Ever wondered what that small pogo stick looking object your Chiropractor uses on your back really does? Are you one of those individuals that speculate that the instrument is as effective as hands-on alternatives? Or doubt that it even works? Well hopefully this article will be able to answer most of your questions and shed some light on the instrument known as the Activator.

As we know there is an abundance of Chiropractic treatments available, and out of all of them, the Activator is described as one of gentlest techniques. The Activator-technique was developed in the late 1960’s by 2 American chiropractors, Dr Warren Lee and Dr Arlan Fuhr. It is used as an alternative to manual adjustments of the spine and/or extremity joints.

How does the Activator work?

The Activator is a hand held device that delivers a thrust, which is quicker than the body’s own reflex mechanism, meaning the local muscles don’t have time to contract. Thus, the force needed to adjust the joint is developed by the velocity of the Activator’s thrust, and not by a high force. Although the Activator generates a very effective thrust, it is merely felt as a gentle feeling.

The way in which the Chiropractor uses the Activator is by placing the tip against the joint to be manipulated. The Chiropractor then corrects the angle of the intended pressure and applies pressure to the Activator by squeezing his hand together. The small instrument then delivers a gentle thrust in a specific location, to stimulate the mechanoreceptors in the muscle/ligament being targeted.

What does the research say about the effectiveness of the Activator as a chiropractic intervention?

An investigation of previously published studies that looked at chiropractic treatment using the Activator was conducted by a group of researchers that was headed by Tiffany Huggins. They searched for papers that included the Activator that was either used alone or as part of the Activator Methods Chiropractic Technique (AMCT).  The AMCT is a system of diagnosis and treatment involving the comparison of both leg lengths as a measure of postural complications.  They found 8 studies that were considered suitable to include in the teams review.

Their systematic review of the 8 clinical studies was obvious in demonstrating that the Activator treatment provided substantial and statistically significant benefits to patients for a range of musculoskeletal disorders.  Some of the studies also compared the Activator with manual adjustments and found that the hands-on treatment to be no more effective than that observed with the Activator.

A few studies have been performed to compare the effectiveness of  AMCT and diversified technique. One of these studies that was printed in theJournal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) in 2001 compared the Activator to a diversified manual adjusting technique. The conclusion from the study was that both techniques had beneficial effects with reducing pain and disability and improving cervical range of motion.

The Activator is thought to be very useful in treating patients who are anxious about receiving manual adjustments, patients who have fragile bones (for example, those with osteoporosis) and young kids who cant keep still. At present there is no study showing that using the Activator is safer than manual adjustments. However, the reassurance it provides to certain types of patients might lead to greater clinical effectiveness.

After 30+ years of research and testing, the Activator has also been found to be a very effective tool to be used on not only the back but also restricted joints of the jaw, shoulders, wrists, knees and ankles. Over the years, it has been considered the safest of the chiropractic techniques. It is a tool that can be safely used on clients of any age.

Please call your Chiropractor at AHS on 9948 2826 or visit our clinic at 9/470 Sydney Rd in Balgowlah servicing the surrounding suburbs of Allambie, Balgowlah Heights, Seaforth, Fairlight and Manly on the Northern Beaches.


Woods T (2001). A pilot randomized clinical trial on the relative effect of instrumental (MFMA) versus manual (HVLA) manipulation in the treatment of cervical spine dysfunction. JMPT. Vol 24:4

Roy RA (2009).  Heart rate variability modulation in pain-free patients vs. patients in pain. JMPT 32:277-286