Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Association of Systematic (aka Bullshit) Kinesiology

Association of Systematic Kinesiology lives by the motto "Prevention Our Shield".

Their flyer (available here and here) does a rather fine job of shielding its readers from the truth.

Systematic Kinesiology - a sort of wibbly-wobbly twisty-turny variant of chiropractic - is more commonly known as Applied Kinesiology.

The therapy is a confused mish-mash of bogus pseudo-scientific ideas from around the world and is not to be confused with Kinesiology, an entirely different branch of mainstream medicine.

Applied Kinesiology - let's call it Bullshit Kinesiology - was invented less than fifty years ago. Amazingly, the central practice - monitoring small muscle movements in a patient - was demonstrated to be nothing but a trick of the mind a full one hundred and fifty-eight years ago!

The advertisers claim that their Bullshit Kinesiology can treat

"...flatulence... arthritis... depression... dyslexia... infections... hyperactivity ... Irritable Bowel Syndrome... migraines... Repetitive Strain Injury... spots... poor skin... "

I simply don't believe them, and in my ASA complaint I call upon a series of altogether more recent clinical studies to show why.

"I write to complain about a leaflet I picked up at the CamExpo exhibition in London on 24th October this year.

The leaflet promotes the Association of Systematic Kinesiology.

I suspect that the leaflet may be in breach of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code). I can provide the original leaflet by post, if necessary.

1. (i) The therapy promoted by the leaflet is more usually known as "Applied Kinesiology", an invention of the American George Goodheart in 1964.

(ii) It is not to be confused with Kinesiology, a more mainstream (and regulated) medical discipline prevalant in the USA and Canada.

2. (i) The leaflet describes how the therapy is conducted:

" a way of identifying any imbalances a person has by monitoring their ability to hold their muscles against light pressure. Each muscle is related to an organ, and also to an energy pathway called a meridian...Together the muscle, organ and meridian form a 'circuit'. If there are chemical, emotional, structural or energetic stresses affecting the circuit, the muscle tested will feel 'spongy', indicating an imbalance. Once an imbalance is found the kinesiologist uses the muscle test again to get feedback..."

(ii) The leaflet continues:

"Based on this feedback the kinesiologist...[will] devise a treatment plan. It may include nutritional supplements...Bach Flower remedies, acupressure...chakra balancing...and more..."

(iii) The explanation is appended by the witticism "There is no guess work with Systematic Kinesiology".

3. The first scientific paper on the ideomotor effect - a phenomenon in which a subject makes unconscious movements in response to certain ideas or stimuli - was published one hundred and twelve years before the invention of Applied Kinesiology [1].

4. I have found no clinical studies lending support to the ideas expressed in the leaflet's explanation, but a great number which refute them, for example:

(i) Kenny JJ, Clemens R, Forsythe KD. Applied kinesiology unreliable for assessing nutrient status. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 88:698-704, 1988.

(ii) Triano JJ. Muscle strength testing as a diagnostic screen for supplemental nutrition therapy: a blind study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 5:179-182, 1982

(iii) Haas M and others. Muscle testing response to provocative vertebral challenge and spinal manipulation: a randomized controlled trial of construct validity. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 17:141-148, 1994.

(iv) Applied kinesiology - Double-blind pilot study. Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry 45:321-323, 1981.

(v) Ludtke R and others. Test-retest-reliability and validity of the kinesiology muscle test. Complementary Therapy in Medicine 9:141-145, 2001.

(vi) Hyman R. The mischief-making of ideomotor action. by ideomotor action. The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, Fall-Winter issue, 1999.

5. Therefore, under Section 12.1, I challenge whether the advertisers can substantiate their claim that the following conditions "can be treated using Systematic Kinesiology":

(i) Acid stomach, indigestion
(ii) Flatulence
(iii) Depression
(iv) Phobias
(v) Arthritis
(vi) Asthma
(vii) Catarrh
(viii) "Candida, thrush and bloating"
(ix) Constipation
(x) Digestive disorders
(xi) Dyslexia
(xii) Eczema
(xiii) Tennis elbow
(xiv) "Frequent infections"
(xv) Restless leg syndrome
(xvi) "Hyperactivity in children"
(xvii) Insomnia
(xviii) Irritable Bowel Syndrome
(xix) Lower back pain
(xx) Migraines
(xxi) Repetitive Strain Injury
(xxii) Tennis elbow
(xxiii) Sinus problems
(xiv) "Skin problems, spots, poor skin"
(xv) (Since the leaflet claims "these are just some of the complaints that can be treated") - any other medical condition

6. I confirm I have no connections with the advertiser. I confirm I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser.




