a consequence of a variety of internal triggers. These may include such obvious ones as injury, nerve entrapment, misalignment of the skeleton, or brain damage. According to AK theory, however, muscle weakness (or its opposite, excessive muscle spasm) can also be caused by diseased or dysfunctional internal organs, exposure to toxic substances, nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, or emotional issues.

Using an extensive diagnostic procedure called manual muscle testing, the AK practitioner investigates the internal source of muscle weakness and then plans a program designed to ultimately restore health. Because manual muscle testing is basically a diagnostic technique, the practitioner will often combine muscle testing with a thorough history, physical examination, and appropriate laboratory testing.

Once a diagnosis is reached, the treatment may include a variety of alternative, as well as conventional, remedies--from chiropractic to basic dietary changes. During a course of treatment, the patient will undergo periodic muscle re-testing as a measurement tool to verify overall improvement.

Although conventional doctors acknowledge that muscle weakness may accompany certain illnesses (both physical and emotional) , they are skeptical of the formalized way in which AK practitioners link specific muscle weakness to specific medical problems. Within the standards of conventional physicians, there has been no rigorous scientific testing that has shown applied kinesiology to be an effective diagnostic tool.

A number of clinical studies have questioned the validity of AK for diagnosing medical conditions reliably. Some controlled studies have shown that expert AK examiners do not consistently agree on their assessment of patients (1), while other controlled studies have shown that AK results do not agree with clinical or laboratory findings when testing for intolerance to dental materials (2), food allergy/sensitivity in childhood (3), phobias (4), or nutrient status (5). Uncontrolled pilot studies have, however, suggested that AK may be useful in predicting food allergies (6) and abnormal thyroid function (7).

How Does It Work?

Applied kinesiology does not offer an overt "cure" to illness. Instead, by suggesting a number of complementary therapies and disciplines, AK can help the patient to correct small health problems that might eventually lead to larger ones. Practitioners of AK believe that the diagnostic technique of manual muscle testing reveals sources of chronic symptoms that may have been overlooked during a more conventional medical evaluation.

What You Can Expect

A certified practitioner of applied kinesiology must be a licensed health-care professional, so your first encounter with AK will most likely be in the offices of a chiropractor who has taken sufficient postgraduate courses to earn certification. Your session of applied kinesiology will probably last about an hour. The practitioner will ask you detailed questions about your health and lifestyle, and will observe your posture, gait, and such obvious physical problems as a limp. Conventional laboratory tests, such as blood tests, may be ordered if organ dysfunction or infection is suspected. Any muscle testing done by the practitioner will generally, but not necessarily, be focused around your particular complaint. Inherent in the muscle testing, however, is an assessment of the function of your vital organs as well as your response to a variety of foods.

Muscle testing is totally painless, although the actual technique varies considerably among practitioners. During the procedure, you may be asked to sit, lie down, or even stand, either fully clothed or in a gown. Then the practitioner may gently press down on your arm while you try to resist and pull your arm up. If you can resist, it is a good indication that the muscle is healthy and strong. If you cannot, it shows that an energy imbalance exists in a related part of your body. Since much of muscle testing is based on the meridian system of Chinese medicine, patients are occasionally surprised when the practitioner tests the muscles of an arm or leg and then states that the problem probably lies in an internal organ, such the liver.

An AK practitioner will often use this type of muscle testing (known as "Localization") to look for food or chemical sensitivities or nutritional depletions. To test for these, you will probably be asked to hold a bit of the potentially offending substance under your tongue for 10 to 15 seconds while the practitioner tests the relevant muscle, typically by pressing down on your arm. If you are sensitive to wheat, for example, you will be unable to resist.

To test for the relevance of an emotional event in your past, the practitioner may test the strength of a muscle while asking you to remember how you felt during a specific decade of your life, or at the mention of a family member. This second technique is termed "Challenge" among applied kinesiologists.

Once your body has been tested for both "Localizations" and "Challenges," the practitioner may suggest additional (and more conventional) testing to verify the findings. A course of therapy will most likely be outlined that might include chiropractic manipulation, craniosacral therapy, massage, acupuncture, homeopathy, Bach flower remedies, or nutritional supplements. The practitioner may also suggest more conventional lifestyle and diet changes, and programs of exercise and stress reduction.

In some cases very few follow-up visits, usually lasting about 30 minutes, are necessary. However, a chronic problem may require longer-term care.

