Activator Technique

Activator technique is a gentle chiropractic treatment for decreasing joint pain and increasing joint motion. Many people are familiar with traditional manual manipulation of joints, where the chiropractor places his hand on the stuck joint and creates tension and torque across the joint. A very skilled and controlled thrust slightly moves the joints, and opens the joints up to restore normal motion. With manual manipulation the joints are slightly “pushed open within their normal range of motion.”


When a stuck joint opens quickly it can produce an audible click or popping sound. This sound is caused by a sudden decrease in pressure within the joint. Muscle spasms across a stuck and painful joint increase the pressure within a joint. This pressure causes tiny gas bubbles to be driven into the liquid inside a joint (synovial fluid). As the joint space volume increases, the pressure decreases, and the gas bubbles move from the liquid and back into the air space. The gas bubbles crossing the liquid-air barrier release the “popping” sound.  This is the same reason a pressurized can of soda “pops” when the CO2 bubbles shift from the liquid and back into the air.

Thompson Drop Technique

Thompson drop technique utilizes a specialized table that drops two inches. With Thompson drop technique, a patient is laying on their stomach and torque and tension are not produced like with manual manipulation. The chiropractor places his hands across the stuck joint complex and provides a controlled thrust, causing the table to drop. Combined with the direction and amount of force, the dropping table helps open the joint spaces up, allowing one side of the joint to move safely past the other.

Patients hear the banging sound of the table dropping, but do not hear the popping sound of the adjustment. Less force and torque is required in Thompson Drop compared to manual manipulation. Some people feel more comfortable because they are not “being twisted up.”  Thompson drop is a highly effective treatment for increasing joint motion and decreasing neck and back joint pain.

Gentle Adjustments for Painful, Arthritic, or Post Surgical Joints

Spine-model-degeneration.JPG Activator technique is the gentlest of chiropractic adjustment procedures. It utilizes an instrument specifically designed to apply a controlled force into the joint. The low force and high acceleration of the Activator “taps or nudges” the joint open. Patients describe feeling a tapping sensation on their neck or back joints. It is very comfortable. This procedure utilizes the least amount of force to open stuck joints and restore normal motion.

Activator technique is specifically utilized with patients who are uncomfortable or afraid of manual manipulation. It is also used with patients who have severe pain and are unable or it is too uncomfortable to have pressure placed across the injured joints. It is also a great treatment for any patient with rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, in which damage to the joints, bones, and cartilage has altered normal joint movements.

Arthritic changes in the joint make it more difficult to adjust a joint with manual manipulation.  Arthritic patients might begin to feel some discomfort with manual chiropractic adjustments, even though they have been adjusted manually for many years. Activator technique is a great alternative to manual manipulation for joints with moderate or severe arthritis, as it improves joint motion without the torque or tension of manual manipulation.

Chiropractic Adjustments get Stuck Joints Moving

spine-facet.JPG The end goal of a chiropractic adjustment is to restore normal motion between joints in the body. Joints in your neck or back can become very painful when they are stuck for prolonged periods of time. Stuck joints produce increasing stiffness and dull pain, and may even experience sharp pain with turning or twisting motions. Activator Technique is the gentlest chiropractic treatment for increasing joint motion and movement. The important goal of any chiropractic adjustment is to restore normal joint motion; it does not matter if it is accomplished with manual manipulation, Thompson drop, or Activator Technique. In the end, we just care that the joint is moving again and the pain is gone.