I’ve written about alternative medicine before. A lot. I wrote about Valkee, which is stupid, laser baldness treatment, which is stupid, and homeopathy, which is stupid. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it elsewhere too, but I can’t find it all. And now, here’s another one.
It all started when I saw this sign in my local bike shop. The redacted parts are so stalkers can’t figure out where I live. I like to think I have stalkers.
I know it’s hard to read, I took it with a shitty cell phone camera and wasn’t really shooting for anything better than legible. Here’s a full transcript.
Join us for a fun-filled evening … demonstration of the many uses of Applied Kinesiology for diagnosis and treatment of many of the most common ailments. Is that knee problem really a knee problem or a gallbladder problem? Is it really arthritis or perhaps a wheat sensitivity? We will take members of the audience for a demonstration if anyone wants to play.Applied Kinesiology (AK) is a diagnostic system. It combines knowledge of how muscles move the body with Chinese meridian theory in an ingenious system in which each muscle is related to an organ or a meridian. By watching you stand or walk Dr. [redacted] can see what muscles are working and take a good guess about what is going on with you.
Using manual muscle testing, she’ll provide on the spot [emphasis hers because why not] evaluation. So feel free to bring your bum knee or hitched up shoulder and join the fun!
Perhaps you have an IQ greater than your pant size and a bullshit-detection sense slightly more acute than that of a houseplant, and you’ve already noticed some issues here. But your intuition is about to get some SCIENCE ALL UP IN ITS BIDNESS.
1. Stop telling me to have fun.
Not once but twice we are told how much fun this will be. This is a minor thing, but if I come in to a bike shop to have some witch doctor spew horseshit at me, I do not anticipate enjoyment. Even if I think this crazy woman can actually help. At best, it’s a doctor’s appointment.
2. The witch doctor.
She lists herself at the top of the page as Dr. [redacted], ND. ND is not the same as MD. MD means medical doctor, and requires a huge amount of training, testing, and stringent instruction known to many as med school. It is hard to become an MD, and it requires that you meet some very specific standards set by the US Government.
ND, on the other hand, means doctor of naturopathic medicine. To get an ND, you have to go to an accredited school of naturopathic medicine. Sometimes. First of all, accreditation is given by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, and the government grants them that power “not based upon the scientific validity of what is taught but on such factors as record-keeping, physical assets, financial status, makeup of the governing body, catalog characteristics, nondiscrimination policy, and self-evaluation system” [link]. What that all means is that having a degree in naturopathic medicine means exactly dick about whether it’s real science or not. In addition, there are only sixteen states that require you to have even that meaningless degree to call yourself an ND, and Colorado is not one of them. Colorado is also one of the states that allows the prefix “Dr.” for an ND, and since ND doesn’t necessarily mean anything, neither does “Dr.” I could personally and with absolute legality call myself “Dr. Boy Genius, ND,” based only on my current formal training in naturopathic medicine (none).
Turns out she does have a “degree,” but you now know why I put that word in quotes. Being an expert on Shakespeare does not change the fact that it’s fiction.
3. The “science”
First of all, I want to point out that kinesiology is a thing. It’s the study of how the human body moves, and it’s real science. Applied kinesiology is what she claims to practice, and it’s piggybacking on the real thing because it sounds better that way.
Anyway, the flyer says that applied kinesiology “combines knowledge of how muscles move the body with Chinese meridian theory in an ingenious system in which each muscle is related to an organ or a meridian.” But that’s not all. It also incorporates chi, the supposed “natural energy of the Universe.” It incorporates chiropractic, which is founded on the idea that subluxations—misalignments of the spine that allegedly interfere with nerve signals from the brain—are responsible for most medical problems. AK incorporates the meridians of acupuncture, and posits that by measuring muscle resistance one can determine the health of bodily organs and nutritional deficiencies. That’s absolute crap, and here’s a list of 23 references for why. I’m not going to break down exactly why all of these are stupid and unscientific, that’s what the links are for. I’ve read them all. I’ve read the studies too (not all of them). There is no reason, observed or theoretical, that this should work. I suggest you read them too, but here’s the thing. You don’t actually have to.
4. The flier itself
You see, this flier has a couple of examples that make it abundantly clear how ridiculous the very idea is. Let’s have a look.
Is that knee problem really a knee problem or a gallbladder problem?
What? Is it what now? Let’s see, my knee hurts. And when I try to run or walk or stand up, my knee gives out. And when I rest my knee, it gets better. And when I take anti-inflammatory drugs for my knee, they help. You know, it’s probably a small organ in the center of my torso that aids mainly in fat digestion and concentrates bile produced by the liver that’s causing this. Sure.
Is it really arthritis or perhaps a wheat sensitivity?
Let’s try to narrow this down, shall we? Question 1: Does your [joint] hurt when you use it? It does? Excellent. Question 2: Does it seem to hurt worse when you’ve recently eaten bread? It doesn’t. Hmm. OK, one final question. Have you ever had any kind of reaction to eating wheat-based foodstuffs? You haven’t. That’s interesting. Well I think I’ve narrowed it down to either a wheat sensitivity or arthritis, and IT’S FUCKING ARTHRITIS.
Honestly, any person who can look at those two questions on the flier and think “that’s a good point, maybe my shoulder tendonitis is caused by my seafood allergy” needs to be euthanized.
But here’s my favorite part.
By watching you stand or walk Dr. [redacted] can see what muscles are working and take a good guess about what is going on with you.
This is kind of what my dad does. He’s an equine surgeon, but the main thing he does other than actual surgery is lameness exams. That’s when you have a horse walk around at different paces in different directions on different surfaces and then, based on the kind of knowledge that only comes from being in school until you’re 35 years old and writing many chapters on the mechanics of horse joints, try to guess what’s wrong. Then you do X-rays to check. You palpate to make sure. You try various medicines; maybe they work, maybe they don’t. Maybe you go into surgery to fix what you thought was the problem and only then can you truly figure it out. The point is that this is a very precise, very scientific process that takes real medical training, something she does not have. Of course she can take a guess. So can I.
It doesn’t take a fake degree in a fake area of fake science to see someone limping on their left leg and say “it’s probably something in the left leg.” It doesn’t take a genius to talk to a guy who says “my shoulder hurts” and conclude that there’s something wrong with his shoulder. What takes balls is to talk to that guy with the hurt shoulder and tell him that his shoulder pain is caused by a subluxation of the nerve signals made of chi running along the meridian from his left testicle to his shoulder, which you know because of some poorly drawn, supposedly Chinese picture that was either faked or drawn back in the days before people knew what the fucking moon was made of.
On her web page, she quotes an “ancient Chinese proverb” (because for some reason, New Age hippies cream their pants over anything old or foreign) that reads,
The mediocre physician must look, feel, ask many questions, then he might know. The good physician must look and feel, then he knows. The superb physician looks and knows.
You know how I know that’s an ancient Chinese proverb, written by people with literally no knowledge of medical science except what they may have happened to stumble across?
Because that’s fucking bullshit.