by Hannah Hites
I have always found extraordinary beliefs concerning medicine or healing to be especially interesting. There is almost always studies that prove these various alternative medicine techniques to be ineffective, yet people still use and support them anyways. Why is this? I think there are several different factors that could make people want to believe in these methods, but the reasons for each method may differ. One of the most interesting forms of medical pseudoscience that I have found is the concept of applied kinesiology. Applied kinesiology is a technique in alternative medicine that is supposedly able to diagnose illnesses and select treatments by testing muscle strength and weakness. The principle belief behind this method is that doctors can tell what is wrong with a patient by seeing the way his/her muscles respond when they are pushed on. A chiropractor named George J. Goodheart came up with the concept of applied kinesiology in 1964. He began practicing and teaching these methods to other chiropractors. He even started an organization called the Goodheart Study Group Leaders that now goes by the name of “The International College of Applied Kinesiology”. This is mostly used by chiropractors, but it has started to gain popularity with other practitioners. In recent years, it became the 10th most used chiropractic technique in the United States. This technique is extraordinary because there have been studies to show its ineffectiveness, but it is still being practiced and promoted.
Applied kinesiology is a way of evaluating structural, chemical, and mental areas of health by using manual muscle testing (MMT) along with conventional methods. The idea behind this technique is that every organ dysfunction is associated with weakness in a corresponding muscle. This is called the “viscerosomatic relationship”. The evidence for this form of alternative medicine is based mostly on anecdotal evidence from practitioners’ assessments of muscle response making it not very reliable. It is also argued that there is no scientific understanding of the viscerosomatic relationship. Only the anecdotal reviews have shown positive support for applied kinesiology. Every peer-reviewed study has concluded that there is no evidence that applied kinesiology is able to diagnose organic diseases or conditions. In the US, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the American Cancer Society have all released position statements saying that applied kinesiology should not be used in the diagnosis of allergies, cancer, etc. There are also many other organizations just like these from other parts of the world that have a similar stance on this form of alternative medicine.
I think that many people believe in the use of applied kinesiology because there are still many chiropractors and practitioners that support and promote it. They are considered people of authority in this subject area making people trust their opinions and recommendations. I think these people are misinformed by their doctors of the studies supporting applied kinesiology. I think the chiropractors and practitioners that support and believe this are misinterpreting evidence and taking anecdotal evidence as fact. I think conformation bias may play a role in this belief as well. If a practitioner happens to make the right diagnosis, they will surely attribute it to the use of applied kinesiology even though it has been said that the use of applied kinesiology to diagnose is no better than random guessing.
I think that just like any other form of alternative medicine, believers come from people who do not agree with the use of mainstream conventional medicine. I also believe that some people only turn to alternative medicine because other traditional methods have not worked for them, so they use it as a last resort. It could be because they simply want to try something new, it was recommended to them by another practitioner, or other methods have not helped with whatever they are dealing with. Some people may try applied kinesiology and find that it did not work for them which would discontinue their belief. Others may try it and find that it works most likely due to the practitioner’s convincing or the ever-common placebo effect. Either way, this would reinforce some people’s beliefs and continue its spread. Believers comes from all different backgrounds and communities. There is no stereotypical person for this belief though those people who already believe in or use other forms of alternative medicine may be more likely to believe in applied kinesiology.
Applied kinesiology is just one of the many different types of alternative medicine with lacking studies to prove its effectiveness. Most people that believe in it are convinced because of the authority figures that promote its use or from personal experience with other forms of alternative medicine. The fact that so many medical organizations have made statements rejecting its use should be enough for people to realize that its effectiveness is just an extraordinary belief, at least you would think so. Obviously, this is not the case since so many people are still promoting and using this practice.