To determine the dynamic force-time and force-frequency characteristics of the Activator Adjusting Instrument and to validate its effectiveness as a mechanical impedance measurement device; in addition, to refine or optimize the force-frequency characteristics of the Activator Adjusting Instrument to provide enhanced dynamic structural measurement reliability and accuracy.


An idealized test structure consisting of a rectangular steel beam with a static stiffness similar to that of the human thoracolumbar spine was used for validation of a method to determine the dynamic mechanical response of the spine. The Activator Adjusting Instrument equipped with a load cell and accelerometer was used to measure forces and accelerations during mechanical excitation of the steel beam. Driving point and transfer mechanical impedance and resonant frequency of the beam were determined by use of a frequency spectrum analysis for different force settings, stylus masses, and stylus tips. Results were compared with beam theory and transfer impedance measurements obtained by use of a commercial electronic PCB impact hammer.


The Activator Adjusting Instrument imparted a very complex dynamic impact comprising an initial high force (116 to 140 N), short duration pulse (<0.1 ms) followed by several lower force (30 to 100 N), longer duration impulses (1 to 5 ms). The force profile was highly reproducible in terms of the peak impulse forces delivered to the beam structure (<8% variance). Spectrum analysis of the Activator Adjusting Instrument impulse indicated that the Activator Adjusting Instrument has a variable force spectrum and delivers its peak energy at a frequency of 20 Hz. Added masses and different durometer stylus tips had very little influence on the Activator Adjusting Instrument force spectrum. The resonant frequency of the beam was accurately predicted by both the Activator Adjusting Instrument and electronic PCB impact hammer, but variations in the magnitude of the driving point impedance at the resonant frequency were high (67%) compared with the transfer impedance measurements obtained with the electronic PCB impact hammer, which had a more uniform force spectrum and was more repeatable (<10% variation). The addition of a preload-control frame to the Activator Adjusting Instrument improved the characteristics of the force frequency spectrum and repeatability of the driving point impedance measurements.


These findings indicate that the Activator Adjusting Instrument combined with an integral load cell and accelerometer was able to obtain an accurate description of a steel beam with readily identifiable geometric and dynamic mechanical properties. These findings support the rationale for using the device to assess the dynamic mechanical behavior of the vertebral column. Such information would be useful for SMT and may ultimately be used to evaluate the [corrected] biomechanical effectiveness of various manipulative, surgical, and rehabilitative spinal procedures.

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 Feb;22(2):75-86. [PMID:10073622]

Author information: Keller TS, Colloca CJ, Fuhr AW. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Vermont, Burlington, USA.

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