Disentangling manual muscle testing and Applied Kinesiology: critique and reinterpretation of a literature review
1 Western States Chiropractic College, 2900 NE 132nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97230, USA
2 Palmer College of Chiropractic West, San Jose, CA 95134, USA
Chiropractic & Osteopathy 2007, 15:11 doi:10.1186/1746-1340-15-11Published: 23 August 2007
Cuthbert and Goodheart recently published a narrative review on the reliability and validity of manual muscle testing (MMT) in the Journal. The authors should be recognized for their effort to synthesize this vast body of literature. However, the review contains critical errors in the search methods, inclusion criteria, quality assessment, validity definitions, study interpretation, literature synthesis, generalizability of study findings, and conclusion formulation that merit a reconsideration of the authors' findings. Most importantly, a misunderstanding of the review could easily arise because the authors did not distinguish the general use of muscle strength testing from the specific applications that distinguish the Applied Kinesiology (AK) chiropractic technique. The article makes the fundamental error of implying that the reliability and validity of manual muscle testing lends some degree of credibility to the unique diagnostic procedures of AK. The purpose of this commentary is to provide a critical appraisal of the review, suggest conclusions consistent with the literature both reviewed and omitted, and extricate conclusions that can be made about AK in particular from those that can be made about MMT. When AK is disentangled from standard orthopedic muscle testing, the few studies evaluating unique AK procedures either refute or cannot support the validity of AK procedures as diagnostic tests. The evidence to date does not support the use of MMT for the diagnosis of organic disease or pre/subclinical conditions.