Does That Activator Thing Really Work? | Chiropractic Care and Massage (2024)

By Dr. Ronald "Chip" Weisel, II31 Comments Chiropractic Care Activator, Activator Adjusting Instrument, Activator Methods

It happened again the other day. A new patient came into the office for an evaluation and chiropractic adjustment. She’d been a long time chiropractic consumer, and had visited several other chiropractors in the past. She and her family recently moved to the area, so she was looking for a new chiropractor.

I love this type of new patient. They are in essence “pre-qualified” before they walk through the door. They love chiropractic care, and want to pick up where they left off with their last chiropractor. But I’ve learned to ask one last question before they begin their care at our office.

“Are you aware that I use the Activator Method exclusively?”

“Yes, I saw it on your website,” she said. “One of my other chiropractors used it on my neck sometimes.” But, I could tell by the expression on her face she was somewhat apprehensive.

“Was it a good experience?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” she said. “It didn’t seem to really work.”

“Was the doctor certified in the Activator Method?”

“I don’t know,” she replied. “Does that matter?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “Activator Methods certifies and re-credentials its doctors regularly to ensure that the technique is applied with the latest advances.”

My patient looked at me quizzically.

And there it was. I had just encountered yet another patient who thought they had an Activator experience, when in reality they did not.

What Is Activator?

In the chiropractic profession, Activator means two distinct things: 1) An adjusting instrument used to manipulate dysfunctioning joints, and 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.

Why Does a Doctor Use an Activator Instrument?

Chiropractors generally use an Activator instrument to perform a spinal adjustment. But, there are two major schools of thought when it comes to determining why a person needs a spinal adjustment.

Chiropractic is based on the principle that spinal joint dysfunction interferes with the nervous system. Therefore, chiropractic doctors test for spinal joint dysfunction and/or interference with the nervous system to determine if the person needs a spinal adjustment. Depending on the chiropractor’s clinical experience or where they went to chiropractic school, they tend to have more clinical confidence in detecting one versus the other.

If the chiropractor has more of a “joint dysfunction” perspective, he/she will ultimately rely on tests for spinal misalignment or loss of spinal joint mobility to diagnose where to make a spinal adjustment. As a result, he/she will often thrust multiple times on one area in an effort to “move the bone” or increase spinal joint mobility. Sort of like you would use a hammer to break loose or free something that is stuck.

However, if the chiropractor has more of a “nerve interference” perspective, he/she will ultimately rely on tests for interference with the nervous system (leg length analysis, neurological reflexes) to diagnose where to make a spinal adjustment. As a result, he/she will thrust one time on an area in an effort to “reset the nervous system” or restore spinal balance. Sort of like you reset a GFIC outlet by simply pushing in a RESET button.

The Preponderance of Evidence

Research and the clinical consensus of experts trained in using the Activator adjusting instrument indicate that if you are manipulating a dsyfunctional joint, one thrust per area works best. To date, over 20 clinical trials have been published comparing the outcomes of Activator Methods care to traditional chiropractic manipulation. Each and every one of these trials demonstrated equivalent outcomes regardless of which method was used. That means based on the evidence, the “Activator thing” really does work.

Ironically, in the one neck pain trial that had a higher proportion of temporary adverse effects (increased neck pain, mild radiating pain, mild headache, mild fatigue, etc.) than manual manipulation, “the analytical procedure associated with Activator Methods was not used.” That means there is at least some evidence that how and why one uses the Activator likely matters a great deal.

The Activator Works When It’s Used Correctly

The Activator Method uses specific protocols to detect spinal joint dysfunction that focuses on analyzing leg-length inequality and testing neurological reflexes to determine where, when, and when not to perform an adjustment. In addition, the Activator Method uses only one thrust per area of contact to initiate the process of restoring spinal balance in the patient.

If your Activator Methods experience did not include leg-length testing, or if it involved repeated or multiple thrusts with the Activator on each area, you did not have a true experience. In fact, unless you have had an Activator Methods experience from a doctor who has a current Proficiency Rating in the Activator Methods chiropractic technique, you do not really know whether or not this method is right for you.

