What is Muscle Activation?
Specialized muscle activation techniques, such as Applied Kinesiology and Selective Functional Movement Assessments, help locate various dysfunctions throughout the body and ensure proper biomechanics. Specific muscle testing and movement screens are performed to determine the areas of your body that need to be specifically addressed.
What is Applied Kinesiology (AK)?
Kinesiology, also known as biomechanics, is the study of body movement. Applied Kinesiology, which is also know as muscle strength testing, is a method of diagnosis and treatment based on the belief that various muscles are linked to particular organs and glands, and that specific muscle weakness can signal distant internal problems such as nerve damage, reduced blood supply, chemical imbalances, or other organ or gland problems. Practitioners who utilize this technique contend that by correcting this muscle weakness, you can help heal a problem in the associated internal organ. This is often referred to as a viscero-somatic (organ-body) reflex relationship. These reflex relationships were originally researched and mapped out by a Doctor of Osteopathy, Dr. Frank Chapman, and have been found to relate back to our embryological development that occurs in the womb before we are born. Applied Kinesiology utilizes this evidence-based approach to locate and treat the root cause.
What is applied kinesiology used for?
Practitioners claim that applied kinesiology can be used to diagnose and treat nervous system problems, nutritional deficiencies or excesses, imbalances in the body’s “energy pathways” (known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as meridians), and many other health concerns.
The theory of AK was developed by George Goodheart, Jr., a Michigan chiropractor who began to write and lecture about his ideas in 1964. Applied kinesiology practitioners are often chiropractors, but may also be osteopathic physicians, dentists, or even conventional physicians. According to the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK), practitioners must first be trained in their respective fields before they can study applied kinesiology in a postgraduate setting.
While suggested uses of AK range from abdominal pain to cancer, diabetes, headache, learning disabilities, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, vertigo and many other health problems, scientific evidence demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of AK for these conditions is limited, at best due to the complicating factors each individual patient often presents with.
What should one expect on a visit to a practitioner of applied kinesiology?
A visit begins with a detailed medical history. Next, testing begins with procedures that usually include determining changes in blood pressure from lying to sitting to standing which, according to ICAK, can indicate imbalances in the body. Specific examinations follow, such as tests of skin sensitivity, reflexes and balance.
Practitioners may also observe a patient’s posture, gait and range of motion. After these tests are completed, muscle strength is tested against pressure exerted by the practitioner. If the muscle stands up to pressure, it’s deemed “strong” or “locked”; those that give way to pressure are considered “weak” or “unlocked,” and are deemed indicative of a problem. ICAK considers the use of the muscle strength testing alone an abuse of AK, typically by practitioners who have not been properly trained and certified. The organization holds that muscle testing should be done only as part of a complete diagnostic examination. In addition to muscle testing, AK practitioners may also press on “trigger points” to see if they lead to muscle weakness.
When AK is used to determine whether a particular food or other substance weakens (or strengthens) a patient, the food may placed under the tongue or held in the hand as a muscle is tested. Some practitioners may also assess emotional well-being by testing muscle strength while the patient imagines being in a troubling or tense situation or with a problematic person.
AK-associated treatments range from deep massage, joint manipulation and realignment, craniosacral therapy and acupuncture to nutritional therapies and dietary manipulation.
What is a Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA)?
The overall goal of the SFMA is to identify specific movement limitations that cause you pain. It can also determine if these movements are due to tightness or weakness. It is important to explain “tightness or weakness” in this context. Essentially, the SFMA calls “tightness” a joint mobility dysfunction and/or tissue extensibility dysfunction, and “weakness” a stability and/or motor control dysfunction.
To accomplish this, the SFMA looks at seven movement patterns that broadly assesses how you move. There is a baseline criteria for each of the movement patterns that everyone should be able to achieve. This baseline criteria is graded in two ways: functional or dysfunctional, painful or non-painful.
Once we figure out which movements are functional, dysfunctional, painful, or non-painful we can narrow down problematic regions of the body. When one of the seven movement patterns is found to be dysfunctional, we examine a subset of movements to figure out why. The SFMA calls these sub-movements “breakouts.”
One of the 7 movement patterns is called multisegmental flexion. Here, a patient stands with their feet together, bends down and touches their toes. If you can’t bend down to touch your toes you must have tight hamstrings, right? Not necessarily. Bending forward uses many more muscles than your hamstrings. It requires core and hip strength to balance, bend forward, and shift weight in a standing position; it requires good motion in your low back; it requires good motion in your hip joints; it requires relaxation of certain muscles. Breakouts help us determine if these less-obvious areas are causing problems. But yes, it does require good flexibility in your hamstrings.
Why are movement patterns important?
Pain-free functional movement for participation in occupation and lifestyle activities is desirable. Many components comprise pain-free functional movement including adequate posture, range of motion, muscle performance, motor control, and balance reactions. Impairments of each component could potentially alter functional movement resulting in or as a consequence of pain. Utilizing the SFMA, the clinician is able to identify key functional movement patterns and describe the critical points of assessment needed to efficiently restore functional movement. Dr. Charlotte utilizes this approach in combination with applied kinesiology, and chiropractic adjustments to provide each patient with optimal results. The SFMA serves to efficiently integrate the concepts of posture, muscle balance and the fundamental patterns of the movement system into musculoskeletal practice. Additionally, it provides feedback for the effectiveness of the therapeutic exercise program, which targets the dysfunctional movement pattern and related impairments.