|Monday, 03 May 2010 20:15|
By John B. Campise, D.C.
Muscle Testing is a catch all phrase used to describe an examination procedure used by both health care professionals and lay people for a wide variety of purposes. The three main types of muscle testing are: 1) traditional neurological testing: assessing muscles for “pathological weaknesses”; 2) physical strength, balance, and endurance testing: assessing relative strength of muscle groups for the proper application of physical therapy exercises and weight training; and 3) “applied kinesiology” and its hundreds of off-shoots: assessing muscles for “functional weaknesses” for the purpose of prescribing various individualized natural therapies.
The first category, traditional neurological testing, is used by medical neurologists and chiropractors as part of their routine examinations to screen for neurological diseases. The doctors rate muscle strength using their own perceptions of the patient’s strength on a scale of 0-5. Each muscle group has a specific nerve supply, and specific spinal cord and brain distribution, which, when injured, causes specific muscles to weaken. When there is nerve damage, if not corrected, the weak muscles will eventually shrink in size (atrophy) and visible twitching will begin to occur throughout the muscle. Before the twitching is visible, it can be detected with an EMG (Electromyography or test that determines the electric activity of the muscles). Depending on the pattern of muscle weaknesses, a very specific neurological diagnosis can be made from muscle tests when incorporated with a sound understanding of neuroanatomy. This type of muscle testing is a dying art because the advent of MRI and other advanced imaging studies have rendered it null and void for many doctors. Unfortunately, MRI can be misleading as to the seriousness of some findings without simultaneous assessment of a patient’s actual muscle function using traditional neurological muscle testing.
The second category of muscle testing, physical balance assessment, assumes there is no neurological disease. And, it assumes imbalances in muscle strength are due to poor posture, performing repetitive one-sided tasks, off-centered movement due to an injury (such as limping while a broken foot heals), or lack of use of the muscle. The remedy for weakness here is to exercise the muscle to make it stronger or more coordinated.
The third category, and primary focus of this article, is applied kinesiology. Applied kinesiology and the hundreds of subsequently developed systems, was developed by a chiropractor named George Goodheart in 1964. He observed that one of his patients had a shoulder blade that winged out grossly on one side but not the other. He knew that a specific muscle, the anterior serratus, is responsible for pulling the shoulder blade up against the rib cage. Upon testing that muscle using traditional neurological muscle testing, he found that it was weak compared to the same muscle on the other side. To rule out neurological disease, he felt the muscle to see if it was smaller (atrophy) than the other side or if it was twitching. Instead of atrophy, he found that it was slightly swollen and had small tender nodules along its attachment at the bone.
As Goodheart examined the nodules with his fingers, he noticed that the more pressure he applied, the smaller the nodules became. So he pushed on the nodules until they were all gone. He re-tested the serratus anterior and found that it was now much stronger. Also, to his patient’s delight, the shoulder blade was now pulled up tight on his rib cage like it should be, equal with the other side. The novelty of what Goodheart observed was that this patient did not need to exercise the weak muscle in order for it to regain its strength. Dr. Goodheart soon discovered that when he or his patient touched the area of the body causing the weakness, the muscle would immediately get stronger, and then immediately re-weaken after letting go of the problem area. This way he learned to quickly find the underlying cause of a weakness and promptly correct it.
Yet, sometimes nothing seemed to strengthen a weak muscle even though no abnormalities could be found. As Goodheart’s research evolved, he discovered that having a patient taste certain nutrients would immediately strengthen the involved muscle if the weakness was due to a deficiency in that nutrient. Finally, Dr. Goodheart learned that sometimes a strong muscle would temporarily weaken after having a patient focus on the most stressful event in his life. This led to various techniques aimed at aiding the body’s ability to cope with severe or chronic stress. In summary, Goodheart’s research grew to encompass the use of muscle testing to diagnose and treat the physiological, biological, and emotional needs of his patients.
The International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) teaches primary health care providers (medical doctors, chiropractors, dentists, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and osteopaths) the methods discovered and developed by George Goodheart and his colleagues. They teach that optimal health comes from the balanced physical, biochemical, and emotional aspects of every individual. This is accomplished by taking a detailed history of every individual, proper examination, correct diagnosis, and individualized treatments. Muscle testing is central to the ICAK’s examination procedures.
However, muscle testing results must be correlated with a patient’s history and other exam findings in order to be considered significant. Using it as a stand-alone diagnostic tool for a major health problem would be fool-hearty. Perhaps due to the ICAK’s strict guidelines, such as only teaching muscle testing to health care providers, not allowing its members to muscle test the body’s response to nutrients just by holding the nutrient bottle, and refusing to accept new uses of the muscle test which lack a logical scientific explanation (using a muscle test to uncover the details of a patient’s past lives, and so on), several practitioners broke away from the ICAK and began to start their own schools of muscle testing. Today there are hundreds of schools of “muscle testing.” And, you can find anyone from doctors to massage therapists to vitamin shop owners to customers using muscle testing or some variation of it to diagnose and treat themselves. Many of the schools of muscle testing that have sprouted out of George Goodheart’s discoveries use only a single muscle when assessing a person (usually the deltoid muscle), by pushing against the patient’s outstretched arm. Because the muscle will exhibit a temporary functional weakness when touching certain “active” reflexes, tasting certain substances, or thinking certain thoughts, the muscle reaction is used as a form of biofeedback with a yes-no, strong-weak response system. It enables muscle testers to very quickly rule out hundreds of potential problems, narrowing down to what lies at the root of a patient’s health condition; and then, a practitioner can essentially “ask” the body what it specifically needs (a nutrient, to deal with a stressful event, etc.) in order to heal.
