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Dr. Arlan Fuhr Discusses Activator Safety and Efficacy at Symposium

Arlan Fuhr, DC (1961) is the co-inventor of the Activator Method, the world’s most widely used chiropractic adjusting technique. At the 2019 Logan University Spring Symposium, Dr. Fuhr presented the many research studies that have confirmed the Activator’s safety and efficacy for spinal manipulation.

Dr. Fuhr has always believed in the necessity of research to back up chiropractic claims. “Data always wins, and if you don’t have data, it’s called hall talk,” he said. The first prominent study took place in 1985 with funding from the National Institutes of Health; the Activator is the first and only chiropractic technique or instrument to receive an NIH grant.

Subsequent studies followed. Research partners included prestigious medical schools such as Baylor College of Medicine’s Bio-Innovations Laboratory. One interesting finding of these studies was that a 140 Newton (N) Activator thrust will move a bone 0.3 to 1.6 mm, while a 540 N manual thrust results in 1.1 mm of movement. The Activator achieves equal or greater movement than a manual thrust with far less force through two factors:

  • Speed: The Activator delivers a thrust up to 200 times faster than a manual adjustment, according to a 1999 study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
  • The ideal wave form: The frequency of the ideal wave form is fast enough to stimulate mechanoreceptors and propagates more easily through biological tissue. “Enhancing the frequency spectrum of the Activator device toward an ideal wave form allows us to create more bone movement with less force,” said Dr. Fuhr. Each iteration of the Activator has gotten closer, with the Activator I achieving 35{8b9901aebceb0a3eec0a79b3f3654469c0b087e871156feadcbd77a99af0e60d} of the ideal wave form and the Activator V, the latest iteration, achieving 94{8b9901aebceb0a3eec0a79b3f3654469c0b087e871156feadcbd77a99af0e60d} of the ideal wave form.

During his presentation, Dr. Fuhr also discussed research on the safety of chiropractic for pediatric patients, specifically a 2015 proposal published in the Journal for Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. The proposal relies upon two assumptions, Dr. Fuhr explained. One, that chiropractic clinicians are able to measure the force and speed of each manual thrust and, two, that force and speed are the only two thrust profile parameters. This is achievable through use of the Activator. “In the laboratory setting, the Activator V performs the most consistent, despite operator experience level,” said Dr. Fuhr, noting one of many points supporting the Activator’s use with pediatric patients.

The proposal provides the following guidelines for cervical spine loading by age: no more than 20 N in children 0 to 23 months, 85 N for children 2 to 8 years old, 135 N for patients ages 8 to 18 and 155 N for adults. Dr. Fuhr stressed that with patients young and old alike, just one thrust per contact point is typically needed. “Less is more—people are doing too much to the body,” he said. “Do less to the body and let the body do the work.”

Dr. Fuhr wrapped up his presentation with a brief overview of research showing the Activator is effective in reducing IVF inflammation-induced thermal hyperalgesia, mechanical allodynia and hyper-excitability of sensory neurons. This research comes from a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, “WNT signaling underlies the pathogenesis of neuropathic pain in rodents.”

He also discussed research recently accepted for publication in Calcified Tissue International on the Activator’s safety when used on osteoporotic patients. “Our intention is to publish in journals not related to chiropractic because we want chiropractic to be known by other disciplines, such as rheumatology and orthopedics,” Dr. Fuhr said.

Finally, he shared his goals for improving accessibility for the modern learner by virtualizing Activator training materials. The Activator Institute VT is now available worldwide, with plans to have training materials available in multiple languages.