In this part of the series I’d like to address how applied kinesiologists use muscle testing. This is essentially our primary diagnostic tool. Don’t get me wrong, we use many other diagnostic tools such as palpation, auscultation (i.e.: a stethoscope), blood, urine, saliva, x-ray, MRI, etc.. It really depends on the extent and nature of the issue the patient is presenting with. However, we basically ALWAYS use muscle testing. We use it a bit differently than other doctors though.
Standard muscle testing is something that medical doctors and chiropractors (including myself) use quite often. In this way, they use muscle testing to determine if there is nerve damage, which would prevent a muscle from firing properly. This tests for pathological problems – which most individuals do not have.
On the other hand, functional muscle testing, is left to the professional applied kinesiologist. This allows us to take standard muscle testing a much larger step further. In this way, it is used as a more specific and precise measurement of the nervous system. It can be likened to other nervous system parameters such as heart rate, blood pressure, pupillary response (pupils dilating or constricting), skin conductivity (what a polygraph can pick up), etc.. All of these measurements change, or don’t, depending on how the nervous system responds to a stressor.
For example, if you ingest a food allergen or get startled and frightened quickly (both stressors); your pupils might dilate, and your heart rate and blood pressure might increase (i.e.: show measurable changes) through various underlying mechanisms, all mediated by the nervous system. Therefore, if functional muscle testing is a measurement of the nervous system – we can measure changes via the muscle test. This can alert the practitioner to the patient’s ability to adapt or handle a stressor. Remember, to help someone get well, we need to a) identify and remove the stressor; or b) build the body up enough so it doesn’t affect the person.
When a muscle is tested, the outcome of the test is considered to be classified as functionally, neurologically-facilitated or functionally, neurologically-inhibited. So when I am functionally testing a muscle, the purpose is not to measure actual strength. It is not to determine if you can lift a certain amount of weight. It is used to find out if the nervous system is responding favorably (facilitated) or unfavorably (inhibited).
Let me elaborate some more. Imagine that you walk into a room and turn on the light switch. Now imagine the light bulb starts to flicker. Next, you decide to put in a brand new light bulb – however, the bulb still flickers. Obviously there is nothing wrong with the bulb, because you just put in a new one. Therefore, you realize that there is a problem with the circuit that extends to the bulb. This is what applied kinesiology muscle testing is checking – the circuit to the muscle. Again, that circuit is part of the nervous system, and the muscle test response (inhibited or facilitated) is simply a measurement of the response of the nervous system.
When the “circuit” to a muscle is not functioning properly, the muscle will not “lock,” or hold, against the practitioner’s resistance, and it is considered “weak”, or inhibited. When the circuit is fully functioning, it will test “strong” or facilitated. So, because we are measuring function and not strength, a bodybuilder can have an inhibited (“weak”) muscle; and a frail and elderly person can have a facilitated (“strong”) muscle. That is because we are deciding to measure the nervous system, not the musculoskeletal system’s strength.
OK – I hope that was clear. It’s much easier to simply demonstrate it.
Check back for Part 3 on more specific ways I help people as a chiropractor and applied kinesiologist.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology