What are Alternative Diagnostic Techniques?
Before administering a treatment, alternative therapists will often assess the patient’s condition using a variety of diagnostic techniques. Some of these are entirely conventional, but others are not. The more unusual diagnostic techniques are often specific to a particular therapy, but the following list includes many diagnostic methods that are used in several disciplines:
- Bioresonance: electromagnetic radiation and electric currents from a patient’s body are registered by an electronic device and used to diagnose everything from allergies to hormonal disorders. In treatment mode, the electrical signals are ‘normalized’ by the instrument and sent back into the patient’s body.
- Iridology: each point on the iris is said to correspond to an organ, and irregularities are supposed to indicate problems with the corresponding organ.
- Kinesiology: muscle strength, tested manually, is claimed to be indicative of the health status of inner organs.
- Kirlian photography: high-frequency electrical currents applied to a patient’s body generate electrical discharges which are turned into impressive, colourful images. These are in turn supposed to be indicative of human health.
- Radionics: a technique based on supposed energy vibrations in the body detected with pendula, divining rods or electrical devices.
- Vega-test: an electrodiagnostic device that can supposedly detect a range of conditions from allergies to cancer.
What is the Evidence?
In nearly every case, these methods and the concepts behind them are not plausible, so their ability to diagnose accurately must be treated with great scepticism. Moreover, when these methods have been rigorously tested, the most reliable results of such investigations show that they are not valid. Finally, they typically fail the test of reproducibility, which means that ten practitioners generate ten different results.
These techniques are dangerous as they can generate false diagnoses. They can be misused by fraudulent practitioners to cause unwarranted fears in patients and to convince them to pay for ineffective or harmful treatments of conditions they did not have in the first place.
For more information:
- Vega-test investigation on BBC’s Inside Out
- A review of the literature in applied and specialised kinesiology
This extract is taken from “Trick or Treatment?” (Transworld), a book that contains a series of 1-page summaries looking at the evidence for and against a range of alternative therapies. The authors of the book are Simon Singh (founder of the Good Thinking Society) and Edzard Ernst (the world’s first professor of complementary medicine).