  1. how often do you talk to people that have been helped by these therapies?
    Thousands of people have been helped, thousands of people are healthier and happier because of what these people do.
    Do we need to look at how often mainstream medicine is now faking its results to maintain their monetary control, how often doctors can only treat with drugs because they just don't know how to how to help, despite their 'rigorous scientific' training. Need we even bring up the study published in the October issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine 'What's in Placebos: Who Knows? Analysis of Randomized, Controlled Trials' which showed that studies don't declare the composition of their placebos and will actively request specific combinations that are more likely to have an opposing effect to the drug they are compared against to increase the likelihood of showing the success of the drug. nd with no regulatory rules about the composition of placebos (for example giving sugar pills to diabetics when testing diabetic drugs. Tell me there is anything balanced in that.
    I think you have some serious issues to be so damning against people who have a desire to help others.
    I'll be impressed if you publish this, because like our beloved medical world, you are likely to exclude and information that doesn't support the belief you have. And we wouldn't want your reader thinking that you have some vindictive crusade which lacks objectivity and balance now would we!!
    Good luck I hope you find peace soon

  2. What's that old saying? 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. I fail to see how it is possible to challenge any therapy or treatment if you do not have direct experience of it. It would appear that the challenge is based solely on 3rd party articles, selected specifically for their bias against the targetted therapy. There are equally worthy articles which document the huge successes achieved by such therapies, and many reports from people who have directly benefitted from treatment. All therapies and treatments (from Chemo to Kinesiology etc.)work for some people, but not all therapies and treaments (including chemo, and kinesiology etc) work for everyone! Give a balanced viewpoint and allow people to make up their own minds.

  3. Hi Anonymous!

    Can you identify the rigorous clinical trials, published in peer-reviewed medical journals, which show that applied kinesiology can treat dyslexia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, hyperactivity and clinical depression?

  4. As a trained and experienced scientist I can suggest that you appear to blindly accept what is published in medical journals as gospel. Also, it appears that only certain types of research are acceptable to you. That alone indicates that your scientific education may be deficient. Look at the Ludtke paper referenced above as an example. Ludke does statistics. The work was done in a medical setting by medics who knew almost nothing about kinesiology. Their four subjects had not been certified as skilled or even knowledgeable about the kinesiology "methods" described. Scientifically the only thing Ludtke et al found was that when a person does a new task (never attempted before much less trained for), and does not receive feedback about their results, then their results are random. Earthshaking Conclusion!!
    Read works by Tom Bearden, Ph.D. (Physics) and Ervin Laszlo, Ph.D., (Physics) for scientific explanations of what we do in bioenergetic work.
    For years I have stated that if you tell me what you want as a result I can design a "good" project to "prove" just that. Some years ago a US Government report concluded that at best only about 10% of medical procedures were demonstrated effective. An honest skeptic would be far more concerned about that than wasting time on "fringe" competitors.
    The time a wild animal becomes a danger is when they are being cornered and threatened. Could that be why alternatives are under so much attack?

  5. Thank you for your article on Kinesiology and for drawing attention to the benefits of the many practices which are available to help people regain their health and well being However you mention science and peer-reviewed as if to imply that something can only be good, or work, if it is ‘scientifically’ proven.

    The safe level of mercury, according to the World Health Organisation, is zero. Yet the NHS still pays dentists to put it into people’s mouths. How many peer reviewed articles and how many scientists will it take for dentists and medical doctors to understand that very toxic elements do not miraculously become safe when placed in the body?

    Your article comes across as quite emotional and I wonder if you have had any personal experience of any of the therapies, or what other reasons you may have for being so upset.

  6. Hi Jimmy!

    Some good points there. I'm not a scientist so my opinion on the available evidence is irrelevant.

    The real question, in this case, is whether the advertisers can substantiate, using rigorous clinical trials conducted on people, the claim that Systematic Kinesiology can treat the twenty-four named conditions.

    If they can product the evidence, the ASA will reject my complaint. If not, the advertisers are guilty of misleading the public.

    By the way, I hope you were joking when you said "only about 10% of medical procedures" are effective. (Do let me know if not. I can easily demonstrate that the claim is false.)

  7. Hi Anonymous!

    I'm not sure what dental amalgam toxicity has to do with advertising regulation, but just for the record, I always declare any personal interests in my letters. See paragraph 6 in this case.

  8. Wow! It seems in your attempts to discredit complementary therapies you seem to appear incredibly bitter. It's a shame you can't direct your time and energy to doing something less negative and more constructive. I hope that one day you are able to see that not everyone is the same and that what is good for one is not necessarily good for someone else.

  9. Dentists treat teeth with toxic substances.
    Doctors treat cancer patients with carcinogenic drugs.
    Applied Kinesiologists say they use 'nutritional supplements...Bach Flower
    remedies, acupressure...chakra balancing...and more..."

    Different models of 'health' use different tools and luckily we all still have a

  10. You wrote: “Can you identify the rigorous clinical trials, published in peer-reviewed medical journals, which show that applied kinesiology can treat ....?”

    Here we have a problem. It is well understood among many scientists that medical journals do not publish materials which are not in keeping with their policies and beliefs. Yes, I have had personal experience with that. Some colleagues and I simply showed conclusively that the New England Journal of Medicine was biased against publishing papers about the psychological correlates of cancer. They refused to publish a letter, no less. (In all fairness other Journals sometimes do the same.)

    Check out the website for the International College of Applied Kinesiology. (Yes, they prefer to disavow most other schools of Kinesiology.) Among other things, they have an entire section devoted to published research, including an extensive paper: “On the reliability and validity of manual muscle testing: a literature review”, some 23 pages with over 100 references. Get educated!

    Yes, I was serious about the 10%. That work looked carefully at the real evidence, beyond the published reports so often believed in spite of the very poor scientific methodology. Hopefully things have changed in the decades since that was published, but I am certain that a great many medical procedures still are suspect. As I read many articles published in medical journals I shake my head in disbelief that such garbage would be published by any journal. How many drugs or vaccines are approved for use by studies showing their “safety and effectiveness” just to be discredited a few years later after “too many” people die? If you want to mount a campaigne about false advertising then vaccines are a very fertile ground. A great opportunity to do real good!

  11. Hi Jimmy,

    Thanks for the link to the ICAK study which I hadn't seen before.

    My two favourite passages from it are:

    "One shortcoming is the lack of RCTs to substantiate (or refute) the clinical utility (efficacy, effectiveness) of chiropractic interventions based on MMT findings..."


    "In addition this paper has not critically
    rated each study for its internal and external validity. Such a systematic review should be the subject of future research."

    I think that effectively demonstrates that the paper does not constitute reliable evidence of any kind.

    With regards to the claim, so popular in the complementary health industry, that only 10% of mainstream medical treatments are supported by evidence - well, the actual figure is more like 80%. Sorry for the long cut-and-paste, but Edzard Ernst describes it best:

    "One often-voiced argument against evidence-based medicine is that clinical practice is, in fact, not evidence-based. The origins of this argument lead us to a BMJ editorial of 13 years ago, referring to a remark made by David Eddy, at a conference in Manchester, that only 15% of medical practice was based on any evidence at all.

    "The most conclusive answer comes from a UK survey by Gill et al who retrospectively reviewed 122 consecutive general practice consultations. They found that 81% of the prescribed treatments were based on evidence and 30% were based on...RCTs. A similar study conducted in a UK university hospital outpatient department of general medicine arrived at comparable figures; 82% of the interventions were based on evidence, 53% on RCTs. Other relevant data originate from abroad. In Sweden, 84% of internal medicine interventions were based on evidence and 50% on RCTs. In Spain these percentages were 55 and 38% respectively. Imrie and Ramey pooled a total of 15 studies across all medical disciplines, and found that, on average, 76% of medical treatments are supported by some form of compelling evidence, the lowest was that mentioned above (55%), and the highest (97%) was achieved in anaesthesia in Britain. Collectively these data suggest that, in terms of evidence-base, general practice is much better than its reputation." ( )

    The 10% figure, so often bandied around by people who have never read the articles they're citing, is a fantasy.

