Does Muscle Testing Work?

So many doctors and therapists – even lay people – are doing it these days! Testing muscles to find out about allergies, nutritional deficiencies, emotional stress, infections, inflammation, organ function/dysfunction, acupuncture, joint and muscle problems, it goes on and on.

Muscle testing seems amazing and so useful! A few muscle tests and the muscle tester will tell you about all kinds of things – your condition and what you need to be better…how wonderful! A poke here and rub there, just take this pill and you’re all better and the muscle test that’s now so strong proves it. It looks like magic…is it? Commonly, this person using this muscle testing method will tell you they are using applied kinesiology.

So, does muscle testing like this work? Well, no, it doesn’t. Is this kind of muscle testing applied kinesiology? Well, no, it isn’t.

But, wait, orthopedists, neurologists, physical therapists, and chiropractors use muscle testing, don’t they? Yes, and using muscle testing as one measure of muscle and nerve function is a well-recognized tool.

A muscle test can give a tremendous amount of information about the nervous system if you have enough knowledge of the nervous system to know what you’re seeing. What too commonly happens, though, is that the person using muscle testing doesn’t have enough knowledge to understand the meaning of the muscle test and attributes meaning or interpretation that isn’t supported by evidence.

There is a health care method called applied kinesiology that does use muscle testing. But, it uses a lot of other things together with muscle testing – history, physical, orthopedic, and neurological exams, laboratory testing, and imaging studies (x-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CAT scan, etc.). Muscle testing is NOT applied kinesiology but contextualizing muscle testing findings with history, exam, and lab findings IS applied kinesiology.

Used in this manner, applied kinesiology (AK) becomes a very sophisticated and dependable way of understanding body function, integrating various types of healthcare together, and measuring outcomes along with other metrics from exam and lab findings.

Inter-examiner reliability among experienced practitioners of AK is between 80-91% depending on the study. Used by a trained clinician, manual muscle testing becomes a form of functional neurological exam as accurate as a deep tendon reflex (i.e. knee jerk reflex).

Functional neurological exam in AK supports and integrated approach to treatment that includes chiropractic, cranial osteopathy, naturopathic methods, soft tissue therapies, clinical nutrition, and balancing of acupuncture meridians. When done well, the clinician using AK sees the patient as a sum of their structural, biochemical, and mental/emotional components.

Old ankle sprains, now pain-free are a common cause of back and shoulder pain. Cranial osteopathic treatment will often solve chronic digestive problems. Naturopathic gall bladder therapies commonly solve formerly unresponsive knee pain. These kinds of patterns are readily found with AK methods and the results are measurable upon re-exam. So, yes, muscle testing does work, IF the clinician knows enough to actually know what a muscle test means.