Health Benefits

According to its practitioners, the principles of applied kinesiology can be used as part of a diagnostic approach to both the prevention and treatment of a wide range of health problems. AK can help to improve gait, posture, and range of motion. It can also help restore normal function to the nervous, endocrine, immune, and digestive systems, and determine previously unsuspected food or chemical sensitivities. The goal of applied kinesiology treatment is to intervene early enough to prevent or delay illness.

Although AK has been promoted as a treatment for conditions ranging from asthma to vertigo, none of these treatments has been studied thoroughly in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about the safety and effectiveness of AK for any condition.

How To Choose a Practitioner

There is no regulated licensing for applied kinesiology, so it's important to consult a health-care professional, such as an M.D., D.O. (osteopath), N.D. (naturopathic doctor), or D.C. (chiropractor). Ideally, this person would have advanced certification in AK; alternatively, they might be able to refer you to a reliable practitioner.

Basic applied kinesiology training for licensed health-care professionals consists of roughly 100 hours of classroom course work, plus study and practice at home. Certification requires an additional 100 hours of classroom study, plus passing a proficiency exam or test of clinical competence. Advanced courses, for Diplomate status, are offered by the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, and require 300 hours of instruction. To receive the degree of Certified Teacher, a practitioner must be an ICAK Diplomate, complete various teaching requirements, and also maintain regular recertification.

There are programs in applied kinesiology that have been created for unlicensed practitioners and lay people, however. These include the trademarked Touch for Health, Advanced Kinesiology, and Health Kinesiology. It is important to note that the International College of Applied Kinesiology has publicly expressed concern about the inappropriate practice of its techniques among lay people.


Applied kinesiology should always be used in conjunction with other methods of diagnosis and treatment. Never depend on applied kinesiology to replace standard diagnosis or treatment. ICAK agrees that AK should not replace standard approaches: “Applied Kinesiology is used as a further tool to help define what is going wrong or what imbalances are present.” (8)

Treatment based on AK has occasionally resulted in harm to the patient, including at least one death due to incorrect diagnosis or treatment selection. (9, 10)

Because anyone can call himself an applied kinesiologist without fear of repercussions, there has been a proliferation of amateur applied kinesiologists in recent years. If you believe that applied kinesiology may be of benefit to you, either contact the International College of Applied Kinesiology for a list of certified practitioners in your area or ask to see the credentials of anyone who offers his services in this area.


    1. Farella M, Michelotti A, Pellegrino G, Giani U, Martina R. Interexaminer reliability and validity for diagnosis of temporomandibular disorders of visual leg measurements used in dental kinesiology. J Orofac Pain 2005;19:285-290.
    2. Staehle HJ, Koch MJ, Pioch T. Double-blind study on materials testing with applied kinesiology. J Dent Res 2005;84:1066-1069.
    3. Pothmann R, von Frankenberg S, Hoicke C, Weingarten H, Ludtke R. Evaluation of applied kinesiology in nutritional intolerance of childhood. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd 2001;8:336-344.
    4. Peterson KB. A preliminary inquiry into manual muscle testing response in phobic and control subjects exposed to threatening stimuli. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1996;19:310-316.
    5. Kenney JJ, Clemens R. Forsythe KD. Applied kinesiology unreliable for assessing nutrient status. J Am Diet Assoc 1988;88:698-704.\
    6. Schmitt WH Jr., Leisman G. Correlation of applied kinesiology muscle testing findings with serum immunoglobulin levels for food allergies. Int J Neurosci 1998;96:237-244.
    7. Jacobs GE, Franks TL, Gilman PG. Diagnosis of thyroid dysfunction: applied kinesiology compared to clinical observations and laboratory tests. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1984;7:99-104.
    8. What is AK? FAQ.; accessed 2 January 2007.
    9. Applied Kinesiology.; accessed 2 January 2007.
    10. Jarvis WT. Applied Kinesiology.; accessed 2 January 2007.

Evidence Based Rating Scale 

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies with what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice. This tool is meant to simplify which supplements and therapies demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions. This scale does not take into account any possible interactions with any medication/ condition/ or therapy which you may be currently undertaking. It is therefore advisable to ask your doctor before starting any new treatment regimen.










Dental material intolerance












No scientific evidence to support use for this. A review of several controlled studies found no efficacy in testing for dental material intolerance.










Food allergy/sensitivity











Date Published: 01/01/2007

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