Dr Anna Rolfes

Relating Chi And Muscle Function

with Dr Anna Rolfes

The traditional Chinese concept of Chi is synonymous with life-sustaining energy.

Chi is portrayed in the Chinese language through the following ideogram that contains two parts: The top part ‘qi’ symbolises air and breathing, while the bottom part ‘mi’ represents rice, grains and seeds.

Breathing and nutrition form the basis for this vital energy. Once breathing and nutrition stop over an extended time, Chi gradually leaves the body, and a shell devoid of Chi remains in the form of a dead body.

Chi has been subjectively perceived and successfully worked with in healing practice over centuries. Nowadays, science has discovered that a subset of Chi is explainable as electromagnetic energy.

Einstein’s famous e=mc2 formula asserted that matter is a special form of energy, and is related to the electromagnetic spectrum.

The human eye senses the small region (∼260 nm) of visible light in the electromagnetic spectrum, and gives the brain a time/space picture of a human being as a physical body.

Similarly, the shadow of X-ray exposure makes the calcium dense bones visible; the CT image is produced from radio waves in conjunction with strong North-South electromagnetic fields etc.

Machines used in complementary medicine, like Vega, Listen and others, work on the knowledge that healthy bodily tissue emanates a calibratable electromagnetic energy.

They indicate aberrations from healthy frequencies, and some are also designed to expose the body to a healthy frequency.

Further, quantum physics demonstrated that atoms carry quanta (photons), which are discrete quantities of electromagnetic energy. The quanta appear in a constant ratio within the nucleons (proton/neutron) of the nucleus of atoms.

They create resonance and interaction phenomena, which are quite different to the pharmacokinetic principles of biochemistry.

In Biochemistry pharmacokinetics describes the conducting forces on an atomic level whereby oppositely charged ions, due to their attraction to each other, move through a conducting medium and cause biochemical changes in the form of bonding.

This movement creates an electric effect that dies out after a short distance.

Resonance and interaction phenomena in the sub-atomic realm comply with a different set of rules and have a quite different effect. These rules are described through the terms ‘semi-conduction’ and ‘interference’.

Semi-conduction refers to electrons moving across an orderly molecular structure and carrying information in the form of a small electric current. The electric effect can be carried over a long distance without dying out.

Thus, the molecular structure does not change as such, but provides the medium for information transfer, similar to a telephone, fax machine or computer terminal.

This energy transfer shows up as a functional effect. Interference refers to the oscillation of signals that can enhance or attenuate resonance phenomena, and create rhythm.

In all cases the gross atomic/molecular structure may remain unchanged but a functional effect has taken place.

To appreciate the magnitude of such interaction and resonance phenomena, one must take into account that the nucleus of an atom carries quanta in the constant ratio of nucleons to photons of 9746×108.

In other words each nucleon in each atom has about one billion energy parcels (photons) attached to it .

Thus, the non-matter aspect of reality consists of a vast, unseen dimension, which nevertheless acts within our physical existence. Moreover, it is important to note that this dimension holds enormous potential energy.

This energy has been demonstrated by the splitting of atoms occurring in the detonations of atomic bombs.

In summary the pharmacokinetic focus on body function operates on the manipulation of molecules via the equation
structure + chemistry = function and vice versa.

However, the bioenergetic focus encompasses the more subtle aspects as well, thus expanding the equation to 
matter + vital energy = function and vice versa.

Hence, function is the result of life energy of which the body’s structure and chemistry are but one aspect.

Although, studies of the electromagnetic realm have given some insights into aspects of the elusive phenomenon of Chi, Chi can not be equated to electromagnetic phenomena alone. In the Chinese texts Chi is an expression of the Tao, a universal life force.

The masterpiece of Taoist philosophy written by Lao Tse describes the Tao in the first verse of the ‘Tao Te Ching’ as follows:

“The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name.
Non-existence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth;
Existence is the mother of all things.
From eternal non-existence, therefore, we serenely observe the
mysterious beginning of the Universe;
From eternal existence we clearly see the apparent distinctions.
These two are the same in source and become different when manifest.
This sameness is called profundity. Infinite profundity is the gate whence
comes the beginning of all parts of the Universe.” 

As all manifest things on earth are, Chi is part of an infinite, and timeless force, the Tao, which sustains the miracle of life.

This is important to note when working with Chi, as it flows like a river, which in every moment creates itself as a water course again, a motion which is non-repeatable, non-linear, fuzzy and chaotic.

Similarly, each human life manifests as a unique sequence of events encapsulated in a human body.

Accordingly, energy therapy unfolds during healing sessions and is not a pre-fixed prescription of interventions.

The human energy field

Apart from the notion of Chi, the term Human Energy Field (HEF) coined by Barbara Brennan articulates another valid concept in energy medicine.

The term helps to dispel the Newtonian view of the body as an agglomeration of molecules only, and highlights the body’s energetic aspects.