The Activator website maintains a current worldwide directory of qualified chiropractors.In order to get qualified, a chiropractor must be licensed and have earned at least a Proficiency Rating in the Activator Method Chiropractic Technique. Licensed chiropractors who earn this exclusive designation have attended an Activator Methods seminar in the past year, and have successfully passed written and practical examinations.

If you haven’t already, you owe it to yourself to try the world’s #1 instrument-adjusting technique with a doctor who knows how to use it. Owning a hammer doesn’t make one a carpenter, right? Neither does owning an Activator mean your chiropractor knows how to use it effectively.

The Activator provides a controlled, fast thrust that is comfortable for the patient. Adjustments with the device are so quick and measured that the body’s muscles are less likely to resist, allowing for a more gentle and effective adjustment.

Does That Activator Thing Really Work? | Chiropractic Care and Massage (2024)


Does That Activator Thing Really Work? | Chiropractic Care and Massage? ›

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. Evidence suggests that the Activator is also capable of localizing treatment to a small area, such as a single vertebrae.

Do chiropractic activators actually 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 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.

Does the torque release technique really work? ›

There are a lot of benefits to TRT over traditional chiropractic techniques. It allows your body to heal itself. With minimal force, this technique encourages the nervous system to correct itself. Eventually, your spine will move to its proper alignment and a host of other health benefits will follow.

What is the activator method technique? ›

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.

What does an activator do to spine? ›

By: Emma Minx, DC, CCSP, MS, Chiropractor

The activator adjusting instrument delivers a low-force impulse to restore motion in spinal joints.

Is an activator safe for 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 the chiropractic activator gun? ›

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 is the difference between an activator and an integrator chiropractic? ›

The Integrator provides a quick thrust at the exact same force each time with a rotational component to the thrust. The Activator has variable thrusts depending on how hard the Chiropractor pushes the instrument down. There is also no turning motion with the activator adjustment.

What is the difference between arthrostim and activator? ›

The Arthrostim uses less force than the Activator, delivering gentle, rapid taps that can be more comfortable for some patients. The Activator's single impulse adjustment may feel more forceful to some patients leaving them sore afterwards, particularly those who are sensitive to manual adjustments.

What are the new methods of chiropractic care? ›

The Torque Release Technique (TRT) is one of the newest methods of chiropractic care that involves using a specialized medical instrument to pinpoint specific neurological imbalances in a safe and gentle manner.

Does active release technique really work? ›

ART is an effective treatment for a variety of conditions and injuries of the soft tissues, such as overuse and sports injuries. It can help relieve pain and stiffness and help restore your range of motion so you can return to your favorite activities.

Does a chiropractic activator really work? ›

Each and every one of these trials demonstrated equivalent outcomes regardless of which method was used. That means based on the evidence, the “Activator thing” really does work.

What is the tool that clicks at the chiropractor? ›

The clicker thing is called an Activator and is a small handheld tool that we use to adjust our patients. In addition to the Thompson drop table that we use, the Activator is another tool we use to help your body function better.

How much does Activator 2 cost? ›

You MUST create an account with a verified healthcare professional license before you can add this item to your cart. The superiority of high-speed and low force allows the ACTIVATOR II to be used in comprehensive treatment to all areas of the spine and extremities. $ 820.00.

Does chiropractic really release toxins? ›

Approximately 20% of chiropractic patients experience toxic release following an adjustment. It might sound a little scary, but it's actually a positive reaction to chiropractic treatment. Your body is releasing toxins due to spinal manipulations, which is a good thing.

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.

Is chiropractic real or placebo? ›

Myth: Medical doctors don't believe in chiropractic treatment. Not all experts agree on the role of chiropractic care in the treatment of certain conditions due to the need for more research. Even so, chiropractic care is largely accepted as a complementary treatment for issues like neck and back pain.


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