HOW MUSCLE TESTING IS PERFORMED
Traditional neurological muscle testing:
The doctor isolates the joint over the muscle being tested by placing it in a specific posture. The patient holds the joint in that position while the doctor attempts to pull the joint in the direction opposite to the muscle action. The doctor tests each muscle group that represents each nerve or nerve root and rates its strength on a scale of 0-5. Zero equals paralyzed and five equals normal strength. It is important to know for treatment and rehab purposes whether the damage is located in the brain, spinal cord, at the nerve root, or in a peripheral nerve. Findings will also let the doctor know whether to order an MRI of the head, neck/back, or arm/leg.
Physical strength muscle testing:
This test is performed by the doctor or therapist in a similar way as above, but additionally, repetitive testing of the same muscle may be used to check for fatigue. Or, the maximum amount of weight a muscle can lift may be recorded and compared side to side for purposes of balancing overall posture and strength.
Applied kinesiology muscle testing:
This test is performed like both one and two above. Additionally, the practitioner may check for a “change in strength” after stimulating the patient’s body in a specific way. This is called a “challenge.” After testing the muscles the practitioner is concerned with, he will then, one by one, introduce any number of challenges to the patient. After each challenge, the muscles will be tested again, noting any change in strength. If a previously weak muscle gets stronger after a challenge, or if a previously strong muscle gets weaker after a challenge, the practitioner draws conclusions about the overall state of health of the patient.
When challenging the patient for the need of different nutrients, it is best to start with a weak muscle. If after tasting vitamin C, the muscle regains its strength, it is likely that the patient’s entire body would benefit from either eating more foods high in vitamin C or taking a supplement. However, the practitioner will first take all data into account before prescribing vitamin C in order to prevent any unwanted side effects or interference with other drugs, vitamins, and therapies already in use by the patient. It is also a good idea to make sure that tasting vitamin C does not weaken a strong muscle. Sometimes the body will give a mixed bag of responses and the doctor must sift through the results in order to create the safest, most effective treatment plan.
When checking for allergies, sensitivities, or mal-digestion of different foods, it is best to start with a strong muscle. If chewing bread seems to weaken a muscle, then avoiding not only bread but all wheat containing foods on a trial basis may be warranted. There are blood antibody tests and genetic tests that can confirm suspected food allergies. Most food allergies go undetected because many times symptoms don’t show up until several days after ingestion. Anaphylactic shock (an immediate reaction where your tongue, mouth, and face swell) is the least common type of food allergy. Sometimes, muscle testing can find hidden food sensitivities that blood tests miss, and vice versa.
Another type of challenge is a physical touch, push, tap, or squeeze, either on the skin, at an acupuncture point, or on an organ, muscle, or joint. If physical touch changes the strength of a muscle, it gives the practitioner valuable clues as to what the underlying problem is and how to treat it. Often times, even though on a blood test a patient’s liver looks fine, upon physically pushing into the liver there is discomfort and weakening of a muscle. Any organ or gland that is palpable by the doctor can be tested this way.
But this is where things can get more complicated—and really exciting. If a patient has no weak muscles, but pushing on his liver creates a temporary weakness in them, the doctor can then perform what amounts to a “double challenge.” Let’s say the doctor suspects that the patient is deficient in omega 3 fatty
acids causing his liver to be sluggish, which in turn is making it harder for him to get rid of histamine produced from all the pollens we breathe during the Spring. First, the doctor pushes on the liver and finds a weakness in the patient’s muscles. He then has the patient chew a capsule of omega 3 fatty acids. While the patient tastes the oil, an assistant will push into the liver while the doctor tests the muscle that previously became weak. If the muscle no longer weakens, it may mean that increasing his intake of omega 3 oils will help reduce his liver inflammation. If this is true, then after increasing his
levels of omega 3 over several weeks, his symptoms of pollen allergies might just lessen too. In cases like the above scenario, the liver tenderness will decrease immediately while tasting the appropriate nutrient.
The final category of muscle testing challenges is mental and emotional stressors. These can work both ways. If your job has major emotional stress to the point that it is compromising your physical health, then just thinking about your job will cause a strong muscle to weaken during a muscle testing exam. But, if you have a chronic condition like tendonitis that comes and goes with associated weak muscles, these muscles may become strong when you think about your major stress. This indicates that a particular emotional stress is contributing to the tendonitis. Keep in mind, however, that the emotional stress likely did not cause the tendonitis, it’s just keeping it from healing completely. There are many treatment techniques that can help the body cope better with emotional stress so that they don’t create physical imbalances. One such treatment technique is called Neuro Emotional Technique (NET). It utilizes muscle testing to find out what the body needs in order to heal. The treatment itself consists of various physical treatments, nutritional supplementations, homeopathy, and stress reduction. After treatment, the patient will be able to think about his job (or whatever the major stress was) without weak muscle response via a re-exam procedure. It is important to note here that muscle testing in this way is a diagnostic procedure, not a treatment in and of itself; likewise, muscle testing may also be used to make sure the body is actually getting better.
About the Author:
Dr. John B. Campise, D.C. graduated from chiropractic college in 2001. He is certified practitioner of the ICAK and NET. He founded and runs the Complete Healthy Living Institute in Fresno, CA.