Kinesiology

Kinesiology is defined as the scientific study of human movements. Also known as kinetics, it entails studying muscles as well as their movements and is extensively used by fitness specialists, physiotherapists, coaches and educators. Kinesiology has been used for more than three decades throughout the world and, now, the word has assumed a new meaning. In the present context, kinesiology illustrates the natural health system that is employed by therapists founded on the manual examination or testing of the muscles.

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The new connotation or the evolution of the new meaning of kinesiology does not come as a surprise as it is a very 'practical' therapy and much more real for the individuals to experience for themselves what exactly a muscle analysis is. They are also able to feel the variation when any change takes place and find out the manner in which their body responds to the everyday strains and stresses compared to offering just verbal explanation to communicate similar information.

The inventive and inquisitive mind of George Goodheart DC, an American chiropractor, is known to be the father of kinesiology. Goodheart began using muscle testing in 1964 to assess the efficiency of his healing methods. Generally, his testing technique involved a string of muscle examinations prior to and following a spinal adjustment, enabling him to get precious pointers on how successful a treatment was for the health condition he was healing. In addition to this, the examinations also allowed him to collect additional information into the disposition of a muscle spasm. Among the several recurring problems faced by Goodheart was that when a section of his patients would resume their usual life style after treatment, they would again be plagued by the muscle spasm, which returned accompanied by the pain and inflexibility.

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One of the first things that Goodheart perceived during these tests was that there were other means to alleviate the pain as well as reinstate the equilibrium of the muscles. He had this insight while he was examining a patient enduring acute pain and whose tensor fascia lata or the outer thigh muscle 'unlocked' every time when tested. This frustrated Goodheart immensely and he started massaging the patient's thigh firmly along the outer muscle. He was surprised to note that his actions led the muscles to hold their position when they were rested and even the pain waned.

The initial accomplishment excited Goodheart who began massaging the other 'frail' muscles. However, this time his actions did not yield the desired results or alleviate pain. It was much later that Goodheart discovered during the course of his prolonged research that he had revived a technique that not only strengthened the muscles, but was also related to the lymphatic system.

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The first genuine advancement in kinesiology came when Goodheart was examining the anterior serratus or shoulder muscle of a young man experiencing difficulties in retaining his labour-intensive job as his shoulder blade continued to 'pop out.' During the tests, Goodheart detected tender spot in the vicinity of the part where the muscle is attached to the bones. Soon, he started massaging the muscle in that area. While massaging, Goodheart's fingers felt the presence of tiny lumps (called nodules), which appeared to withdraw when he massaged the area or pressed them firmly. When he examined the area, he was surprised to find that the muscle had regained strength and it continued to be firm. Jubilant over his new findings, Goodheart shared his experience with his fellow chiropractors and soon this technique of reinforcing the muscles became known as origin and insertion massage.

Inspired with his initial success, Goodheart continued to research and experiment further. During the course of his experimentations, he observed that when any particular muscle became feeble, the muscle on the opposite part of the body (corresponding muscle) was also affected and it would become firm. However, when the weakness of concerned muscle was treated or relaxed, it had a positive result on the other muscle that had become tight even though it was not worked on or treated directly. This finding led him to conclude that the muscle spasm was not responsible for the problem, but the 'weak' muscle was responsible for making other corresponding muscles extremely rigid or strained.

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This condition may be compared to a swing door, which remains in place due to the action of two springs. Everything works fine till the tension of both the springs is equal. However, when one pushes the door, it opens as one spring gives, while the second spring is compacted and, subsequently, the door sways back to its original position. However, in case one of the two springs turns out to be loose, the opposite spring will tighten and obstructed or tangled up. This, in turn, will affect the mobility of the door, which will not swing freely any more. You cannot fix the problem by simply oiling or repairing the tangled spring. You can only make the door work as before by replacing the damaged spring or by restoring the balance of the 'weak' spring.

This example also applies to our muscles. Every movement made by a particular muscle of our body, affects another corresponding muscle or a cluster of muscles. While one muscle contracts, the other relaxes. This occurs in a sequence. When you place your hand on a table and strike your fingers on it, you will clearly notice that the muscles on both sides of your forearm will relax and contract alternately in a sequence, which will cause your fingers to move.

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This was a very simple, but revolutionary finding, which demonstrated that when one has a muscle spasm, in order to reinstate the balance of the affected muscle you need to treat or work on the corresponding or opposing muscle and not the firm muscle. In those days and before Goodheart's findings, the common practice was to only work on the excessively firm and painful muscle employing massaging techniques to loosen up the muscle, and if necessary, also readjust the bones. If this was done, people considered the treatment to be complete. While this type of treatment helped to alleviate the pain and also loosen up the muscle, it was not a permanent solution. In most instances the spasm would recur, because the therapists did nothing to deal with the basic problem related to the 'weak' muscle.

Like a tent requires all the ropes to work with equal tension to sustain its firm structure, our body also requires all its muscles to perform in unison to sustain its balance. Enriched by his findings, Goodheart presented the world with a novel method to work with the muscles to alleviate pain as well as tension. However, till that time, he himself was not sure about what was precisely responsible for making the muscles 'weak'.

Goodheart not only utilized this principle of treating the 'weak' muscles, but also continued his research to develop newer techniques to reinstate the body's balance. As early as in 1965, Goodheart studied that the muscles would be significantly reinforced when the other body areas, which may appear to be unrelated to the problem area, were firmly massaged. Often, these areas were found to be weak and the weakness would vanish once the area was massaged. In fact, Goodheart found that all these weak points formed a part of many other or a cluster of reflex points, which were identified earlier by the renowned osteopath Frank Chapman. Goodheart used his new-found discovery to enhance the functioning of the lymphatic system too.

Soon, Goodheart also recognized that these reflex points were related to the points he had discovered earlier almost accidentally while working on a patient, whose outer thigh muscle (fascia lata) were weak and would not fortify. Precisely speaking, this is considered to be the first time when a correlation of an assortment of strengthening methods to rectify the weak muscles, which also comprised addressing the blood circulation, acupuncture points, meridians, nutrition, energy flow and emotions, was established.

Goodheart not only evolved the science of studying the movements of the human body, but also share his findings with contemporary chiropractors. He also talked about as well as demonstrated his discoveries at various seminars, conventions and workshops across the globe. He christened the new system as Applied Kinesiology and also established the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) in the United States in 1973.

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