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Manual Muscle Testing

Updated on July 28, 2014
Manual muscle testing involves a physician applying an opposing force to a patient who resists.
Manual muscle testing involves a physician applying an opposing force to a patient who resists. | Source

Hold This Position, and Don't Let Me Move You

This phrase is one that is well recognized by therapists: "Hold this position, and don't let me move you." The instruction to someone whose strength is being tested is to resist pressure applied by a physician. The physician then applies force to the body part to get a feel for how strong the patient is in resisting the movement.

Physicians and researchers evaluate people using this technique to determine whether there is normal strength experienced by the test subject. Manual muscle testing using this technique gives insights into the physiological well-being of the particular muscle group being tested.

Manual Muscle Testing Demonstration

Levels of Manual Muscle Examination Detail

The video above shows therapists interacting with patients in a way that allows them to get an overall feel for whether the patient is experiencing some debilitation in their muscles or joints. These tests have value when it comes to high level evaluation of a patient. However, when precise and repeatable data is required, manual muscle testing must involve the use of some modern technology that has been designed specifically for that purpose.

The most common device used for manual muscle testing is, not so ironically, called a manual muscle tester, or MMT. An MMT measures the resistance force applied by a patient to a physicians opposing force, which is increased until it becomes equal to, then greater than the patient's strength threshold.

In addition to the multi-purpose muscle testing devices that are used in clinics, there are also devices that are used to test specific muscle groups, such as the JTech Pinch Gauge, which measures and records pinch strength.

Manual Muscle Testing Devices

The JTech Commander is one of several MMT devices on the market that allow medical professionals to get clear, accurate, and repeatable data regarding one patient or even a representative population of test subjects.
The JTech Commander is one of several MMT devices on the market that allow medical professionals to get clear, accurate, and repeatable data regarding one patient or even a representative population of test subjects. | Source

Uses of Manual Muscle Testing Evaluation

Physicians and medical researchers use manual muscle testing techniques for a variety of purposes. In the case of someone who has suffered an injury, a physical therapist, chiropractor or other medical professional can quickly understand, based upon experience of what "normal" muscle and range of motion reactions are, whether there has been significant damage to a muscle group.

A muscle reaction grade scale (see below) has been standardized to allow physicians to classify muscle damage. This scale ranges from 0 (situations where the patient can exert almost no resistance) to 5 (which represents a patient who has no visible muscle debilitation).

Medical researchers use manual muscle testing across large groups of people to assess physiological functions such as the connection between the relative strength of two separately, seemingly unconnected, muscle groups.

This is a scale for grading manual muscle testing results.
This is a scale for grading manual muscle testing results. | Source

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