Thus, the HEF refers to a characteristic model of life energy producing the stable patterns of form that distinguish a person from a plant, animal, or rock.

The densest part of the field is the physical body. Some other steady traits of the HEF are the auric templates, charkas, and meridians.

However, as there are no two human beings with the same personality and life path on this earth, a number of energy patterns in the HEF are entirely unique to each person.

The field is in constant flux and interaction with earth and cosmic energies.

It displays characteristics of morphic resonance, which Rupert Sheldrake described in his theory on morphogenetic fields.

In my view, the HEF encompasses a field of phenomena of which some are explainable by medical science and modern day physics. For others one can find explanations in the mystical and philosophical texts.

Although this knowledge is helpful when working with clients, another essential ingredient has to be present for healing to take place.

This ingredient exceeds the boundaries of the mind and is an act of grace and intuitive stillness of the mind.

My work with the HEF is very pragmatic and remains bound to functional medicine. Like many others, I have observed that the HEF has an innate potential for self-preservation and self-healing.

This potential is enfolded in the non-matter part of its physiology in the form of Chi and can be accessed through the assessment of “indicator muscles”.

What are indicator muscles?

Indicator muscles are skeletal muscles that are used during a manual muscle test to indicate disturbance in the flow of Chi. The technique of manual muscle testing has been practised since the turn of the 20th century.

The first description of this method was published in 1916 by Lovett and Martin, who worked with children suffering cerebral palsy.

In 1949 Kendall and Kendall  published the first book about the principles of manual muscle testing.

Here they documented muscle testing positions of functional significance for isolating weaknesses in specific muscles.

Today, many health practitioners in the fields of muscular skeletal medicine use manual muscle tests in their clinical assessment.

A distinction is made between isotonic and isometric tests conveying whether a muscle action elicited a joint movement (isotonic) or not (isometric).

In the 1960s George Goodhardt, a chiropractor from the US, observed that during an isometric manual muscle test a muscle would sometimes test weak, and in a subsequent test would regain its normal strength.

This transient loss of isometric muscle strength was interpreted as a functional condition, that indicated a much more subtle aspect of the loss of neuromuscular integrity, than was detectable using the usual isometric and isotonic tests of muscle power.

Many of the initial chiropractors who first took interest in Goodheart’s discovery, contributed to the research into indicator muscles in the last forty years.

John Thie DC, is remembered for having brought the discovery to a wider audience.

In 1973 he published the ‘Touch For Health Manual’ which remains a bestseller in its 31st  year of publication.

David Walther DC published the first “Synopsis of Applied Kinesiology”, in which he assembled the teaching notes of the chiropractors trained by G. Goodheart, and organised them into a syllabus.

John Diamond MD , Gordon Stokes & Daniel Whiteside researched how indicator muscles can be used to restore emotional health.

Stokes & Whiteside, Gail & Paul Dennison, and Carl Ferreri pioneered the kinesiological treatment of dyslexia and learning difficulties.

The use of “finger modes” was introduced by the late Alan Beardall DC. In recent years Bruce Dewe MD and his wife Joan have compiled the most comprehensive database of kinesiology techniques under the finger mode system.

Subsequently, the isometric manual tests became known as “indicator muscle tests” because the transient weakness indicated some instability in other body systems.

The transient loss of neuromuscular integrity itself was referred to as “indicator muscle change”, because a stressful stimulus could make a prior strong muscle change to a weak response. The clinical observations provided evidence for the following propositions:

  • Poorly functioning muscles and structural imbalance can be corrected by means other than exercise programs, which the body will indicate through the indicator muscle.
  • Unwellness and stress in other body systems than the muscles can be detected through indicator muscle testing and balanced by using the guidance of the indicator muscle to find solutions to better health.

The notion was that the isometric muscle tests had a broader application than had the common biomechanical assessments for locomotor function and their associated training schemes.

This new approach in health care management was named “Kinesiology”.

By using the body’s own biofeedback system – the indicator muscle tests – Kinesiologists could improve structural dysfunction and disability beyond what was achievable by the common exercise programs and manipulations of musculoskeletal medicine.

Additionally, Kinesiologists could successfully deal with health problems where standard clinical and laboratory methods had failed to unveil a dysfunction by using the indicator muscle tests to detect and eliminate disturbance in the body’s life sustaining energy.

My research on the phenomenon of indicator muscle change

When I first encountered Kinesiology in 1988 as a client, I was intrigued by its simple examination system of indicator muscle testing for finding dysfunction and then determining the best treatment to correct the problem.

In the years to come I learned the method and observed Kinesiologists from different backgrounds improving people’s health problems with the simple diagnostic tool of indicator muscle testing and a myriad of healing touch techniques, emotional release strategies and self awareness procedures.

In 1990 I started to use the method in my own practice; first for my patients who were unwell and for whom traditional investigations did not provide any insight into the nature of their problems, or in cases where the therapies previously assigned to the ailment were not producing any results.

