There are many natural health clinics that specialize in different techniques: acupuncture, chiropractic, muscle therapy, nutrition and so on. Each of these therapies, in and of themselves, can be powerful and effective at restoring proper bodily function. Unfortunately, no therapy is a panacea - each has its limits. At times a patient requires more of one kind of therapy than another. And yet, if these therapies are used in combination, as is commonly so in this office, the benefit for the patient can then be exponential. The challenge is knowing which therapy to use at which time. The answer is found in a diagnostic system called Applied Kinesiology. Dr. Sharnowski has chosen to discuss Applied Kinesiology first for the simple reason that, when used appropriately, it can be the most effective form of diagnosis for functional illness.
Applied Kinesiology (A.K.) is a natural health care system based on an evaluation of the body's structural, biochemical and mental aspects. A.K. primarily uses muscle testing to augment other standard methods of diagnosis. A.K. is now used by many health-care professionals including chiropractors, medical doctors, osteopaths and dentists.
Applied Kinesiology began in 1964 through the work of its founder George Goodheart, D.C. Today, a governing body called the International College of Applied Kinesiology (I.C.A.K) determines and defines what is and what is not A.K. Members of the I.C.A.K., who include chiropractors, medical doctors, osteopaths, dentists and more, must adhere to these rules and regulations, in order to be given appropriate status within the college. It is the goal of the I.C.A.K. to present its diagnostic and treatment techniques to the critical medical mainstream as a viable adjunct or alternative to existing health care. This can only be done with solid scientific evidence. Despite the lack of funding for research into alternative medical approaches the scientific support for Applied Kinesiology is growing. Numerous articles have been published in peer-reviewed literature, with several other research studies awaiting publication. A host of articles related to other forms of alternative health care may also be cited as support for the philosophy and practice of A.K.
What Is Muscle Testing?
Muscle testing is a functional neurological assessment. An A.K. doctor can evaluate the muscles of the body and gain some understanding of a patient’s overall health. For instance, it has been known for centuries that specific muscles have relationships to specific organs. It has been discovered in the last several decades that every muscle is in some way related to an organ. When an organ is not functioning properly it may cause a disruption in the muscle group with which it is associated. This interference is called a viscero-somatic reflex. The opposite is also true. If a muscle is injured it can negatively affect the function of an organ – a somato-visceral reflex. For example, the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh is related to the small intestine. It is quite possible for an individual with a duodenal ulcer, when tested properly, to be found to have less than optimum function of their quadriceps muscle. The deltoids, the muscles closely related to the lungs, are another example. Almost all asthma patients have one or more weak shoulder muscles. Treating weak muscles and making them stronger by the structural, chemical or emotional tools of A.K. has been shown to have a significant impact on the related organ system as well.
What Makes Muscle Testing So Special?
Simply fixing weak muscles is just the beginning with A.K. The fascinating thing about muscle testing is what happens when the nervous system is exposed to different stimuli. A change in a muscle test (i.e. from strong to weak or weak to strong) may be noticed with the introduction or removal of a given stimuli, such as: chemicals, smells, pressure, touch, temperature, thoughts, electromagnetic fields or anything else that may be processed by the nervous system. When performed correctly, a change in muscle function may be noticed, with even the slightest stimuli. These changes are immediate and may occur with or without a disease present. This means that a non-serious (functional) problem can be discovered prior to its becoming serious, a boast made by few other diagnostics methods.
What Is The Meaning Of A Muscle Test?
Generally speaking, stimuli that will have a positive effect on the patient will strengthen muscles that originally test weak, and stimuli that will have an adverse effect on the patient will weaken muscles that originally test strong. However, it is impossible and improper to emphatically state the meaning of a given muscle test alone. A muscle test by itself only tells the doctor that something is wrong. Muscle testing does not tell the doctor why something is wrong. Many variables are present in the overall picture of a patient’s health. A detailed history, consultation, examination, and traditional diagnostic testing must be combined with muscle testing in order to formulate a proper plan of treatment.
Is Muscle Testing An Accepted Practice In Medicine?
