Part 1 Principles of Kinesiology

by Maggie la Tourelle

This is the first of two articles on Kinesiology.  Part 1, Principles of Kinesiology, describes what it is, the principles and the main methods used. Part 2, Integrating Kinesiology, will explain how these principles and methods are applied in practice in medicine and a range of alternative and complementary therapies. Practitioners  will give explain how they integrate kinesiology and the difference it makes, with case histories to demonstrate this.


Kinesiology, as well as being a complementary therapy in its own right, can be applied with very positive results to any therapy or walk of life. The word kinesiology comes from the Greek word kinesis meaning motion.  In the medical sciences the term kinesiology refers to the study of the movement of the body whereas here it refers to a whole field of health care which uses muscle movement in the form of muscle testing. Kinesiology spans the full spectrum of health and healing from its application in the more physical therapies such as chiropractic and nutrition to the emotional therapies and more subtle domain of healing and energy work.  It is practised world wide by doctors, dentists, chiropractors, osteopaths, naturopaths, physiotherapists, nutritionists, counsellors, educators, healers and is applied in almost every branch of alternative and complementary medicine.   It is also used by  athletes, performers and business people.  A system of kinesiology called Touch for Health provides self help health enhancement for lay people and has over the last twenty years been experienced by well over two million people in forty two countries.  

What is Kinesiology?

Kinesiology is a holistic system of natural health care which uses manual muscle testing as an assessment tool.  It provides a unique way of communicating directly with the client's body and can be used to identify any kind of stress or imbalance and confirm effective corrections and treatments.  It  enables exquisite precision in both assessment and treatment, taking the guess work out of practice.  Kinesiology also incorporates the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It connects the physical, muscles, with subtle energy, meridians.  As each meridian has an energetic connection with and organ, gland or system, kinesiology can through muscle testing, evaluate not only muscle balance but also meridian energy and body function. 

As well as being able to identify specific stresses and imbalances and find effective treatments kinesiology can discover connections between one thing and another and can differentiate between primary stresses and imbalances and secondary ones.

So kinesiology provides extra ordinary precision and finesse in assessment and treatment.   It has a psychological advantage too in that the feedback from muscle testing creates a positive belief in the process based on sensory experience, in both the client and the practitioner, which we know is a vital factor in successful healing.

Kinesiology is a truly holistic system.  It is based on a paradigm of the interrelationship and balance between structure, chemistry and emotion encompassed by energy, sometimes illustrated as an equilateral triangle. In other words it assesses and treats body (structure and chemistry), mind (mental structures and emotional states) and spirit / energy (meridian and other energy).

Integrating Kinesiology - What can a complementary therapist do?

Integrating kinesiology in complementary therapy gives an invaluable additional tool which enables therapists to do what they already do but better.

A complementary therapist can:

  • identify stress or imbalance anywhere in the body or in the mind

  • establish connections between stresses or imbalances

  • discover which stresses are primary and which are secondary

  • test to find the most effective correction, remedy or treatment before applying it

  • evaluate and balance the musculo-skeletal system 

  • evaluate and balance the energy in meridians and their associated organs & glands

  • add the dimension of subtle energy and the principles of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)

  • strengthen hypnotonic muscles and release hypertonic ones

  • massage reflexes to improve lymphatic drainage 

  • activate reflexes to improve the vascular system

  • identify individual food / substance sensitivity and individual nutritional needs

  • activate reflexes to defuse emotional stress and trauma

  • improve co-ordination through specific movements

  • identify and correct patterns of dyslexia

  • demonstrate the effectiveness of treatment before and after

These are just a few of the things kinesiology can offer.

Who can benefit?

Everyone can benefit: from babies to the elderly, athletes, the fit to the injured and unwell, dyslexics, performers and even animals. If someone cannot be muscle tested directly because they are too young, injured, in pain or even unconscious, a surrogate can be used. Surrogate testing is another unique kinesiology tool.

