The Activator Method Chiropractic Technique® is a diagnostic and treatment system used by some chiropractors to treat many types of back pain, neck pain, and headaches (both chronic and migraine). The Activator Method uses a small, hand-held instrument called the Activator Adjusting Instrument to deliver a gentle impulse force to the spine with the goal of restoring motion to the targeted spinal vertebra or joint.
It is an alternative to the traditional manual form of spinal manipulation, known as the high velocity low amplitude (HVLA) thrust.
Next to the Diversified technique, the Activator Adjusting Instrument is reported to be the most common therapeutic intervention used by chiropractors.1
According to the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, more than half of full-time American chiropractors report using the Activator Method in their practices.2 The Activator Method is also commonly used in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
How the Activator Method is Thought to Work
The Activator Method Chiropractic Technique is a type of manipulation described as follows: A spring-loaded, hand-held mechanical instrument called the Activator Adjusting Instrument provides a quick, low-force impulse at specific points. There are two theoretical advantages of an Activator instrument-assisted treatment. The first is based on the speed of the device. The instrument is so quick that the body's muscles are less likely to tense in response, and resist the treatment. The lack of muscle resistance may facilitate the treatment effectiveness. The second is that the applied force is localized and does not add any additional torque or bending movement to the joint. Sometimes an evaluation of apparent leg length may also be performed. This evaluation is based on the theory that apparent differences in leg length may indicate where vertebral misalignments in the spine are present. However, this form of evaluation is controversial and there is a lack of clinical evidence to support this aspect of the process. Activator providers may or may not use the evaluation method. Some chiropractors choose only to use the Activator Adjustment Instrument based on their physical examination findings alone.
Activator Method Development
The Activator Method was initially developed in 1967 by Dr. Arlan Fuhr.3 The first Activator adjusting instrument was patented in 1978 by Activator Methods International, Inc.4
At the time of this article, there are 4 Activator instruments on the market: 1 beginner instrument (Activator I), 2 advanced spring-loaded instruments (Activators II, IV), and 1 mechanical, cordless instrument (Activator V). Most research has been done using the Activator IV instrument.
Research and locate chiropractors in your area that can help alleviate your back and neck pain.
Huggins T, Boras AL, Gleberzon BJ, et al. Clinical effectiveness of the activator adjusting instrument in the management of musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association 2012;56(1):49-57. National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Job Analysis of Chiropractic 2005: A project report, survey analysis, and summary of the practice of chiropractic within the United States. Greeley, CO. January 2005. Richards DM. The Activator story: development of a new concept in chiropractic. Chiropractic Journal of Australia 1994;24:28-32. Chiropractic adjusting instrument Patent No. US 4116235 A. patft.uspto.gov. Accessed June 19, 2013.