Saturday, May 26, 2007

Applied Kinesiology: imaginary diagnostics

Recently, I have been presented with inquiries regarding the use of applied kinesiology (AK) in animals. Though this fringe practice does not come up very frequently among the back ground noise of alternative medicine discussions I have (acupuncture and chiropractic being more common) it does provide a clear example of the power of the placebo effect in action.

Not surprisingly, there is little detailed information about the use of AK in animals, though I have looked at manuals and diagrams designed for small animals. What I have seen has been adapted “a la” acupuncture point method transposing techniques, in this case, from human AK literature based on a theory created by a chiropractor named George J Goodheart, Jr in 1964.

This pseudo medical modality, well described in critiques by Dr Barrett and others, is based on the notion that organ dysfunctions are accompanied by specific muscular weakness. This enables a practitioner to detect pathologies through a bizarre series of techniques generally involving “tasting” possible causative agents (i.e., suspected allergens), placing them on the patients’ body, or using surrogates in the case of children or animals. By testing muscle strength (i.e., resistance to pulling down a raised arm) in the patient or surrogate and often utilizing a meridian chart reminiscent of acupuncture, the practitioner can detect these presumed pathologies.

Barrett notes that a surprising number of practitioners use this technique in some form siting survey numbers from 1991 up to 1998 at or above 30% for chiropractors. Although usually practiced in the realm of chiropractors, naturopaths, and “nutritionists” some medical doctors and veterinarians utilize AK in their practice. The results of a given treatment can be readily confused with other unrelated phenomena. This illusion is related to placebo effect and non placebo effect components of perception including psychosomatic perceptual illusions affecting the practitioner, patient, or surrogate.

It is interesting to note that even the International College of Applied Kinesiology seems to qualify this practice with certain standards claiming that only the stimulation of gustatory receptors of the tongue or olfactory receptors represents true AK. Additionally, the college recommends that AK should be used as an adjunct to other diagnostic modalities, a common pseudo medical "addendum". These are typical tactics alternative medicine practitioners often use in order to cloak a given non conventional procedure with a veneer of credibility.

Not surprisingly, studies relating to AK practice reveal its “effect” to be random placebo related phenomena. Like many other alternative techniques, different practitioners produced different results in diagnosis and treatment.

In veterinary medicine, similar “qualifiers” can be found relegating AK to adjunct roles in alternative practice. However, in spite of these disclaimers, the practice is not excluded or disregarded as ineffective. In fact the Veterinary Institute of Integrative Medicine web site has a post discussing the “pros and cons” of AK and generally places it within the realm of blood chemistry analysis and radiography!

This strange article is replete with false associations, assumptions, and fallacious reasoning that may serve as fodder for another post. For example, most people may not interpret AK correctly because:

“Most people have not reached that level of personal growth where they are totally non-judgmental and are willing to leave the results of the treatment up to the animal, or the universe, or God or whatever you want to call the higher power. Practitioners often feel responsible for doing the healing.”

Additionally, it claims that “allopathic" medicine relies on ancillary diagnostics over and above the history and examination:

The basic philosophy behind holistic medicine is to get away from the crutch of the blood test, the x-ray, and the technologically-derived diagnosis and to develop a sensitivity to the animal and its whole self. The more the muscle testing is relied upon and not sensitivity to the animal, complete histories and physical exams as well as intuition, those items that we should be particularly good at as "wholistic" practitioners, the more the muscle test becomes another blood test or x-ray.”

This is in complete contradistinction to the very definition of the study of Semiology a crucial part of medical training involving the study of signs and symptoms* of disease which implicitly teaches the importance of the physical examination and history. This creates a false straw man version of “that other” allopathic approach.

The essence of the practice of AK in animals and humans relies on implausible assumptions and misinterprets many other phenomena including variable explainable events that are part of the natural history of disease as well as the ever intoxicating placebo effect. AK is a delusional pseudo diagnostic modality that should be avoided.

*Animals can not relay symptoms


John D. said...

Dr. G .Doesn't have a clue, and talks about assumptions when in fact is only making an assumption himself. If he had really studied and practiced A.K. he would then know. And as far as Barrett is concerned, only an idiot would ever believe anything he says.

Dr G said...

Thanks for the ad hominens. Unimaginative as they may be, they certainly help make my point!