Muscle Testing – Chiropractic Influence

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2000
Drs. Ankerberg and Weldon conclude this series on muscle testing (applied kinesiology, behavioral kinesiology and touch for health) by explaining the potential occult influence of these new age practices.

Muscle Testing – Chiropractic Influence

Chiropractic can be safe and effective for a number of muscular and related conditions when used responsibly by adequately trained chiropractors. Unfortunately, there is another side to chiropractic, as we documented in Can You Trust Your Doctor?. Not unexpectedly, the chiropractic profession is almost single-handedly responsible for the introduction and promotion of muscle testing in America. John Thie, the developer of “Touch for Health,” states that “most of these [Touch for Health] methods and techniques have been exclusively the province of the chiropractic profession.” A text on applied kinesiology confesses, “Most applied kinesiologists are chiropractors.”

Muscle testing was developed by chiropractors and is often taught at chiropractic schools. We have mentioned that George Goodheart was the chiropractor who may have used psychic methods to develop his system of applied kinesiology, that New Age chiro­practor John Thie popularized it (with Goodheart’s help), and that John Diamond, an under­study of Goodheart, took applied kinesiology and extended its principles into his strange system of behavioral kinesiology.

It is important to understand the logical connection between chiropractic, the potential for dabbling in the psychic world, and muscle testing. Classic chiropractic theory easily lends itself to the acceptance of a psychic realm as related to health. (We documented this in Can You Trust Your Doctor?.) That Goodheart might have used psychic means to de­velop his system of applied kinesiology would not be surprising. Furthermore, although elements of the chiropractic profession are scientifically oriented and practiced responsibly, chiropractic itself often rejects the safeguards of the scientific method; historically, it has opposed medical science and rejected any findings disproving its theories. Chiropractic, for example, was founded upon a false theory of subluxations being the cause of all disease, and its early concept of the “Innate” is difficult to distinguish from psychic energy in general.

Thus, the two characteristics that have strongly influenced chiropractic historically—the rejection of medical science and an openness to the psychic—help explain the unscientific and New Age orientation of much modern chiropractic practice. It is hardly surprising, then, that chiropractic would be the principal agent for advancing the practice of an unscientific and/or psychically based system of muscle testing in the United States.

The ease with which chiropractic and New Age muscle testing are blended can be seen in the many books advocating a union of the two, such as the Valentines’ Applied Kinesiology, chiropractor David S. Walther’s Applied Kinesiology: The Advanced Approach in Chiropractic (Pueblo, CO: privately published, 1976), and Chiropractor Fred Stoner’s The Eclectic Approach to Chiropractic (Las Vegas: privately published, 1976). Walthers is author of the “definitive textbook” on AK, Basic Procedures and Muscle Testing:

Goodheart’s original research is now being expanded, and more investigations are being carried out by many of his fellow chiropractors, hundreds of whom are finding applied kinesiology of inestimable value in their practices as a diagnostic aid. It is a fast and reliable way to discern where structural imbalances lie, to access dietary deficiencies and allergies, to detect organ dysfunctions, and even determine the extent to which psychological factors are involved.*


Each of these systems variously accepts the occult idea of a mystical “life energy” flowing through the body. Although promoters may attempt to explain it scientifically, they accept the unproven premise of ancient Chinese Taoism and of much occultism, which teaches that psychic or mystical energy (chi, prana, mana, and so on) flows along energy pathways in the body called meridians.

As a result, applied kinesiology, “Touch for Health,” and behavioral kinesiology are based upon an unfounded and unscientific concept, involving the same mystical life ener­gies promoted in the occult and Eastern religion. Because these methods claim to manipu­late invisible energies, some of the practices employed are indistinguishable from those used by psychic and spiritistic healers. This is why muscle testing may introduce people to psychic or spiritistic practices under another name, or influence them to seek out practitio­ners of these other forms of so-called “natural healing.”

We believe that any system which claims to regulate or manipulate “invisible energies” is, at least potentially, an introduction to occult energies and should be avoided. Since these methods are not based upon the findings of scientific medicine, they are unscientific, whether or not they introduce someone to the occult.

In New Age Medicine, Reisser, Reisser, and Weldon discuss why AK, BK, TH, and related methods should not be accepted uncritically, and why they should be avoided:

We strongly urge that patients avoid any therapists who claim to be manipulating invisible energies (Ch’i, life energy or whatever), whether using needles, touch, hand passes, arm-pulling or any other maneuver.
Why do we take such a hard-nosed stand? For two reasons. First, we have seen how the invoking of life energy, especially in the spin-offs from applied kinesiology, throws critical thinking to the wind. Therapists who use such techniques have strayed far from the mainstream of objective knowledge about the human body. Their “science” is based on conjecture, subjective impressions, unreliable data and, most importantly, the precepts of Taoism. They stand separate from the scientific community. You will never see muscle testing written up in Scientific American or recognized by the National Institutes of Health. We challenge anyone who is involved in this therapy to take a hard look at its origins, its underlying assumptions, and its supporting evidence (or lack thereof).
Our look at Jin Shin Do provided an example of our second objection: the general orientation of the literature which promotes the doctrines of Ch’i and meridians. The overwhelming majority of authors express a distinct spiritual perspective which is some variation on Eastern mysticism or the New Consciousness. We have seen no exceptions to date. John Thie, originator of Touch for Health, proclaims in Science of Mind magazine that “we are all one with the universe.” lona Teeguarden and her spirit guide tell us how Jin Shin Do can open our psychic centers to experience the universal flow which is love and magic. Hiroshi Motoyama, a Japanese physician, acupuncturist, and psychic researcher, is actively seeking to unify ancient Chinese medicine, East Indian kundalini yoga, and virtually all other psychic or mystical experiences into a single “science of consciousness.” Psychic healer and medium Rosalyn Lee Bruyere, mentioned previously, claims to “see” auras, chakras, and meridians, and manipulates the latter two in her practice. Under the direction of two spirit guides who instruct her regularly, she teaches a blend of psychic healing, spiritism, reincarnation, and Eastern mysticism. The pattern is unmistakable. There is no neutral “science” of life energy and meridians, but rather a highly developed mystical system with strong ties to the psychic realm.
What does all this mean? It means that energy therapists, whether they realize it or not, are carrying out a form of religious practice and conditioning their patients to accept its teachings. Indeed, some therapists enter a trancelike state in order to become a channel to direct Ch’i (or whatever they choose to call life energy) into the patient. The idea of the healer’s injecting invisible energy into another person may seem innocuous to most (and silly to some), but the results may be anything but trivial. Brooks Alexander, co-director of the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, warns:
It is not difficult to see that… psychic manipulation could turn an otherwise benign form of treatment into a spiritual booby trap. The nature of the doctor-patient relationship implicitly involves a kind of trust in and submission to the healer on many levels. For a Christian to accept the passive stance of “patient” before a practitioner who exercises spiritual power (either in his own right or as a channel for other influences) could easily result in spiritual derangement or bondage.
We find it particularly unsettling to see members of the Christian community having their energies balanced by chiropractors and other therapists who claim a Christian commitment and who feel that they are not involved in any questionable practices. These practitioners may claim that Ch’i, yin and yang, and meridians are neutral components of God’s creation (similar to electricity and radio waves), available for anyone to use; but they ignore the roots of these ideas.
The products of natural science—the technologies of electronics, biochemistry and so on—can be validated by controlled experiments whose results are not tied to the religious beliefs of the researcher. But the “technology” of life energy is totally defined by the belief system of its promoters: the mystics, the psychics and the leaders of the New Consciousness.
Christian energy balancers present us with a paradox. They claim reliance on Scripture, but they carry out the practices of an occult system. Most are sincere in their desire to help their patients. Unfortunately, they lack discernment, failing to see the implication of the ideas they promote. Some are even dabbling in the psychic realm, diagnosing disease through hand passes or over long distances, claiming that this is a natural by-product of their sensitivity to life energy.
To these therapists we offer a challenge and a warning. Take a long look at the world of Chinese medicine and then decide whether you belong there. Do you feel comfortable as a part of the New Consciousness movement, promoting Taoist philosophy, supporting a system whose basic message is that “all is one,” and helping usher in the New Age of miracles and magic? If not, then it is time to stop participating in therapies which lend credence and support to a world view which is antagonistic to the most basic teachings of Scripture.*

In conclusion, muscle-testing practices are scientifically unestablished or discredited and potentially occult. Therefore, they are not true healing methods. And due to their reli­ance on “mystical energies,” they are vehicles for introducing ancient pagan concepts or irrational approaches to medicine into modern health care.

NOTE: *Documentation for all quotations in this series may be found in the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs.

1 Comment

  1. Lee Wentworth on December 16, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    This article on muscle testing has put fear and doubt into me concerning who you are and your beliefs, and I must decide whether to stop contributing to your ministry.

    I have a PhD in neuroanatomy, and an Advanced Masters in Physical Therapy. Clinical muscle testing was NOT introduced by chiropractors. Physical Therapists are probably the only medical professionals that have the knowledge and ability to perform complete and accurate muscle testing of all muscles in the body (physicians routinely muscle test, but generally they grossly test groups of muscles around a joint, not each individual muscle – example, elbow flexion). Physical therapists grade from 0 to normal (0, trace, poor, fair, good, normal, and include plus or minus, such as poor minus), depending upon the precise range of motion moved, and if the muscle can take any resistance – a grade of poor plus would mean the muscle was able to complete the movement with gravity eliminated, and take some resistance. A specific muscle strengthening program is then established to progress to the next level – being able to go through the range of motion against gravity (fair).
    I worked at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Hospital for 4 years, earned a PhD from Boston University, and taught at Stanford, the Univ. Fla. at Gainesville, and in the anatomy department of the Univ. of CA, San Fran (UCSF) for 27 years.

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