Not yet. Muscle testing is quite controversial for a few good reasons. On a theoretical level, as with most alternative health care practices, some of the technique’s foundational ideas and its unorthodox approach are hard for the medically trained mind to understand. On a practical level, it seems too good to be true. Are changes in muscle response possible by merely touching, tasting or even thinking? Skeptics would say no, suggesting that the doctor is somehow influencing the test results. We have no problem with the doubts of outside observers. It is normal to question what one doesn’t understand. However, for the skeptic, all that is required is a closer look. Consider for instance one of the most controversial aspects within A.K., oral nutrient testing.
A doctor may place a chemical or food in the patient’s mouth and then test to see if a strong muscle becomes weak. This idea is preposterous to the traditional medical mind. However, from a neurological standpoint this response is entirely possible. The pathway from the nerve endings on the tongue to the brain and then back out to the testing muscle is clearly understood. Also, since electricity travels at the speed of light, and the messages within and from the brain are transmitted electrically, there should be no problem accepting the seemingly instant change of a muscle’s strength when a substance is tasted. In fact, it is known that the nervous system is able to process 1013 bits of information per second in the unconscious mind. Equipped with this information, the sincere skeptic should recognize the plausibility of what has been stated.
Correcting an Imbalance
Remember the last time you bumped your elbow against the wall or the corner of a counter top? The first thing you probably did was to touch and rub the painful spot. Rubbing actually made the pain more bearable or it may have taken it away altogether. There is a very good reason for this. It is well known in neurology that different nerve endings or sensory receptors (like touch and pressure receptors) have different priorities in the nervous system. Mechanical stimulation such as rubbing has a high priority in the brain and will “cover up” any other sensations such as pain. So when you rub your elbow, in essence you are making your brain pay more attention to the sensation of touch and pressure than to the sensation of pain. An A.K. doctor uses muscle testing to determine which sensory information will produce a therapeutic effect. Then by adding the right sensory information in the right manner a favorable outcome is most often achieved.
Once a stimulus is found that strengthens a weak muscle, that stimulus can be introduced in greater measure producing a therapeutic response. In the case above, rubbing your elbow was therapeutic for reducing pain. The same is true for nutritional or chemical stimulation. If a weak muscle became strong after having the patient taste a vitamin C tablet, this may indicate that their body has a need for vitamin C. Any stimulus that produces a weakness in a previously strong muscle should be further evaluated to see if it may be contributing to the cause of a patient’s dysfunction.
When testing muscles using A.K. if a muscle tests weak, this does not usually mean that exercises are required. The weakness found is often neurological. In other words, for a variety of reasons, muscle are sometimes shut off or “turned down.”
The turning on and turning off of muscles happens every time you move. In order to walk you must contract the muscles in the front of the leg while at the same time relaxing the muscles on the back of the leg. If this were not so your muscles would contract at the same time and your leg would not move. The process of turning on one group of muscles while the opposite, or antagonist muscle group stays relaxed is called reciprocal inhibition. This process happens subconsciously. There are other unconscious processes that shut off or turn on muscles in order to prevent injury.
In the middle of any muscle group are sensory cells called spindle cells. These cells automatically contract a muscle whenever it is stretched too far. Another set of cells located where the muscle attaches to the bone are called Golgi tendon organs. These cells automatically relax a muscle whenever it is over-contracted.
Treatments to help muscles regain function will often require precise stimulation of either or both of these cell groups.
If a patient injures their lower back, Dr. Sharnowski will check all of the muscles around the hips, pelvis and spine. I will nearly always find one or more muscles that do not test strong; they have been automatically turned off by the body as a protective measure. Dr. Sharnowski will then stimulate the cells in the belly of the muscle or at the attachment sites of the muscle and retest to see if the muscle strengthens. If so, more therapy is continued at the site that produced strength.
Below is a summary of three other techniques that can be used to help weak muscles return to their intended strength. In order to be fully appreciated more detail is required beyond the scope of this book.
• Neurolymphatic Reflex Stimulation – These reflexes are located throughout the trunk and extremities. They relate to both a particular muscle and a particular organ (i.e. thigh muscles relate to the small intestine). Stimulating these reflexes with gentle circular pressure often produces a dramatic increase in the function of the related muscle and organ.
• Neurovascular Reflex Stimulation – Like neurolymphatic reflexes that have both a muscle and an organ related to them, neurovascular reflexes have similar relationships but are located on the head. Light sustained pressure is all that is required to stimulate these reflexes and produce a therapeutic effect.
