The Invention of the Activator Method Technique

Celebrating 125 Years of Chiropractic

In our continuing series, each month we are celebrating the 125th anniversary of chiropractic medicine! In celebration, we are looking back on the different achievements and innovations throughout the decades. Our last article focused on 1960–1970 and the development of Low Level Laser Therapy. For this article, we are still in 1960–1970 looking at the beginnings of the activator method technique. 

What Is the Activator Method Technique?

Initially developed in 1967 by Dr. Arlan Fuhr, the activator method is an FDA-approved technique that provides an alternative treatment method for spinal manipulation. This approach uses a handheld instrument called an activator adjusting instrument, or activator, to “deliver a gentle impulse force to the spine with the goal of restoring motion to the targeted spinal vertebra or joint.”1 Patients experience a precise “hammering” localized on a specific joint or muscle area, contrasting against traditional manipulation through high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) thrusts. 

Due to its noninvasive approach, the activator method has grown in popularity among chiropractors since its invention, making it one of the most common devices and techniques used. 

Benefits of the Activator Method

Spring loaded, the activator “provides a quick, low-force impulse at specific points”1 that can be used as a diagnostic tool or as a therapy device. In theory, the benefits of the activator include its speed, which is so quick that muscles are less likely to react tensely, and the fact that it applies force to a specific target area without torque or any bending movement, unlike standard manipulation.1  

Also, unlike HVLA thrusts that require manual effort, the activator is battery operated, making it significantly easier on the operator to perform the treatment. For many, this method not only provides diagnostic support and helpful treatment, but it also saves on the wear and tear of the user—another significant factor in the activator’s popularity.

Typical Treatment Uses of the Activator Method

The targeted, low-force nature of the activator makes it accessible in the treatment of many common patient ailments, including:

  • Neck and back discomfort,
  • Headaches, 
  • Disc disorders, and 
  • Joint discomfort. 

It is especially beneficial in treating patients who require a gentler approach than traditional manipulation, such as those suffering from arthritis or bone disease as well as persons who may be pregnant or the elderly. Due to its precision, the activator may also help in improving mobility in specific areas of the body as it can help relieve stiffness without causing muscles to tense.2

Looking Ahead

As we continue our look at chiropractic technology and innovations throughout the decades, next month we will focus on 1970-1980, more specifically electrotherapy and chiropractic services offered in all 50 states.

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1Yeomans, Steven G. “Activator Method Chiropractic Technique.” Complete Chiropractic Care – Chiropractor in Gilbert, AZ US, 17 May 2018,

2“Activator Method: Is It the Right Chiropractic Technique for You?” Premier Chiropractic & Wellness, 16 July 2020,

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