Applied Kinesiology
The Book

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease." - Thomas A. Edison

Peter Varley BDSc, FDSRCS, DFHom(Dent.). and Joseph Shafer DC (USA), DIBAK, CCSP.(profile)

Historical Perspective

Applied kinesiology originated in the United States in the late 1950’s through the clinical observations of George Goodheart D.C. Because he was a chiropractor, his education prepared him to look primarily at problems related to the spine and the way it affected the nervous system. A colleague gave him a book on manual muscle testing written by the physiotherapists, Kendall and Kendall. This ‘man and wife’ team had been treating patients who suffered from nerve trauma. Muscle weakness was a consistent finding and they were able to develop manual tests to precisely evaluate the muscles inhibited by improper nerve function.

Goodheart thought that these testing procedures might provide him with an instrument through which to help some of his more difficult patients. He was surprised at first to realize that weak muscles were a far more common cause of structural imbalance than hypertonic and contracted ones. The current belief was that muscles became taut and contracted rather than weak in response to structural imbalances. After further investigation he found that the contracted muscle was, more often than not, due to a weak opposing muscle. By correcting the weakness the tight muscle returned to normal on its own.

This was a revelation, because at the time most people believed that tense, over-worked contracted muscles, not weak ones, were more common. For this reason, most conventional therapies had been designed to relax and elongate the tense fibers, rather than to reinforce weakened muscles. Until Dr Goodheart began testing otherwise normal patients and finding weaknesses, no-one appreciated the significance of the weak muscle as a primary factor for structural instability leading to pain. The work done by Kendall and Kendall, was performed mostly on patients with frank nerve pathology.

Muscle Organ Reflex

Goodheart found that when he had patients with a disease in a specific organ like the liver, kidney or gallbladder, certain muscles would always test weak. He hypothesized that skeletal muscles must have some sort of reflex relationship to the internal organs and vice versa. When an organ was diagnosed as having a pathology, the corresponding muscle would usually test weak. Furthermore, the muscle would remain weak until the organ recovered from the pathology.

End Organ Response

More recent research in neurology is beginning to support the basic concepts of DR Goodheart and applied kinesiology. Some theories have been revised and others will continue to be revised as our understanding of AK improves. Even so, the fundamental basis of AK remains unchanged. Nothing happens in the body without being registered by the nervous system. Based on the type and strength of the stimulus, an appropriate response is then made. When the nervous response is to an abnormal situation, changes in muscle resistance patterns will and do occur. In fact, any sensory or mechanical stimulus in the human body that is registered by the nervous system has the potential to create changes in the ‘end-organ’. The end-organ in this context is understood to be that organ or tissue which is the final-receptor of the nervous impulse. In muscle it would be the neuromuscular spindle cell that contains the motor unit for muscle contraction. Failure of the nervous system to coordinate contraction against a dynamic resistance is called in AK the ‘weak muscle’.

Dentistry and AK

Applied Kinesiology (AK) is unique in its ability to help the doctor ‘break free’ from the limitations of a medical specialty while not giving up their specialist identity. One can think of AK as a ‘diagnostic bridge’ enabling the doctor to follow almost any path leading to patient recovery.

One of the best examples of this is found in dentistry. The dentist, in most countries, is supposed to treat problems originating from the mouth and jaw. Anything below the shoulders is considered taboo and only a few rogue dentists dare to extend their borders beyond these limits. Dental specialists in the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) know that it can negatively influence posture from the neck all the way down to the feet. The reverse is also true.

The TMJ is exquisitely sensitive to imbalances in the body far removed from the head and neck. Yet dental training really does not provide the tools necessary to understand, let alone evaluate, parts of the body below the neck as they relate to the TMJ.

In response to this need, an increasing number of dentists are following post-graduate courses in applied kinesiology. Using simple AK muscle tests they are not only better able to evaluate patient response to therapy, but to determine when and where other disturbances in the body are influencing the jaw joint. Iatrogenic reactions to bridges, crowns, splints, fillings and other dental procedures, can make the dentist and patient very frustrated. Problems arise when the patient is unable to tolerate the change created in the mouth by the dental therapy. These occur most often when the dentist has been unable to monitor the whole body reaction to what is being done. Instead, local responses and functional tests of the jaw alone frequently provide the only basis for a conclusion.

Basic Principles of Applied Kinesiology - ‘Body Language Never Lies’

Attributed to DR Goodheart, the idea that body language never lies is the essence of applied kinesiology. It is this ability to interpret body language that is the key to success in functional diagnosis. The word ‘holistic’ does not mean that one has to accept Eastern philosophy. It does mean, however, that we should try to look at the body in a multi-dimensional way, bearing in mind that each individual part is inextricably linked to all the others. Specific muscle tests are used by the doctor to determine where the problem originates and how to treat it. Once muscle weaknesses are found, the doctor tries to find what will return them to normal by different forms of stimuli that are registered and interpreted by the nervous system.

