What Do You Know About Manual Muscle Testing?
Manual muscle testing is shrouded in controversy. Today, we look at what it is, what it is not, and what practitioners aim to learn about their patients when performing manual muscle tests.
A practice rooted in kinesiology (biomechanics)
Traditional kinesiology, or biomechanics, is the study of body movement that focuses on our anatomy and the mechanics that put it in motion. Dating back centuries, think as far back as Aristotle, this area of study has paved the way for physical therapy, the science of optimizing athletic performances, and even the creation of ergonomic products.
Manual muscle testing, known as applied kinesiology (AK), is a technique by which a healthcare practitioner applies minimal force against certain limbs positioned to facilitate resistance.
While kinesiology seeks to understand the mechanics of body movement, applied kinesiology seeks to use that information to detect any anomalies in the body.
For healthcare professionals who practice AK, the body is a wealth of information that always communicates valuable information to anyone paying attention. Muscle testing is yet another method by which they “listen” to the body.
For instance, if we know the arm has an established range of motion and a patient at a doctor’s office could not complete that full range of motion, the treating physician would want to investigate that issue. Similarly, if a patient could not resist gentle force applied to their extended arm, the healthcare practitioner may question the root cause of this muscle weakness.
The poor results would indicate a problem, and depending on which muscle groups test weak, the healthcare professional may have an indicator that points to possible underlying causes of the weakness.
While kinesiology is accepted and widely studied in health and healthcare, applied kinesiology struggles to gain that same acceptance. The school of thought around it has evolved over the past decades, and it would seem not all healthcare professionals agree on whether applied kinesiology has any real value.
Part of the controversy stems from the fact that some practitioners use AK as a diagnostic tool rather than a screening test. Prominent healthcare practitioners in the realm of holistic health insist AK is not a diagnostic tool, but an effective, non-invasive screening test that points to potential disease indicators.
For example, looking back at the first known use of applied kinesiology in the United States, an orthopedic surgeon by the name of R. W. Lovett developed a muscle test in the 1920s to assess disabilities in children having suffered nerve damage caused by polio. Clearly, damaged nerves affect muscle function, and muscles that tested weak would have indicated the progression of polio, leading to certain types of dysfunction, malfunction, or loss of function in the muscles.
Building on this momentum, subsequent practitioners of applied kinesiology have developed a series of muscle tests to detect more subtle disease indicators and built a body of work, including case studies, detailing their observations.
Until now, the language used to describe the outcomes of AK screenings relates to “muscle weakness,” but it is important to note that practitioners are not testing muscle strength.
What they want to observe is if the muscles will “lock.” By “lock,” we are referring to a solid ability to resist gentle force applied to extended limbs. If a muscle doesn’t lock its position against this applied force, it is considered “weak” only because its ability to resist gentle pressure breaks too easily.
Practitioners also consider other factors besides the muscle group they are testing. They take into account that your nerves connect to your muscles and signal the brain.
When muscle groups struggle to resist the gentle force exerted against them, the practitioner suspects that something is interfering with the body’s neurological functions. There’s an indication that something is off.
These interferences can be caused by chemical, nutritional, disease, or other inflammatory factors in the body.
The beautiful thing about muscle testing is that screening methods range from simple to complex.
Some AK practitioners believe that simple tests can go beyond indicating issues within the body and reveal aspects of the patient’s subconscious state of mind. Certain indicators are said to reveal the presence of cognitive dissonance, an attraction to the things our intuition perceives as good, or an aversion to things our intuition perceives as bad, all of which are expressed through body language during the muscle test.
Keeping in mind that even though these notions are still highly debated, it’s worth noting:
- Countless studies have confirmed people experience physiological changes in their bodies when they are confronted with some form of cognitive dissonance. 
From the perspective of an AK practitioner, the physical discomfort caused by cognitive dissonance (which is similar to the physiological changes brought on by anxiety or guilt) would also cause muscles to test weak.
- A 2005 article, by Hanneke et al., published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, noted, “When face and body convey conflicting emotional information, judgment of facial expression is hampered and becomes biased toward the emotion expressed by the body.”
In other words, the subjects in this study felt the body was more “honest” than the face.
Apart from nutritional factors that contribute to imbalances in the body, photobiomodulation (light therapy) is scientifically proven to reduce inflammation, stimulate cellular repair, and more.
Whether you’ll opt for muscle testing as a safe, non-invasive way to screen for potential health issues in your body, photobiomodulation has the ability to help it heal and maintain its health.
The Visum Light is the most versatile light therapy device available to healthcare professionals and self-care enthusiasts. Because it offers a wide spectrum of wavelengths and customizable color combinations, it is one of the few, if not the only, devices to keep up with newly discovered applications for photobiomodulation.
Light therapy is a growing area of research. That’s why we stay up to date with the latest trends in PBM, emerging studies, and the latest applications for light therapy. Join our newsletter, and we’ll deliver high-value content to your inbox, along with exclusive offers that are only available to mailing list members.
 “History of Kinesiology as It Relates to Muscle Testing.” Healing with EFT, www.healing-with-eft.com/history-of-kinesiology.html.
 Frost, Robert. Applied Kinesiology: a Training Manual and Reference Book of Basic Principles and Practices. North Atlantic Books, 2013.
 “Correlation of Applied Kinesiology Muscle Testing Findings with Serum Immunologobulin Levels for Food Allergies.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00207459808986471
 Cooper, J. (2019)
 Harmon-Jones, E. (2000)