What is the Activator Method? [Gentle Chiropractic] (2024)

In the chiropractic field, the Activator Method refers to a gentle manual manipulation treatment that can be used to treat different kinds of pain complaints in one’s extremities or in the neck or the back. An Activator adjusting instrument is used in this treatment, which is a viable alternative to conventional manipulation methods that use a low amplitude, high-velocity thrust, like the Diversified treatment method.

Certain chiropractors make use of a hand-held, compact instrument known as the Activator Adjusting Instrument, which is used to apply a low-force, quick impulse to the patient’s spinal joints. The targeted joints can enjoy a greater degree of motion, thanks to this method.

The Activator adjusting chiropractic instrument happens to be a widely-used therapeutic intervention used by skilled chiropractors, second only to the Diversified technique. The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners reports that over 50% of chiropractors based out of the USA regularly deploy this method, which is also quite common in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.

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What is the Activator Method? [Gentle Chiropractic] (1)

Activator Technique – Chiropractic Treatment Method

The Activator adjusting instrument is a hand-held, spring-loaded mechanical instrument used in the Activator Method. It is used by chiropractors for delivering low-force, quick impulses at various points in the body.

Treatments involving an Activator adjusting instrument offer two advantages:

  • Limited force: The amount of force used in the treatment is localized and controlled. It is a gentle method of chiropractic care where the joint is not put in possibly compromised positions like twisting or bending to prevent complications.
  • Quick Impulse: Since it’s a fast-acting instrument, the muscles of the body do not tense up as much or offer resistance against the device. The treatment is more effective as muscle resistance is not a factor here.

There are several new Activator adjusting chiropractic instruments that work just like their older counterparts. Instead of relying on a spring-loaded mechanism, the newer models have cordless and electric features.

Evaluation of Leg Length in The Activator Adjusting Method

The Activator Method of Chiropractic can include an evaluation of your leg length. The theory behind this assessment is that leg length differences can help indicate any pelvic and/or spinal misalignments. Keep in mind that this evaluation is not accepted everywhere due to the absence of adequate clinical evidence that supports this approach.

An Activator Method chiropractor may choose not to carry out an evaluation of the apparent differences in leg length. Instead, many chiropractors use conventional physical examination methods like the static and motion palpitation of the spinal region, which can zero in on the location for the application of the Activator adjustment. The Activator adjustment is relatively safe and has no side effects, provided it is carried out by a competent health professional trained to treat neck or back pain issues.

What to Expect?

A general treatment routine involves the patient lying on the chiropractor’s adjustment table face down. The lower back region is targeted first in the treatment, with the focus slowing progressing towards the head, followed by the targeting of various vertebral segments one after the other.

The patient will be evaluated by the chiropractor to detect symptoms and signs that can help identify the various spinal joints or extremities responsible for the pain. The Activator instrument is then used to treat this condition.

What is the Activator Method? [Gentle Chiropractic] (2)

How Effective Is the Activator Method?

As a chiropractic procedure, Activator Methods is an effective treatment for a variety of joint conditions. Some chiropractors only use Activators or other instruments in their offices and many of them are extremely successful.

In our office, we use a variety of techniques to treat people who are suffering. Using an Activator may be the only option for someone who does not like “popping” and does not want a manual adjustment. Activator is not typically the first option that Dr. Royer uses but sometimes subtlety is what is needed. Just like to might need a little touch when playing golf or pool, gentle chiropractic adjustments can be just what a patient needs. It is often used in our office to adjust anterior ribs.

While it may not be the first choice, Dr. Royer has used it to help people that manual adjusting has not helped. It is an effective treatment that might be just what you need.

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Activator Chiropractic Adjustment

A typical Activator instrument adjustment proceeds this way – the chiropractor first applies this device on the region near or at the affected spinal joint. The provider applies the device using some pressure, which is succeeded by a quick impulse from the Activator instrument, This may feel similar to a reflex test done by tapping one’s knees with a reflex hammer.

Unlike traditional chiropractic adjustments where the patient is made to twist or turn multiple times, the patient can remain still in this procedure. The device makes a clicking sound but there is no popping of the joint.

Activator Adjustment Instrument Research

When compared to the use ofhigh-velocity, low-amplitude manual manipulation(Diversified technique), the benefits of the Activator adjusting instrument were not proven to be better or worse.1

In a low back pain study, 3 treatment methods were compared2:

  • Manual-thrust manipulation using high-velocity low amplitude thrust
  • Mechanical-assisted manipulation using the Activator instrument
  • Usual medical care consisting of over-the-counter analgesic and NSAID medications and advice

At 4-weeks post-treatment, the study found a statistically significant advantage of manual-thrust manipulation for reducing pain and disability compared to either mechanical-assisted manipulation or usual medical care. At 3 and 6 months, however, none of these treatment groups were found superior to the others.

While the Activator Method is a widely researched chiropractic technique, most of the research has been funded by the method’s developer. Additionally, most of the studies were conducted in small groups of patients with a relatively brief follow-up period and lack of control groups. Independent studies with large patient groups are needed to determine efficacy with any significance.

When Is the Activator Method Not Effective?

Just like other spinal mobilization or manipulation treatments, a comprehensive examination must be done first to make sure that the pain of the patient undergoing the Activator adjustment method isn’t due to conditions like:

  • Serious neurological disorders
  • Open wounds in the targeted treatment area
  • Fractures in the targeted treatment area
  • Cancer
  • Infection

Using the Activator method on such patients could lead to a worsening of symptoms.

