At its most basic, muscle testing examines one muscle and then determines that something is wrong with an entirely different part of the body. It’s usually an internal problem rather than an external one, like you have a problem with your calf muscle, which signals some sort of problem.broad gestures> with an internal organ. (More on that in a second.)
Muscle testing does not diagnose you with a specific problem, but Fans say it can help you identify areas of your health that you need to work on.
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It’s important to say this upfront: muscle testing is not considered the most scientific process out there. This means that there aren’t really any good studies to support its use and because of that, it’s not something you’ll find a lot of doctors practicing.
Still, there’s a growing interest in muscle testing and it’s totally understandable to have questions about it, including whether you can try it at home on yourself.
Here’s the thing about muscle testing and how it works, and why it’s always important to see a medical professional if you think something is wrong with your health.
Meet the experts: Steven K. Malin, Ph.D.is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Zach Johnston, TPDis a physical therapist at Performance Therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
What is muscle testing?
Muscle testing, also known as applied kinesiology, has been based by a Michigan chiropractor named George J. Goodheart, Jr. In 1964, he reported repairing a patient’s chronic winged scapula (weak or paralyzed back muscles) by pressing on nodules near the rib cage.
The practice grew from there, with small studies trying to tie things together like someone being given fructose or glucose by the strength of their arms.
“It is often considered an alternative medical practice for diagnosing neurological, structural, chemical or mental problems,” says Steven K. Malin, Ph.D.associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Treatments may involve specific joint manipulation or mobilization, various myofascial therapies, cranial techniques, acupuncture, dietary changes, counseling skills, and assessment of environmental irritants, depending on the International College of Applied Kinesiology.
But again, there’s no solid research on the method, period, to back this up, but there’s little data to suggest it doesn’t work. A small studyfor example, concluded that applied kinesiology “is unreliable” when it comes to testing whether someone has an allergy to wasp venom.
How is muscle testing done?
Muscle tests are a bit vague and some of them are subject to interpretation. “Most of the time today when muscle testing is discussed, it’s referenced to chiropractors, nutritionists — not to be confused with registered dietitians — naturopathic physicians, and massage therapists or physical therapists,” Malin says.
“Generally however, the medical community does not use these approaches because the studies have been seen as lacking standardization to be compared to norms,” he continues. “As such, the tests are considered to have low diagnostic usability or reliability for health decisions to be made.”
Still curious? There are different types of muscle testing, including insertion therapy (like the winged scapula example), as well as the spinal provocation method (where pressure is applied to the spine), therapy localization technique (where the patient places an untested hand on the skin over an area of the body thought to be in trouble) and testing manual muscle.
Manual muscle testing “evaluates the function and strength of individual muscles or muscle groups against the forces of gravity and manual resistance,” explains Zach Johnson, DPT, physical therapist at Performance Therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “A clinician will assess whether a muscle is strong or weak by manual pressure and ask the patient to resist this pressure. Manual muscle testing is rated on a scale of zero to five.
But the tests are “limited in that they’re sometimes used to assess nutritional needs or the presence of mental/emotional stress,” Malin says, noting that there isn’t really any research to support that it works.
Can you test your muscles yourself?
Yes-ish. You can try muscle testing at home, but it probably won’t tell you much. “While there is no data to suggest that the damage is directly caused by muscle testing, doing it at home is not advised,” Malin says. “This is primarily due to issues with muscle testing and the lack of clear research supporting standardization and protocol.”
Instead, if you’re concerned that you have weak muscles (or have another underlying health condition), Malin recommends seeing your doctor. “Recommendations about seeking appropriate care, which could include physical therapy and/or neurologists, could help correct this muscle weakness and restore function,” Malin says.
Johnston agrees that physical therapy is a preferred way to address weak muscles. “Physiotherapy is a great option for a healthcare professional to create a plan of care that can establish a program that will work on specific muscles and/or muscle groups that need strengthening while implementing exercises and optimal interventions to produce these results,” he says. .
Basically, if you’re worried about experiencing muscle weakness, it’s really best to have it checked out by a licensed medical professional. And, if you think you have an undiagnosed health problem, see your GP.
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, health and sex, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives near the beach, and hopes to one day own a teacup pig and a taco truck.