Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Pull-My-Finger and Other Ways to Diagnose Disease

Kinesiology is basically using someone’s muscles strength (or sometimes balance) to make a medical diagnosis. Wait. Let me take that back. REAL kinesiology is the study of human movement. APPLIED kinesiology is a term stolen from true professionals by those with no medical or scientific training (Don't confuse the two). People who are drinking the kool-aid say that applied kinesiology can give feedback about how your body is doing and how it can be helped. The fact that most of the people using applied kinesiology are chiropractors is a strike against it (in my mind). Once again, Chiropractors are not doctors. To be fair, it’s also used by naturopaths, massage therapists, and multilevel marketing distributors. Of course, they aren’t medically trained either, so they shouldn’t be doing medical stuff on you anyway.

The ironically named George Goodheart made up Applied Kinesiology (AK) in 1964. Since most people thought the concept made absolutely no sense, he focused on teaching the technique to chiropractors. Then, like most people who make up medical procedures with no basis in reality, Goodheart started his own college-o-nonsense called the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK).

The AK theory says that every organ is connected to a muscle or muscle group (this is both wrong and dumb). The theory goes that when something goes wrong in an organ, there will be weakness in the associated muscle. Since there are 639 skeletal muscles in the body, and only 78 organs, that would mean each organ is connected to 8 muscles (on average). How do they know which to test? I bet if you quizzed an Applied Kinesiologist they would not even know that there are 78 organs, let alone understand them all well enough to tell you what is wrong with them.
Also, think about this. If I have had my tonsils, adenoids, and appendix REMOVED, doesn’t that mean 24 of my muscles won’t work or will have problems? I would think the medical community would have noticed something like that.

How it works
The practitioner (I prefer quack-titioner) applies a force to the target muscle while the patient tries to resist. This might involve holding up their arm, trying to keep their balance, or twisting from the hip (There are a bunch of variations). Notice that the quack-titioner has already made a partial diagnosis by choosing which muscles to test. According to the websites I read, the AK person is not looking for strength of the muscles but “smoothness” of response. That sounds more like a wine-tasting than a medical procedure, and is completely subjective. Of course, a "non-smooth" response means your body needs some help (weird medicine, unicorn pee, etc).

The Best Part
Once the problem has been located, we can then do nutrient testing. The AK practitioner gives the person a magical treatment and redoes the test to see if their performance changes. Supposedly this can also be used to test for allergies by holding the substance in one hand and watching to see if you are “less smooth” or more “unbalanced”. Alternately, you can hold the treatment to see if you get better! Supposedly, if they then try to push down your arms or unbalance you, the proper treatment will make you able to resist better. SPOILER ALERT! It turns out that doing the “Macarena” has a similar medical value (ie none). The best part is, some of these tests are done while the pills are in the bottle! The patient isn’t even touching the medicine he is supposed to be testing! By what magical process does medicine trapped in a bottle travel through the plastic and up your arms to whatever muscle is being tested? SPOILER ALERT! It doesn’t.

I must confess that I am aware of one case where someone pulled a finger and a colon infection was diagnosed. I guess that isn’t the same thing though because the diagnosis was based on the smell, not the muscle response.

AK makes no sense on theoretical grounds. How does working my shoulder muscles (pushing down an arm) tell me if I am allergic to something? Or that I “need” a certain treatment?

All the research done showing that AK works has been done by chiropractors, paid for by the ICAK or published only by chiropractic trade publications. I can already see the emails coming to my inbox saying, “But the studies are peer-reviewed!”. Good point. If my 3 year-old published a study on Newtonian physics and had it reviewed by his peers, then it would also be peer reviewed. Tada! It makes a HUGE difference which “peers” review someone’s work. Medical claims must be reviewed by someone with medical training… not a chiropractor.

The ALTA Foundation for Sports Medicine Research did a DOUBLE BLIND study using professionally trained AK quack-titioners. Double bind means the AK folks and the patients had no idea what substances were being tested. The reported results were “that the use of Applied Kinesiology to evaluate nutrient status is no more useful than random guessing.” In other studies, different AK people made completely different diagnoses for the same people!

To be fair, there are studies that suggest Applied Kinesiology does work. However, they are not double blind studies (HUGE problem), they all have methodological problems and the results could not be duplicated by others. So there isn't much credible research that is pro applied kinesiology.

Bottom Line
Current evidence shows that applied kinesiology is worthless for diagnosing or determining treatment for ANYTHING. I take it back – It might be able to cure boredom. It may even seem that AK works because of the ideo-motor effect and confirmation bias. That’s a topic for another day, but the point is that if we remove them (ideo-motor effect and bias) from the equation by having a blinded study, AK doesn’t work AT ALL. For this reason, no one should be making decisions about their medications based on AK. If you have concerns about taking your medicine or want to add something new (even if it’s “natural”), ALWAYS discuss it with your professionally trained, licensed and experienced medical doctor (not some hobo behind a Dairy Queen, or a naturopath or something).

Since our minds can be used against us, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking there might be something to applied kinesiology. But if we ask how it works and who supports it, we can discover that applied kinesiology is pretty iffy. And by “iffy” I mean a completely made up and possibly unethical medical procedure that preys on sick people.

If you want to see what Applied Kinesiology looks like, and get a feel for how you too can use it to get money from sick people, watch this video on youtube. You can skip to about 5 minutes.

Awesome News!
The British Medical Association has announced, “Homeopathy is witchcraft. It is a disgrace. If people want to pay for homeopathy then that’s their choice, but it shouldn’t be paid for by [the government] until there is evidence that it works.”


Anonymous said...

Similar snake-oil tactics can be seen with the latest "miracle" cure; the magnetic bracelet. The goof selling it first asks you to clasp your hands behind your back, and before you know it, he's pushing down on your hands and funny enough, you LOSE YOUR BALANCE. Now, put on the magic magnet and let's try that again. Amazingly your balance has improved remarkably! The only difference was the magic bracelet, so this is proof right? Well that and the fact that YOU KNEW WHAT TO EXPECT THE SECOND TIME AND COULD REACT ACCORDINGLY!

P.T Barnum was right!

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