Activator Instrument Adjustment is a diagnostic and treatment system used by chiropractors Nelson and Nelson Chiropractic 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.
Activator Instrument Adjustment 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 Instrument Adjustment 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. 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.
In the chiropractic profession, Activator means two distinct things: 1) An adjusting instrument used to manipulate dysfunctioning joints, 2) An assessment procedure using leg-length analysis to determine where, when and when not to perform an adjustment.
Patients often confuse the two. But, it’s not really the patient’s fault. Chiropractors often confuse the two as well.
While any licensed chiropractor or chiropractic student can purchase an Activator, training and certification in the use of the instrument are voluntary. This means that although most chiropractors own an Activator (or claim to use one), where, when, and why they use the Activator instrument varies immensely.