• Injury Recall Technique (IRT) – When a tissue is injured, the body places a high priority on its healing. Also, all sorts of chemical and neurological processes begin. During the healing process the tissue will be in a state of reduced function and will likely be painful or sensitive to touch. That is because the sensory nerves located around and within the tissue are on high alert. This state reminds the rest of the body that this area is under repair. The nerves will maintain their state of heightened sensitivity until complete healing has occurred. Sometimes, for whatever reason, this does not take place, and so tissue function is reduced and the nerves remain highly sensitive. When present, a deeper neurological therapy is required in order for proper function to be restored.
The procedure is very simple, but often produces a surprisingly strong therapeutic response. Two steps are required. 1. The doctor stimulates the previously injured area - usually with gentle pinching. 2. The doctor then immediately applies gentle downward pressure on a bone in the foot called the talus. That’s it!
The neurological explanation for the effectiveness of this treatment is somewhat complicated and has to do with all of the sensory nerves located throughout the foot. The messages from these nerves are given a high priority in the brain because they are responsible for keeping us upright and oriented when we stand on our feet. Somehow, stimulating a previously injured area and then immediately stimulating the sensory receptors in the foot, produces a reduction in nerve sensitivity and an increase in function of the previously injured tissue.
In summary, correction of an imbalance discovered through A.K. testing of the patient’s structural, chemical or emotional health is achieved through a myriad of therapies including chiropractic adjustments, cranial bone alignment, neurolymphatic correction and neurovascular stimulation, acupressure, nutritional supplementation and more. In other words, A.K. helps to find the problem, and often determines the appropriate form of treatment needed to correct it.
Factors That Influence the Outcome of a Muscle Test
Theoretically, patients with many health problems should be good candidates for muscle testing. In fact, the opposite may be true. Their bodies spend so much time adapting to, and correcting existing imbalances, that additional stimuli introduced by the doctor (like checking for a subluxation or an allergy) produce little or no change whatsoever in a muscle test. It is like trying to hear a whisper in a crowded room. Any of the following factors may be a significant hindrance to muscle testing:
• Cigarette smoking.
• Poor diet.
• Many major chronic illnesses.
• Poor bioelectric conduction – how cells communicate electrically.
• Severe chemical, structural or emotional stress.
Because of the problems above, techniques have been developed to “clear” a patient before attempting to derive any significant information from muscle tests. In his experience, Dr. Sharnowski clears a patient by evaluating their neurological function. This can be done by simply having the patient simulate walking while lying on their back. This activity, called cross-crawl, activates the right and left sides of the brain. To evaluate further, Dr. Sharnowski also has the patient contact two known neurological points on their upper sternum. While touching these points the patient breathes deeply as Dr. Sharnowski looks for certain changes in structural balance and position. This test evaluates the communication between the body and the brain. Checking for and correcting both of these important areas only takes a few minutes. If these two tests are not responding properly, then muscle testing results may be inaccurate.
What Are The Limitations of Applied Kinesiology?
It is important to note that the overall skill level of the doctor using A.K. muscle testing is dependent upon many factors: knowledge of nutrition, physiology, neurochemistry and sensory receptor-based therapies as well as doctor consistency and experience. Unfortunately, there are many health care professionals who say they are using Applied Kinesiology, but in fact, are not. These doctors may be using muscle testing and its associated terminology, but their particular technique cannot be found in the official teaching of the I.C.A.K. To ensure that you are getting a qualified doctor, ask if they have undergone the necessary training given by the I.C.A.K.
Applied Kinesiology is an extremely beneficial tool in the hands of a doctor who understands its strengths and weaknesses. Working on the more sensitive functional level, A.K. can help to identify dysfunction or potential disease prior to its appearance through the evaluation of the body’s three main physical components: structural, chemical and emotional/mental. Currently, A.K. is the only known form of diagnosis, alternative or conventional, with this capability. The technique is both a science and an art, and, like other health procedures, is not perfect. A.K. therefore is used in conjunction with other recognized forms of diagnosis and treatment.
It is Dr. Sharnowski's strong belief that even with its current lack of full recognition, Applied Kinesiology will continue to grow, becoming more recognized and further incorporated into other forms of medicine.
See also: What Christians Should Know About AK