The Challenge Mechanism

A specific sensory stimulation is called a ‘challenge’ and is combined with the muscle test to aid in both diagnosis and treatment. The ways in which a doctor can perform a challenge are many and only depend on what area or condition he is trying to examine.

Mechanical Challenge

A Mechanical Challenge can be made to joint, muscle, ligament and tendon receptors and can be osseous or soft tissue in nature.

Sensory Challenge

A sensory challenge is made by the stimulation of the sense of smell, hearing, taste, vision and touch. Diagnostic conclusions can be made by varying the type of sensory stimulation to match the requirement of the doctor and the type of problem the patient may be experiencing. Most often used in applied kinesiology is the sense of taste in order to evaluate nutritional responses.


The lingual receptors are challenged with various substances, usually nutritional in character, and muscle response is observed. If a muscle weakens or becomes over-facilitated while the lingual receptors are ‘challenged’, it indicates the patient has difficulty in coping with the substance which has been placed on the tongue. If the substance helps a muscle return to normal strength, it is an indication that the patient needs the substance in question in order to aid healing.


This same procedure can be used for medicinal drugs. If a pharmacological agent causes abnormal muscle responses, the doctor can expect side-effects to its use. Ideally, the doctor should choose the medicine causing the fewest changes in muscle strength, indicating the least harmful drug of choice. Very simply, the procedure can be taken one step further. If a patient is suffering from a throat infection and needs an antibiotic drug, the agent of choice should do two things:

In this way the doctor is sure that the drug of choice has been determined and that it will have few, if any, negative side-effects.

Emotional Challenge

A patient is asked to visualize or recall a psychologically demanding situation and muscle strength is evaluated. A patient may be asked to repeat phrases like, ‘I am loved’, ‘I can love’ or ‘I don’t have anger’. Muscle strength is re-evaluated after each suggestion and the doctor has a valuable input.

Electromagnetic Challenge

In AK electromagnetic challenge is a specific stimulation to the meridian receptors, often known as acupuncture points. Research has shown them to be electromagnetic in character. One or several of these acupuncture points is challenged by tapping, needling, laser activation or electrical current. The method of stimulation most often used is manual tapping of the point in question.

Inter-Professional Communication

Applied kinesiology helps inter-professional understanding by bridging the gap between practitioners and allowing them to use a common denominator, the muscle test, through which to evaluate both the local and the global effect of each therapeutic input. More importantly, the use of AK techniques indicates to the specialist in one area when the patient is in need of care from another area of expertise. This might be thought of as a form of ‘rapid deployment’ and sends the patient more quickly to the professional who is able to remove the imbalance.

Therapy Localisation

DR Goodheart observed that patient muscle resistance could change if they were allowed to place their hands on certain parts of their bodies. Experimenting with this phenomenon, Goodheart realised that when the fingers were placed over a problem area, pre-tested muscle strength would often change.

He then found that by opposing the thumb and the little finger and touching the skin over problem areas of the body, a much greater result was forthcoming. He likened it to turning up the ‘squelch’ on a walkie-talkie for a better signal. Neurologically, we know that only man can oppose the thumb and little finger, the action requiring higher centres of cerebral function. Goodheart has hypothesised that the opposition of the digits somehow activates more of the neuronal pool, which in turn, couples more of the central reflexes into the test.

In dentistry, therapy localisation may be used to help locate teeth with caries or pathological disturbance in the jaw. The patient is asked to touch the tooth and its gingiva with a finger. A strong muscle is tested against the therapy localisation. When pathology exists in the tissue underlying the touching finger, the strong muscle will change its resistance pattern and become either weak or over-facilitated. Toxic amalgams, granulomas, hidden infections and other problems can be located in this fashion. Once the area isolated, the dentist can choose the appropriate procedure to further identify the problem.

Testing for Toxins

The applied kinesiologist uses the same procedure for testing any substance that might cause patient intolerance. The classic method used is to introduce the substance into the mouth, stimulating the lingual receptors. These send impulses directly to the brain, again via the thalamic control centres. When the brain registers a substance that initiates an abnormal response, previously tested muscles will dramatically change their strength reaction. The doctor is immediately alerted to look more closely at the offending substance.

Dentists can use this simple technique quite effectively in their surgeries. Prior to using a foreign substance in the mouth, a minute portion of the material can be put on the tongue and the patient asked to taste it. A muscle strong prior to the oral challenge, is tested again. If the patient changes muscle strength, the dentist may wish to use another type of material; preferably one that does not change the pre-tested muscle strength. This technique is especially useful when confronted with patients who are highly sensitive or suffer from multiple allergies.


Many useful techniques are found in applied kinesiology. When combined with the knowledge of the individual doctor or specialist, AK provides a welcome bridge from which we can understand the complexities of the human body. Institutions such as Tufts in the United States have programmes incorporating research into applied kinesiology and showing its effectiveness in the dental field. Applied kinesiology is standing the test of time and withstanding the onslaught of scientific scrutiny because it is based on sound neurological principles. Dentistry has much to gain from AK principles and dentists have much to give back in return as applied kinesiology continues to develop and grow for the benefit of all.

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