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If you’ve been treated by a chiropractor trained in applied kinesiology, you may have found yourself lying on a table with your arm in the air, wondering what’s going on.

This is the basic posture for applied kinesiology muscle tests, which are used to diagnose a range of issues, sometimes related to musculoskeletal structure. But if you have gut problems, muscle testing may reveal whether your body is hosting a parasite or a toxin, or responding badly to a particular food.

During a test for a food intolerance, for example, a practitioner may place a vial with a trace of the food on or near your body, then ask you to push against their hand with your raised arm. If there’s no issue, your push will be strong. If there is, it will be startlingly weak.

Once you’ve experienced an involuntary weakness during a muscle test, there’s little room for doubt that the body is trying to tell you something.

The method was developed in the early 20th century to measure muscle strength in polio patients. It was later adapted by chiropractor George J. Goodheart Jr., DC, who founded applied kinesiology, now often used in sports medicine. But Goodheart was interested in more than just muscle strength; he saw that muscles could be a communication gateway to the nervous system.

As with other biofeedback ­practices, critics are deeply skeptical, but the evidence base for applied kinesiology is expanding. It also often provides insight into stubborn conditions when nothing else will. Andrew Rostenberg, DC, DIBAK, founder of Red Mountain Natural Medicine in Boise, Idaho, explains how it works.

How Muscle Testing Works

Experience Life | What is muscle testing?

Andrew Rostenberg | Muscle testing is a diagnostic tool that uses the body’s own nervous system — a form of biofeedback — to uncover hidden problems. The human body knows what is wrong with it, but unfortunately it cannot give you a sticky note or email you with a list of what is not working correctly. It can, however, communicate through the turning on or off of muscles.

The body turns muscles on and off all the time; this allows us to move, speak, digest food, circulate blood, and breathe oxygen. This is basically the language of the central nervous system (CNS). By using muscle testing, a properly trained doctor can access an enormous amount of information about the patient that is unavailable through other means.

EL | What sort of conditions can muscle testing help identify?

AR | A weak muscle might be caused by trauma to the muscle. A weak muscle might be caused by an infection in the large or small intestine. A weak muscle might be caused by estrogen dominance and low progesterone. There are many internal imbalances that will show up on the outside of the body as a weak muscle.

EL | What exactly is the role of the central nervous system?   

AR | When you test a muscle with applied kinesiology, you are examining the CNS, since it is in control of when muscles turn on and off. A muscle turning on or off is the final output of many different pathways — hormones, toxins, hydration, sleep, stress, nutrition, electromagnetics, and so on. Muscle testing is able to pick up on disturbances in all the different body systems.

EL | What is the connection between muscle weakness and a food sensitivity?

AR | During a muscle test, if a strong muscle weakens when a patient puts gluten or dairy in their mouth, it indicates that the body treats these foods more like toxins. This is how the CNS responds to something that is “negative” for the body. Any weakness you see on the muscle test is caused by the CNS answering the question “Is this food good for me?” It can only answer yes or no, “on” or “off.” If that food is neither good nor bad for you, the muscle will not weaken.

EL | What, if any, safety issues are there to consider?

AR | Manual muscle testing is safe. The only contraindication is to avoid testing areas of the body that are injured, as this will always yield inaccurate results from the CNS. You can’t muscle test accurately if the person is in pain while doing the movement.

EL | Practitioners sometimes test two different supplements at varying distances from the body. Is the body’s energy field involved here?

AR | The nervous system doesn’t stop processing information at the edge of our body: We take in information from our environment. Our CNS looks at the horizon, the sky, people walking toward us; it scans the room for threats and can identify them from a pretty long distance.

It is the same system we use with muscle testing. The CNS sensory processing that gives you goosebumps when someone stares at you from across the street is able to discern if a supplement or substance is effective from a distance. The greater the distance, the greater the positive (or negative) reaction.

 Natural Healing

Energy medicine has a long history across many cultures. Today, we also have research to confirm the value of these subtle modalities for health and well-being. Explore other articles in our Natural Healing department to learn how you can embrace these modalities in your own life.

This article originally appeared as “What Is Muscle Testing” in the May 2023 issue of Experience Life.

Courtney Helgoe

Courtney Helgoe is the Experience Life features editor.

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