By the time I encountered Kinesiology I had already witnessed encouraging results in applying acupuncture, osteopathic manipulations, and homeopathy to many of my patients with chronic back pain or rheumatoid arthritis.

Indicator muscle testing complemented my clinical repertoire.

Kinesiology at the time was a young and empirical field, and apart from workshop manuals not many articles and books were available. The question that never left me was, “what are we accessing through these tests?”

Therefore I commenced a PhD study to research the phenomenon of indicator muscle change . The starting point was to recapitulate the most important aspects of muscle physiology as it applied to indicator muscle testing.

Muscle physiology as it applies to Kinesiology

Skeletal muscle action is a complex phenomenon comprising chemical and electrical events in muscle and nerve tissue, and the associated neuro-physiological pathways.

A muscle fibre is connected to the endplate of a motor neuron that transmits impulses from the spinal cord and the central nervous system (CNS). These electrical events cause the muscle fibres to contract.

Further cross–bridging of the two different protein molecules actin and myosin occurs in the presence of ionic calcium within the muscle cells to shorten the single muscle fibre.

To sustain integrated muscle function the body operates a biofeedback system that comprises of sensory receptors (proprioceptors) feeding information to the spinal cord and CNS.

Then impulses are sent back to the muscle to maintain the involuntary muscle tone and exert voluntary muscle action.

The segmental circuits of stretch reflex activity constitute the lowest level, where muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs sense the tension in muscle and its connective tissue sheets eliciting the involuntary motor output that maintains muscle tone.

This low level of contractile activity will always retain a certain number of muscle cells in contraction to preserve the foundation from which voluntary action will arise.

Although, this stretch reflex activity does not produce active movement, it accounts for the greater part of neuromuscular activity in muscle tissue.

The stretch reflex activity is rallied in the spinal segment, where the incoming sensory impulse elicits a direct motor output to the stretched muscle to contract its fibres and to its antagonist to relax muscle fibres.

Concurrently, information on muscle length and the velocity of change in muscle length travels up the spinal cord to higher brain centres, integrating muscle tone and adjusting stretch reflex circuits to the fine-tuning of movement.

Further to the segmental circuits of stretch reflex activity exists another segmental motor impulse, that operates independently of sensory input. These rhythmic bursts of motor neuron action are called “central pattern generators”.

They excite flexors and extensors in such a sequence as to produce normal patterns of locomotion.

The next level of motor control is the motor cortex and the brain stem nuclei. The motor cortex is responsible for impulses that elicit voluntary movement.

The brain stem motor nuclei integrate all incoming and outgoing impulses to sustain posture and muscle tone for voluntary muscle action.

The third and highest level of motor control is situated in the cerebellum, and basal nuclei of the cerebral hemispheres.

Both have no direct connections to the spinal cord and motor pathways, but act through projection areas in the brain stem and via the thalamus. They act as pre-command centres that provide a readiness for the voluntary action.

They ensure appropriate timing and intensity of movement, and supply the motor patterns to execute properly the desired movement. These programs and instructions centres set the scene and modulate involuntary and voluntary muscle action.

From the view point of motor control, isometric muscle contractions can be elicited in two ways, as ‘concentric’ action or as ‘eccentric’ action.

Whereas the concentric tests access the voluntary pathways in conjunction with their superseded instructions and programs centres, the eccentric tests allow observation of segmental motor control that is also connected to the higher centres.

During the concentric muscle test, the patient already holds the muscle in contraction before the testor applies the counteracting force.

For the eccentric tests, the testor stretches the muscle before the patient is instructed to counter balance the applied force.

The concentric testing method is most widely used technique of indicator muscle testing.

The results of my double blind study using eccentric muscle testing for triceps and concentric testing for latissimus dorsi, showed that the eccentric test of triceps generally produced a more sensitive response than the concentric tests, although both tests were significantly sensitive to the intervention of magnetically stimulating the Sedation point of Spleen meridian.

This leads me to the conclusion, that the circuits of motor control, which sustain muscle tone play an important role in the phenomenon of indicator muscle change.

The subtle loss of neuro-muscular integrity on those levels when a stressful stimulus is introduced to the HEF, elicits the transient loss of isometric muscle strength.

On the other hand an improvement of neuro-muscular integrity with healing stimuli will result in stabilising a prior weak indicator muscle.

The stressful stimulus disturbs the flow of Chi in the muscle, and the healing stimulus facilitates the flow of Chi in the muscle. Thus, the isometric muscle tests can provide a doorway to observe Chi.

The therapist applying this method needs to stay in a humble and compassionate frame of mind, acknowledging the Tao as it is encapsulated in the patient’s life while focusing on the enhancement of Chi as it unfolds through the nurturing of life sustaining energy in the indicator muscles.

Barbara Brennan has put this important aspect of healing in a nutshell with her words:

“The heart of healing is not the techniques, but the states of being out of which those techniques arise.”

By Dr Anna Rolfes. See Anna’s bio on this site

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