  12. We are discussing golden oranges versus rotten eggs. The statistics you quote seem to be about medical practitioner compliance to the standards based on “evidence”. What I am saying is that the evidence is suspect in a great many cases because of scientific procedure deficiencies.
    Here is an example. In 1981 there was a report published in a prominant medical journal about the results of the “MRFIT” Multiple Risk Factor something or the other, project. This study involved many different medical centers all across the USA, and had - gasp - 50 authors. The press conference done on the same day of publication claimed that “for the first time we have proven that a cholesterol reducing drug reduces heart attack deaths”. (I think this is an exact quote, but it has been several decades....)
    The study followed a drug group and a control group for 8 years. Their conclusion was that after those eight years the drug group had statistically significant fewer deaths from heart attack. They achieved this result by comparing the drug group after eight years with the control from eight years earlier! They managed to overlook their own data showing the control group had also reduced deaths after 8 years! And it got worse, believe it or not. It turns out that the drug group had more deaths from accidents and violence than the control group, so they ignored those deaths arguing it had nothing to do with the drug. Never mind the existing medical literature showing the drug caused mental confusion in at least some people. Only by doing these two inappropriate things could they obtain “statistical significance”. Both of these manipulations totally invalidate the presumed and claimed results. In fact there was no significant difference in the groups after eight years (in anything they measured, anyway). This was scientific fraud, plain and simple. If one of my graduate students had published such garbage he would have been expelled from school. But, in the medical establishment the peer–reviewed “evidence” was enough to base an entire “reduce your cholesterol to protect from heart attack” industry.

    Incidentally, I have my own criticisms of Applied Kinesiology, Systematic Kinesiology, and most other schools of kinesiology. But what they do is safe and is based on sound principles (if you study enough). The medics do many good things, but they do not know all that is known about human functioning. The medical oath “first do no harm” is constantly violated by the medics. Who should “cast the first stone”?

  13. Ah, the old "But Don't You Know How Corrupt Doctors Are" gambit...

  14. Sceptical, you may be missing what I think is Dr Scott's point: medical research is performed by self-interested parties. My wife works for the NHS and has done research papers. When her findings didn't fit what was expected she was told to tweak her results until they did.

    Take vaccines - or rather don't! - the information given out by health professionals is what they are given by vaccine producers and is biased. When questioned these health professionals actually have no knowledge beyond the very limited information that vaccine companies give out. Again, it is all self interest. What is lacking is truth.

    I don't think anyone is saying that 'alternatives' are the be all and end all but they do work for a lot of people. Most practitoners take the view that people should use both methods to obtain good health. I have had several experiences of needing both 'traditional' and 'alternative' methods in conjunction with each other where seperately the results would have been much poorer.

    You say your crusade is aimed at advertising and you are right that people should not be mislead but I wonder what your true motivation is. Perhaps you should look at the NHS's vaccine booklet and send that into the ASA because that could certainly use some attention!

  15. My response is still this: one dodgy piece of research, or twelve, or a thousand, do not between them invalidate the scientific method.

  16. Define dodgy research. Surely any research is biased one way or the other. Either someone wants to prove something or disprove something - either way they will always distort accordingly. It's human nature and no one can be truly impartial however well meaning they are.

  17. Sceptical Letter Writer said...
    "My response is still this: one dodgy piece of research, or twelve, or a thousand, do not between them invalidate the scientific method."

    2 November 2010 09:04

    ...Does this mean that you only accept research that agrees with your point of view?

  18. How many pieces of research would it take to invalidate the 'scientific' method?


    Short review of vaccines. A thinking person cannot avoid the real conclusion: vaccines are criminal and have never been shown to work.

  20. Hi, Anonymous!

    A thinking person cannot avoid the real conclusion that you are two sandwiches short of a picnic.

  21. Is your argument wearing so thin you need to resort to insulting people? Maybe you should return to your flock where the rest of the sheep believe that people in authority are always right, always tell the truth and always have your best interests at heart...

  22. Evidence Based Practice has been disproven. Blog that one.

  23. Yeah, I noticed just the other day that the apples had started falling upwards and re-attaching themselves to their trees, thereby PROVING that science has been disproven.

    Take that, SCIENTISTS!

  24. It always amazes me the levels of mental gymnastics the followers of these fraudsters go through. Like trained seals without the fish rewards.

    Great blog.

  25. Fantastic letter, I hope you received a reply. Interesting to see some of the irate responses to you in this comments section below. Keep up the good work!

  26. This really should be confined to the realms of all the other imaginary cures that the rich and famous seem to think work. My wife was conned into taking a series of kinesiology "treatments" and after being reminded of a particularly horrific childhood and then left to pick up the pieces, attempted suicide. I won't name names in public but am on the case of these and other charlatans offering miracle cures to every known ailment.

  27. Enjoyed your blog and you trying to keep your patience with the snake-oil proponents. Have you read 'How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered The World' by Francis Wheen - you'd really enjoy it.

    I think the only positive thing to be said is that placebos seem to work with certain people. Presumably the more complex the bullshit the more believable the placebo. Sorry about being anonymous - my name is Diane - and I'm impatient.


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