Kinesiology is primarily a system of preventative health care. Its main aim is to create and sustain optimum health, well being and effective functioning and resolve the common complaints which prevent people from reaching their full potential. Because it addresses the whole person, including the energy aspect, and not just symptoms, it can discover the underlying cause and treat it successfully.  It can of course also be used very effectively to deal with clients with serious health problems.


Applied Kinesiology, AK, has its roots in chiropractic. It was created by an American chiropractor called George Goodheart.  The training and practising of AK is regulated by the International College of Applied Kinesiology, ICAK and is open only to those clinicians who already have a license to diagnose.  However some kinesiologists who do not meet this requirement but use the AK system use the term Applied Kinesiology.  A colleague of Goodheart's, John Thie, was so impressed with the spectacular results of AK he had a vision  of making it available to everyone.  In the early '70s he adapted the original AK material for lay people and created a comprehensive system called Touch for Health, TFH.  Whereas AK, having its roots in chiropractic is based more around the structural and chemical factors, TFH and many branches of Kinesiology place a greater emphasis on the energy and emotional factors.  Many branches of kinesiology have grown out of the TFH movement and now any branch which uses muscle testing as its primary method of assessment and standard kinesiology corrections, treatments and energy balancing is called kinesiology. Many of the branches of kinesiology incorporate remedies and treatments from other healing modalities.

What is a muscle test?

A kinesiology muscle test involves the practitioner placing the client's limb in a certain position in order to isolate and semi contract the muscle about to be tested. Techniques in muscle testing vary but generally the practitioner applies light pressure, about two pounds, for two seconds, in the direction that would put the muscle into extension.   On the practitioner's instruction to "hold" the client tries to match the practitioner's pressure. The muscle will either lock in place or give way, providing the practitioner and the client with information. This is a test of neurological function and not of muscle strength and most muscles when testing weak in a kinesiology muscle test would score the maximum five in a physiotherapists muscle test.

Kinesiology Assessment

Muscle testing is used in assessment and it can be used in three different ways:  

a) a single muscle test called an indicator muscle, IM, can provide muscle biofeedback to find out a client's response to any stimuli be it structural, chemical, emotional, mental, energetic or environmental.

b) specific muscles can be tested to evaluate muscle balance, meridian energy and their associated organs, glands and systems.

c) an indicator muscle can be used in conjunction with asking verbal questions to obtain a "yes" strong or "no" weak response.   

Assessment - Muscle biofeedback

This is the most widely used method of assessment. An indicator muscle, IM, is tested in conjunction with or immediately after a specific stimulus and will give a strong or weak response thus providing muscle biofeedback.  If the stimulus results in a strong muscle response it means that stimulus is either neutral or enhancing to the client's system.  It doesn't necessarily mean it is the best. If the muscle response is weak however this indicates the stimulus is causing stress resulting in temporary disorganisation in the person's system. The explanation for this seems to be that if the stimulus causes stress, the body / mind system prioritises the stress factor and is unable to simultaneously maintain the finely tuned neurological communication with the muscle being tested. Another explanation is that the stress causes a temporary change in calcium levels which affects the body's circuitry.

An indicator muscle, IM, must be checked to ensure that it is functioning properly, i.e. it has the capability of giving a strong and weak response, before it is used for the purpose of giving feedback otherwise the feedback is unreliable.  Many practitioners who claim they are using kinesiology are not trained and their lack of awareness means their findings are not reliable and this has unfortunately frequently given kinesiology a bad name.

Assessment - Muscle biofeedback - What and how

A practitioner can use muscle biofeedback to test the client's response to any stimulus. It can be used to identify stresses e.g. locate an area or point of dysfunction in the body, discover the response to a remedy, a food, a word, a statement, a movement or the direction of a movement, etc.  Muscle response is also used to asses the client's response to specific corrections and treatments and is described in the paragraph on corrections and treatment.

A location in or on the body  If the type of stimulus is activating a point or an area of dysfunction in the body the client, or in some cases the practitioner, touches that area or point while the practitioner tests an IM. e.g. a painful shoulder, a vertebrae, a skin lesion, an acupuncture point etc.

