Chiropractic Without the “Popping and Cracking” – The Activator Method Chiropractic Technique

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Many people, self included, know the amazing and life changing benefits of chiropractic care first hand. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily “enjoy” the experience of the “twisting, cracking, and popping” commonly seen with the adjustment. It’s possible that some may find it uncomfortable – their neck tenses up as soon as they know it’s about to be adjusted.

What if I told you that you can receive the healing benefits of an adjustment… Without all of that? It can be a seamless healing, relaxing experience from start to finish.

The Activator Method Chiropractic Technique or “Activator” for short is a chiropractic method developed by Dr. Arlan Fuhr as an alternative to manual manipulation of the spine or extremity joints. The technique that utilizes the Activator instrument is generally regarded as a “soft” or “low force” chiropractic treatment technique.

The technique the chiropractor uses involves having the patient lie in a prone position and comparing the functional leg lengths. Often one leg will seem to be slightly shorter than the other when the spine is out of alignment. The chiropractor then carries out a series of muscle tests (such as having the patient move their arms in a certain position) in order to activate the muscles attached to specific vertebrae. If the leg lengths change, that is taken as a sign that the problem is located at that vertebra. The chiropractor treats problems found in this way moving progressively along the spine in the direction from the feet towards the head. Success in this technique requires properly trained doctors that show good inter-examiner reliability.

The instrument used is unique in its physical characteristics. The activator is a small handheld spring-loaded instrument which delivers a small impulse to the spine. It was found to give off no more than 0.3 J of kinetic energy in a 3-millisecond pulse. Putting the scientific wording aside, the basic idea of the activator is to provide a controlled bursting pulse to the misaligned area. The aim is to produce enough force to move the vertebrae but not enough to cause injury. Chiropractic adjustments are not about the Doctor’s strong muscles, force, or their body size. It’s all about basic physics! That’s why the subtle, small Activator instrument can create the same amount of alignment as a manual adjustment.

The utilization of the Activator Method has increased in the chiropractic community through the current year. In 2003, the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners found that 70% of chiropractors used the technique, but only 24% of patients received it. The majority of U.S. chiropractic schools and some schools in other countries teach the AMCT method, and an estimated 45,000 chiropractors worldwide use some part of the technique.

In my own practice I primarily utilize the Activator Methods technique. Its low impact creates a more enjoyable experience and in some cases it is the best method for treatment for many of my patients. The control of the activator instrument allows me to provide a specific treatment without requiring much effort or discomfort for the patient. For more information regarding the Activator Method Chiropractic Technique, contact your chiropractic doctor for his or her input.