A short history of Kinesiology

A dictionary would define kinesiology as “the study of the mechanics of body movements” and for over 2,000 years from the time of Aristotle (384-322 BC) it was focused on anatomy and how muscles and joints were involved in various types of movements. One can still study kinesiology today in the Physical Education department at university and apply that knowledge to athletes and post-injury rehabilitation, etc.

The first known use of muscle testing goes back to R W Lovett, a Boston orthopedic surgeon, who used it to assess disabilities in patients with polio and nerve damage (1932). This work was further developed by Henry and Florence Kendall who published Muscles: Testing and Function (1949) helping to launch kinesiology muscle testing.

Beginning in 1964, Dr George Goodheart, a chiropractor from Detroit, Michigan in the United States, recognized that many chiropractic adjustments were not effective because they did nothing to relieve muscles that were in spasm. He made the brilliant observation that when a muscle is in spasm (often causing pain), it is because the opposing muscle is too weak. Thus if a person had pain in one upper shoulder (upper trapezius muscle) it was because the other upper trapezius muscle was too weak.

Goodheart began searching for ways to bring weak muscles back into balance. He found that massaging reflex points discovered in 1931 by an osteopath, Dr Frank Chapman helped. Chapman had related his reflex points to specific organs thus Goodheart was able to correlate specific muscles to specific organs. Lightly holding reflex points, discovered by chiropractor Dr Terrence Bennett in the 1930s, also strengthened muscles. Bennett had related these reflex points to specific organs; so again, Goodheart was able to correlate specific muscles to specific organs. Tracing acupuncture meridians was another way to strengthen weak muscles and acupuncturists had independently related these meridians with specific organ functions. Goodheart also found that sometimes he could strengthen a muscle by massaging firmly on its two ends. Goodheart’s brilliance stemmed from the fact that if a muscle would not balance he would doggedly explore everything he could, until he finally found something that worked. Gradually he developed a system for quickly realigning the body’s structure by balancing muscles. The medical profession have failed to recognize that muscles are related to organs. However, Dr Goodheart established that muscles are related to organ function and showed that balancing muscles can improve organ function. This system developed into Applied Kinesiology but it can only be used by physicians with a licence to diagnose – mainly chiropractors but also medical doctors, psychiatrists, etc.

A number of systems of kinesiology including Clinical Kinesiology (Alan Beardall, chiropractor), Behavioural Kinesiology (John Diamond, psychiatrist), and Neural Organization Technique (Carl Ferreri, chiropractor) developed out of Applied Kinesiology.

A Californian chiropractor, Dr John Thie recognized that much of this material from AK could be safely taught to lay people and health professionals who did not have a licence to diagnose. By 1973, Dr Thie and colleagues had put together the Touch for Health manual and began teaching lay people a system of balancing the body’s muscles and meridian energy pathways by massaging or holding specific reflexes, tracing meridians, working with nutrients, sound, colour and emotions, etc.

Out of Touch for Health have developed numerous forms of kinesiology such as Applied Physiology (Rick Utt), Three-in-One Concepts (Gordon Stokes & Daniel Whiteside), Kinergetics (Philip Rafferty), and Heath Kinesiology (Jimmy Scott).