Food, substances or supplements   The food, substance or nutritional supplement,  e.g. milk, cigarette, vitamin supplement, herbal remedy etc., is placed in the client's mouth or in another location while the practitioner tests an IM or other specific muscle(s).

A remedy  If the remedy is in a bottle, the bottle containing the remedy is held under the the client's nose, placed on his / her parotid gland (on the cheek) or in some other location while the practitioner tests an IM. e.g. essential oil, flower essence, homeopathic remedy etc.

A statement  The client makes a statement e.g. "I want to be well" and the practitioner tests an IM  

A movement  The client performs a specific movement or series of movements as in cross crawl or walking and the practitioner tests and IM

A location in the aura  The practitioner holds his or her hand in a location in the client's energy field while testing an IM.

Assessment - Muscle,  meridian  and related organ or gland

A kinesiologist can test one or many muscles to evaluate muscle balance, the energy in the meridians of the acupuncture system and their related organs and glands.  For example the latissiumus dorsi muscle is energetically connected with the spleen meridian which energises the pancreas. A kinesiologist may test a particular muscle / meridian for diagnostic purposes or may test at least one muscle bilaterally for each meridian in order to assess the whole system energetically. An analogy might be to think of a kinesiologist as a body electrician going round all the circuits testing them to find out which are working and which are not.

 The subtle energy dimension

The physical body is surrounded by an energy field sometimes referred to as the human energy field, the subtle energy field or the aura.  There is evidence that health problems first manifest in the energy field before manifesting as symptoms in the physical body.  The meridians of the acupuncture system run inside the body and their energy extends into the energy field and because of this they are believed to be the interface between the physical body and the human energy field (Richard Gerber Vibrational Medicine).  The muscle / meridian assessment provides a practical means of reading this information and can detect energy imbalances which could undermine health in the future as well as identifying imbalances which have already manifested physically. The practitioner can use a combination of the case history and kinesiology assessment as a basis for selecting and testing possible corrections and treatments.  Treatments selected on this basis will not only treat existing health problems and energy imbalances but will also work at the level of prevention.

Assessment - Modes

Some branches of kinesiology use hand or finger and body modes in conjunction with a muscle test as a means of gaining more specific information.  A finger mode involves the fingers touching at particular points e.g. the pad of the thumb touching the pad of the index finger is a mode for structure.  A whole language of finger modes has been developed through which the practitioner can communicate very precisely and non verbally with the client.

Assessment - Asking the body

This method of assessment involves using an indicator muscle, IM, to ask the body verbal questions.  The kinesiologist sets up a strong IM response for "yes" and a weak IM response for "no". e.g. "Is it all right to proceed?", "Is the energy level 100%, 90%, 80% ....?" This is different from the client making a statement and the kinesiologist testing an IM to find out whether or not the stimulus, statement, is stressful. The method of asking the body verbal  questions is where the big divide comes among kinesiologists.  This method is used by many kinesiologists but not by those using the AK system.  Asking the body questions relies to some extent on the intuitive faculties of the practitioner and because of this cannot always be replicated. The practitioner, if not neutral, may unintentionally surrogate his or her own response to the client.  However this method does give wide scope for working and many practitioners get excellent results using it.

Corrections and Treatment

Having identified a stress or imbalance, a kinesiologist can use the client's own body to determine effective corrections, remedies and treatments. When a muscle tests weak the practitioner can for example ask the client to touch an associated reflex point, acupuncture point or some other point to find out what correction or corrections will make the muscle strong. Or the practitioner can test a proposed movement, for example lightly push a vertebrae in a particular direction, and test an IM to find out the precise direction the body needs for an adjustment. This enables the kinesiologist to test the efficacy of the correction before applying it and provides instant feedback without having to wait for the outcome of treatment.

Kinesiology aims to balance the whole system and as mentioned earlier, treatments span the range from deep massage to energy work. They are gentle yet powerful and can bring about instant change. 

