I am currently seeing a chiropractor who has been quite helpful with my joint pain. The chiropractor is also recommending something called kinesiology testing – which is supposed to identify allergies – for my ME. I have always been rather suspicious of commercial allergy testing. Please could you explain what kinesiology is and whether it is worth spending money on.
As you obviously appreciate, there are a large number of unconventional allergy tests available. These are often promoted by complementary and alternative medicine practitioners who claim that they can be to used diagnose all kinds of allergies and medical conditions – some of which are not even recognised by conventional medicine. These allergy tests range from electrodermal/Vega testing to trace-metal estimation in hair samples.
Almost all of them are unvalidated and therefore unproven. And while many of these tests sound plausible, they are largely based on unproven theories and explained through the use of simplistic physiology. Most are a complete waste of time and money. They can also miss the presence of real allergies and delay the use of conventional allergy treatments that provide genuine relief from symptoms.
Kinesiology (or Applied Kinesiology), is quite popular with chiropractors, was developed in the USA and is a technique that is based on ‘energy fields' within the body to diagnose allergy and intolerance. The technique involves the practitioner testing the person’s shoulder (deltoid muscle) muscle strength when an allergen is placed in a vial in front of them. The person holds out their arm and the practitioner applies a counter pressure to the arm – if the person is unable to resist the counter pressure, the test is considered positive to the allergen in the vial. An antidote to the allergen is then held in front of the person and if their weakness is reversed this indicates it is the correct antidote. There are a number of variations to this technique of muscle testing and some practitioners complement the test by holding a magnet in front of the patient.
There is no convincing evidence from scientific assessment of kinesiology to indicate that this type of muscle-strength testing has any useful role to play in diagnosing or treating allergies, or in ME/CFS. It is often described as pseudoscience and practitioners can make quite outlandlish claims about its efficacy. Kinesiology is not an investigation that I can recommend.
- The 2011 NICE Clinical Guideline ‘Food allergy in under 19s: assessment and diagnosis‘ (which is used as the basis for its Food Allergy Quality Statement in Adults and Children) provides detailed information about approved allergy tests and treatments. Alternative tests are not recommended because of the lack of scientific evidence, i.e.:
1.1.18 Do not use the following alternative diagnostic tests in the diagnosis of food allergy:
- vega test,
- applied kinesiology,
- hair analysis.
1.1.19 Do not use serum-specific IgG testing in the diagnosis of food allergy.
- Sense about Science: Making Sense of Allergies (2015): What allergies are (and aren’t) and the evidence for causes and treatments.
- Wikipedia entry on Applied Kinesiology.
Medical Matters is for information purposes only. The answers provided by Dr Shepherd and the ME Association’s other expert advisers should not be construed as medical advice. We recommend that any information you deem relevant is discussed with your GP as soon as possible. It is important to obtain advice from a GP who is in charge of your clinical care, who knows you well, and who can consider other likely causes for symptoms. Seek personalised medical advice whenever a new symptom arises, or an existing symptom worsens. Don't assume that new or worsened symptoms are a result of having ME/CFS.