Applied Kinesiology (AK) is practised throughout the world, mainly by chiropractors, and involves diagnosing your ills by finding and fixing imbalances in your muscles. They don’t all do it, but in Australia it’s around 60%, NZ 72% and the US 43%.
And it’s not as if chiropractors need any more bad press. They already have a collective blood nose over the embarrassing back-down in the Simon Singh libel case, but they continue to go under the radar. Chiropractic and associated therapies need more scrutiny, given the mega-dollars pumped into it by the public, not to mention the public funding through medicare which gives it some legitimacy in some people’s minds.
In my own case, I tried chiropractic many years ago, for various sporting ailments. The practitioner to whom I went was big into AK. Indeed, I tried it for quite a few years on and off. Looking back on it now, I realise what a waste of time and money it was, although at least I learned something about human nature. I do realise that experiences with chiropractic vary – some people only get back manipulation, and find relief. Other people are treated for all sorts of illnesses and diseases, and it is this latter category that I find least plausible.
When I look back, I was clearly taken in by the AK act. I say ‘act’ because it is purely a performance piece, which I can now do myself. Basically it takes the form of 1. test strength of arm, and find it is weak. 2. apply pressure to special point. 3. re-test arm and find it is strong. Here’s a video, by Richard Saunders of the Australian Skeptics, describing how to do this for yourself, and some of the psychology behind it. In this case, the reason for the improved muscle balance and strength is some arbitrary device, but it could be manipulation of key points on the body, as it done with AK:
This scam is used for all sorts of things. I spent hours lying on a bed having very painful pressure applied to various points. Interestingly, I needed to keep coming back for the treatment to ‘take’. I now realise it was me that was taken. Here’s a definition of the therapy from one of the proponents, International College of AK (link intentionally omitted) :
Applied Kinesiology (AK) is a system that evaluates structural, chemical and mental aspects of health using manual muscle testing with other standard methods of diagnosis.
The doctor using AK finds a muscle that is unbalanced and then attempts to determine why that muscle is not functioning properly. The doctor works out the treatment that will best balance the patient’s muscles.
Treatments may involve specific joint manipulation or mobilization, various myofascial therapies, cranial techniques, meridian and acupuncture skills, clinical nutrition, dietary management, counselling skills, evaluating environmental irritants and various reflex procedures.
The second paragraph is a hoot. What the hell is an ‘unbalanced’ muscle anyway? Talk about nebulous gibberish. And the treatments include the usual suspects of alternative medicine: meridians, acupuncture, reflex procedures etc etc.
The question in my mind is: do the practitioners knowingly ‘scam’ the patient? Is that what is taught in the many degree courses around the world? Or is there some sort of broad professional mass-delusion at work? How is it that they can study this stuff, but not personally require some sort of validation of its efficacy? Is it just laziness, or, wishful thinking?
Once again, we find a near total absence of any meaningful research showing any efficacy at all, and there are many references examining the various claims. This one here is very thorough, and provides a good review of the whole spectrum of therapies relating to Applied Kinesiology.
I accept that many people have received helpful treatment from chiropractors, but mostly in addressing various non-specific and subjective ailments such as neck and lower back pain. But I wonder how many people, like me, have had zero results but which tend not to be reported? After all, we are all keen to look like we’ve made smart judgements, and so the money we burned on that unsuccessful treatment, or that power-balance bracelet, or that danoz combined exercise machine and food processor, tend not to come up in polite conversation.
What has your experience been?