Standard Kinesiology corrections include the following:

  • massage on body reflex points to stimulate lymphatic flow

  • light touch on reflex points on the head to stimulate the vascular system

  • stimulation of meridian energy on and off the body

  • nutritional support

  • emotional balancing by activating reflexes on the head

  • specific movements and exercises for improving coordination

  • manipulation by osteopaths and chiropractors

These are only a few of the commonly used corrections and treatments but there are many others. Many are drawn from other healing modalities such as flower essences, essential oils, crystals, colour, sound etc. and more are evolving all the time.

Tapping into the body's innate intelligence

Kinesiology demonstrates beautifully the innate intelligence of the human body. When we acknowledge this and work with it we can allow the body itself to show us what is wrong, what it needs, where it needs it and in what order for its own unique healing process.  Kinesiology can identify stresses and imbalances, find connections and prioritise these. It might be helpful to think of the body as a biocomputer or as a complex system with many interconnecting circuits.  Kinesiology can access these files and circuits, and ask the body which ones are connected and which is priority. The priority is frequently not the same as the presenting symptom but reveals the underlying cause of the symptom. 

One remedy or one treatment point, if it is the priority for the body, can strengthen all the weak muscles and balance the whole system.  Just as when you find the faulty bulb in the Christmas tree lights and replace it all the lights go on again. Prioritising enables the practitioner to target the aspect in greatest need of attention.  It eliminates the need for unnecessary treatment and reduces the amount of treatment required both in terms of quantity and duration.  In cases where the person needs to take supplements or remedies it reduces the number of different products and the cost.

When assessing the muscle / meridian system a number of different muscles / meridians may be out of balance.  The practitioner could correct them all individually or could search to find which circuit and correction(s) would correct and balance all the others.  Some practitioners use the five elements model from TCM to do this.

Self help

Because of the strong influence of Touch For Health which is for self help health enhancement there are many self help techniques which are very effective and not time consuming.   These can be given to clients to enhance their healing process and to help them to take more responsibility for their own health, well being and effective functioning. Practitioners can also benefit from these   personally and professionally.  "Physician heal thy self"

National Occupational Standards in Kinesiology  

Kinesiologists in the UK have been working towards a National Occupational Standard for three and a half years and are well on their way to achieving this.  They will be in the next group of therapies to go forward for government approval.


The principles and methods of kinesiology described here are used by most kinesiologists.   They can also be applied very effectively in any therapy as anything can be assessed and most treatments can be tested.  The muscle biofeedback tool also encourages practitioners to be creative and carry out their own research. This article can only give an over view of what is a vast and ever expanding field.  Part 2, Integrating Kinesiology in the next issue, will give examples of how these principles and methods are applied in practice and in a range of different therapies with case histories.

1999 Maggie la Tourelle


Maggie la Tourelle works as a holistic health therapist, teacher, consultant and writer combining Kinesiology, counselling, NLP psychotherapy and energy work.  She has been working in the field of complementary medicine since the early eighties and has trained extensively in the different branches of kinesiology and in the healing arts. She is an international consultant in kinesiology training and has been a prime mover in the development of a National Occupational Standard for Kinesiology.  She is also co author of Thorsons Principles of Kinesiology.  She may be contacted at 70a Caversham Road, London NW5 2DS tel :020 7485 4215


Richard Gerber M.D. (1988) Vibrational Medicine  Bear & Company

Maggie la Tourelle with Anthea Courtenay (1997) Thorsons Principles of Kinesiology  

John Thie (1973) Touch for Health T.H. Enterprises Pasadena CA 91104

David Walther D.C. (1988) Applied Kinesiology Synopsis Systems DC  Pueblo, Colorado 91004

Further Information

Training: Everyone in the UK who wants to use kinesiology professionally (as an adjunct) and be registered with a professional kinesiology body has to have at least a certificate in Foundation Kinesiology or be accredited by the ICAK.

Professional bodies:

The Kinesiology Federation (KF) tel: 01438 817 998

The International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) UK (training) tel: 01403 734 321

The International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) UK (practitioners) tel: 01835 823 645

Association for Systematic Kinesiology  (ASK) tel: 0181 399 3215

Touch For Health, (TFH) (for lay people)  tel:01453 763035

The International Kinesiology College (IKC) Switzerland  tel / fax 00 41 61 361 3390