What is the Activator Method Chiropractic Technique?

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Written By DannyPalmer

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One chiropractic diagnostic and treatment system that some people are unfamiliar with is the activator method chiropractic technique. It is an alternative form of spinal manipulation and is often known as the high velocity low amplitude (HVLA) thrust. The activator method of chiropractic can be used to treat numerous types of back pain as well as headaches and neck pain. The activator adjusting instrument is the second most common therapeutic intervention that chiropractors use.

With the activator method, a chiropractor uses a small handheld instrument, known as an ‘activator adjusting instrument,’ which delivers gentle and quick impulse forces to the spine in order to restore motion to the affected joint or vertebra.

The activator adjusting instrument has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for “chiropractic adjustment of the spine and extremities” due to numerous clinical studies that indicated positive outcomes, pointing to the safety and efficacy of the instrument.

The activator instrument is popular among chiropractors for three main reasons:

  1. Speed: The activator instrument works faster than the body’s reflexes – so much so that the muscles in the body are less prone to tense up in response, thus resisting treatment. When muscle resistance risk is lowered, there is a higher likelihood that treatment will be effective.
  2. Low Force: Another benefit of the activator instrument is that it is considered to be low force. This is due to the fact that it does not require the patient’s body to be twisted so the spine can be manipulated.
  3. Suitable for a Wide Range of Patients: Because the activator offers a light controlled force coupled with high accuracy, it can be used for all types of chiropractic patients.

Nearly 50,000 chiropractors use the activator adjusting instrument in their practices in the US. Most chiropractors use a range of manipulation techniques, with most using around 8 to 10 different ones. A chiropractor typically bases his selection on the condition of the patient, the preferences of the patient and also the preferences and experience of the chiropractor.

What to Expect

The activator method of chiropractic treatment includes multiple steps. A chiropractor may use all of the steps or just one when adjusting the spine.  A chiropractor evaluates the symptoms of the patient and any signs that may point to the source of complaint to determine how the activator instrument will be used.

Treatment is typically administered with a patient lying face down on an adjustment table. Treatment usually starts in the lower back, progressing upward toward the head. Each segment of the spine is individually targeted. There is no twisting or turning of the spine or joints like with traditional chiropractic adjustments.

The device is usually applied to the tissues near the affected joint. There will be an initial pressure that is quickly followed by a rapid thrust from the device. Patients usually say it feels much like having your reflex tested by a doctor, such as when your knee is tapped and it kicks out.

Once an adjustment is completed, the chiropractor in Brookhaven re-evaluates to determine if the signs and symptoms that are associated with the patient’s complaint have been corrected.

Depending on the severity of symptoms and patient complaint, the duration of the treatment plan may vary. Usually a chiropractor will ask a patient to come 1 to 2 times each week for a month to six weeks. Once symptoms are improved, the activator treatment is complete. If there is no relief within 3 to 4 weeks, treatment may be stopped and re-evaluated.

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