What is an Activator?
Chiropractors often employ special tools to assist in the treatment of clients. There are various adjustable tables and chairs, massage implements, and electrical devices. One special tool that can be used for therapy and adjustment is the Activator. The Activator Method Chiropractic Technique concerns both a chiropractic adjustment method and a special device, developed by Arlan Fuhr. It replaces or complements the manual spine and joint manipulation. The Activator is a “mechanical force manual assisted (MFMA) instrument” used for people who might require a “softer chiropractic treatment technique”. It is a spring-loaded, hand-held instrument, and gives off up to “0.3 J of kinetic energy in a 3-millisecond pulse” so that the vertebrae are moved, yet uninjured. Chiropractors often use the Activator on the request of the patient, especially newer or nervous patients. It produces a gentler feeling that these types of patients favor.
The chiropractor performs the Activator Method Chiropractic Technique (AMCT) by doing muscle tests on a patient and determining the lengths of the patient’s legs. They do this in order to see where the vertebral problem might be located. Some studies have even suggested that the technique “may be as effective as manual adjustment in the treatment of back pain.” This means that patients who choose or need to be adjusted by the Activator are not losing the effectiveness in their treatment.1
Who Needs the Activator?
Typically, chiropractors might use the device to adjust babies, small children, the elderly, the previously mentioned nervous patients, and other people for whom a traditional manipulation might have too much force. Patients who are not strictly advised to follow the Activator method may choose to switch to the traditional style of manipulation as they wish. When it comes time for the adjustment, the patient lies on their belly. The chiropractor adjusts the tension knob on the tool. The chiropractor applies the device to the appropriate regions of the body which are in need of adjustment. He then squeezes the device to engage the instrument.2
Activator vs. Traditional Adjustment
Research has shown the Activator to be very effective in its use for chiropractic adjustment. It is the “second most-widely used chiropractic technique”, now being an option that’s for use in about 70% of chiropractic offices. Dr. Fuhr has become famous for “bringing instrument adjusting to the chiropractic profession”.3 Activator Methods International, Ltd. (AMI) has provided chiropractic treatment since 1967. AMI has published over 100 papers on their method of treatment, with support from the National Institute of Chiropractic Research. Medicare even covers the technique.4 In terms of research, the Activator has clinical trials and “hundreds of clinical and scientific peer-reviewed papers”. AMI has also received grants from the National Institute of Health.5
Most people may be familiar with the traditional manual spinal manipulation that makes the “popping sound as the bones are realigned”. The Activator tool has not completely replaced this method of manipulation, though it is in the case of some patients. The use of the Activator technique instead complements manual manipulation. The tool is different from the traditional method in that it makes a “precise adjustment with only a light clicking sound from the instrument”. In manual manipulation, the patient will need to reposition their body several times over the course of the full series of adjustments. With the device, the patient can stay in one face-down position.
Some patients who require a gentler adjustment, or who cannot move into different positions, may prefer or require that their chiropractor use the Activator methods.6 No one adjustment method is perfect for every person. Nonetheless, the Activator is another helpful tool that is available in chiropractic treatment.
Impulse® Adjusting Instrument
The Impulse® Adjusting Instrument works similarly to the Activator tool. The instrument also delivers to the joints of the spine and extremities gentle and precise chiropractic adjustments, relieving pain and restoring function. The instrument utilizes internal micro-computer circuitry which produces a level of force that the chiropractor controls. There are three force settings for different patients and parts of the body.
Like the Activator, the Impulse® Adjusting Instrument produces very little feeling in the patient beyond a light tapping sensation in the area that is receiving treatment. Most patients tend to report feeling the beginnings of relief from pain, improved mobility, and calm after being treated. Though chronic conditions, inflammation, or muscle spasms might delay some of these positive effects. The instrument is very fast, meaning that it works more quickly than a manual chiropractic adjustment. The gentle thrust that it produces is also faster than the body’s reaction time. It gently manipulates the chosen area before the body’s tendency to tighten up and resist adjustment starts. Unlike the Activator, however, the Impulse® Adjusting Instrument is not wireless.7