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Activator Methods - Tests to Avoid

What is Activator methods technique?

Activator Methods Chiropractic Technique (AM) claims that leg-length analysis can determine when to adjust and when not to adjust the spine. The AM system is based on a concept of "pelvic deficiency (P.D.)" or "functional short leg".

According to advocates (those making money off this) short leg syndrome can be present even when a shorter leg can't be measured. To repeat- they claim short leg syndrome can occur even when legs are the same length! -Go figure-

How is a "functional short leg" detected?

A chiropractor holds the patient's feet in various ways while the patient lies facedown on an examining table to find where the alleged problem is located. Other parts of the body may be tested in various other ways. If any inequality or "imbalance" is found, the practitioner taps various points along the spine, pelvis, and body with a handheld, spring-loaded mallet [1] until the legs appear to be equal in length. This approach is not a method of spinal manipulation.

What is normal?

Slight variations of hip position or normal spinal muscle tension are probably responsible for the "imbalances."

Some people may have a difference in leg lengths with up to 2 centimeters (a bit under an inch) is considered normal. Persons with more pronounced leg length differences may develop back, hip and leg pain over time. However, chiropractic offers no definitive treatment when actual significant leg length differences to occur.

What claims have been made for AM?

Claims made by AM's leaders are not modest and include:

  • Protecting the body form disease, illness, and pain

  • Treating a wide variety of common health problems caused by dysfunction of "spinal joints"

  • Maintaining optimal health without drugs or surgery.

Why is Activator Methods bogus?

Leg-length tests have not been demonstrated to reliably give useful results or useful data. Extreme variation occurring among different examiners indicating the Activator doesn't really measure anything.

Despite this, many AM practitioners tell their patients that use of an Activator mallet is a "state of the art" procedure that replaces the "old" method of manual spinal manipulation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Properly performed spinal manipulation, whether done by a physiatrist, an orthopedist, an osteopath, or a chiropractor, is always done manually. Only chiropractors use an Activator mallet. Chiropractors who scare patients into believing that slight vertebral or pelvic misalignments are harmful to health are rendering a great disservice to their patients.

Despite this, the FDA has approved the Activator Adjusting Instrument for "chiropractic adjustment of the spine and extremities."


1. Keller TS, Fuhr AW. Chiropractic adjusting instrument. Patent No. 5,626,615, May 6, 1997.

For more detailed information visit:

"Activator Methods (AM)" @

This article, written by Samuel Homola, D.C, was the source for information provided here.  Dr. Homola, who lives in Panama City, Florida, retired in 1998 after practicing chiropractic for 43 years. His 12 books include:

Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism
: Home Treatment and Prevention
Muscle Training for Athletes.

He has also written many articles for magazines and journals, ranging from Cosmopolitan and Scholastic Coach to Chiropractic Technique and Archives of Family Medicine.


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