What is the Activator Method? [Gentle Chiropractic] (3)

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Risks of the activator method of Chiropractic

Chiropractors around the world use the Activator Method to treat pain problems in the extremities and back and neck pain issues in the spinal region of their patients. As long as it’s carried out by a licensed professional on a patient who has been adequately examined for other conditions, this method is quite safe to use. A temporary increase in stiffness or discomfort after the first round of treatment is quite common as it’s due to the joints undergoing exercising or thrust manipulation. These symptoms should subside within 24 hours or so.

Since the Activator Chiropractic technique does not involve the leverage of bones to manipulate joints, Dr. Royer considers this technique when patients are very nervous about adjustments.

What is the Activator Method? [Gentle Chiropractic] (2024)


What is the Activator Method? [Gentle Chiropractic]? ›

Chiropractors use the Activator to treat conditions such as back pain, neck pain, headaches, and migraines. The Activator Method works by delivering a controlled, light force to the spine or other areas of the body. This force is gentle and effective, and it helps to align the spine and improve function.

What is the activator technique in chiropractic? ›

Activator Adjustment

During a typical adjustment with the Activator instrument, the chiropractor applies the device to the tissues at or near the affected joint. An initial pressure is followed by a quick thrust from the device, which feels much like having one's reflex tested by tapping the knee.

Does the chiropractic activator really work? ›

The Activator is FDA approved. Prior to its approval, the theory and function of the device was researched for more than 30 years. It was then tested on numerous individuals with back and neck pain for 15 years. It was found to be safe and effective for performing chiropractic adjustments.

What is the most gentle chiropractic technique? ›

Flexion-Distraction or Cox Technique:

Patients lie upon a specially designed, adjustable treatment table. The chiropractor uses his or her hands to apply pressure and stretch the spine. The patient feels a gentle stretching motion which many find relaxing.

Is Activator Method safe for the neck? ›

The Activator Method is usually considered safe and is used by chiropractors to treat neck and back pain of spinal origin, as well as pain in the extremities.

What are the side effects of chiropractic Activator? ›

There are no side-effects associated with the Activator technique. Unlike a manual chiropractic adjustment, the only joints that move are the ones that are being adjusted. This makes the activator method more comfortable and effective for patients.

What is the difference between a chiropractic manual adjustment and an Activator? ›

The Activator device is designed to mimic the effects of a manual spinal adjustment. Some chiropractors use the device because they find it is a more precise way of manipulating the spine. Due to the speed of the instrument, muscles are less likely to tense during treatment.

What does an Activator do to the spine? ›

The activator adjusting instrument delivers a low-force impulse to restore motion in spinal joints. Next to the Diversified technique, the Activator adjusting instrument is reported to be one of the more common therapeutic interventions used by chiropractors.

What is the clicking thing chiropractors use? ›

The Handheld Adjusting Tool, also know as an Activator, is a spring loaded device that when used applies a very quick, specific force to a joint to help restore movement, and it has been shown to be effective in helping spinal pain and Trigger Point (Muscle) Pain.

Do chiropractors actually adjust anything? ›

Chiropractic adjustment is a procedure in which trained specialists (chiropractors) use their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint. The goal of this procedure, also known as spinal manipulation, is to improve spinal motion and improve your body's physical function.

What is the new technique of chiropractic? ›

Torque Release Technique (TRT) is a chiropractic method used to gently correct subluxation or spinal misalignments in a non-invasive manner. Rather than physically manipulating the joints, TRT aims to encourage the body to naturally heal itself.

Can a chiropractor adjust your neck without twisting it? ›

There is usually no rotation or twisting of the head/neck often utilized in the traditional chiropractic adjustment and the typical "crack" (joint cavitation) may or may not occur with this method.

Why do some chiropractors not crack? ›

If your chiropractor uses low-force techniques or specific equipment, you may not hear cracking or popping. For example, your chiropractor may use an activator. This instrument allows them to scan your spine and slowly move the bones.

Why do chiropractors tap your neck? ›

This is important because when the spine is misaligned or not moving correctly, it can put pressure on the nerves and interfere with the body's ability to function properly. By popping the neck, chiropractors are actually re-aligning the spine and releasing pressure from any trapped nerves.

What toxins are released after chiropractic adjustment? ›

During a chiropractic adjustment, lactic acid and other waste products that have accumulated in muscle tissue may be released into the bloodstream. These substances can cause temporary discomfort or flu-like symptoms but are generally harmless as they're naturally processed by the body's detoxification systems.

What is the activator technique? ›

The Activator Method Chiropractic Technique is a chiropractic treatment method that uses a device created by Arlan Fuhr as an alternative to manual manipulation of the spine or extremity joints.

What is the clicker thing that chiropractors use? ›

The Handheld Adjusting Tool, also know as an Activator, is a spring loaded device that when used applies a very quick, specific force to a joint to help restore movement, and it has been shown to be effective in helping spinal pain and Trigger Point (Muscle) Pain.

What are three methods chiropractors use? ›

Manual Therapies - In addition to spinal manipulation, chiropractors may also use other manual therapies to treat back pain. These include trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and massage. Each of these therapies works to release tension in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the spine.

What is the activator method for sciatica? ›

In contrast to manual manipulation, the Activator Method is an instrumental treatment developed through extensive research and clinical trials. The Activator Adjusting Instrument delivers high-velocity but gentle impulses that restore spinal movement at a given vertebra or joint.

What is the activator method at Seattle chiropractor? ›

The Activator Methods Adjusting Instrument is a handheld spring-loaded tool that delivers a consistent low-force, high-speed thrust. Because it's many times faster than adjustments delivered by hand, the body rarely tightens to resist, making adjustments comfortable and effective.

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