One of my favorite aspects of this chiropractic program is the ability to improve our hands-on skills by heading over to Open Lab and practicing palpation and adjustments on fellow students.
Several professors are there to answer questions, provide suggestions, and improve our techniques. Other students in different trimesters are also fantastic guides as they can offer tips and help enhance knowledge and skills. I have learned so much in those one-hour open labs! It’s as if it’s a one-on-one tutoring session where you can just hone down practicing techniques, ask upper trimester students questions, and build confidence in your comfort doing specific adjustments. I have learned new ways to palpate that have improved my ability to feel for abnormalities and hypertonicities (and feel amazing for the patient).
Kyle prepares to perform hypothenar flexion restriction on Maria, as Dr. Freeman observes.
For any incoming Tri-1 students, my biggest advice is to go as often as you can to Open Lab even though you won’t learn adjustments just yet. As a Tri-1 student, I found it so helpful to watch other students get adjusted and learn from students adjusting others. They would describe what they were palpating and allow me to feel those exact spots. Palpation involves crucial tactile skills that need developing. As you continuously feel different backs, learn the curvature of the spine, and palpate landmarks, your fingertips begin to form a heightened acuity to vertebral restrictions, trigger points, hypertonic muscles, and more.
While other medical programs require several years before you actually practice your skills on people, I love that our program enables and encourages us to practice our techniques on other students (and professors) in a safe place under supervision. As a Tri-2 student, we are learning thoracic manipulation techniques/adjustments, which has been a lot of fun, but has definitely brought on moments of insecurities where I am not 100% what I am feeling, or when to do a specific adjustment.
After showing up to Open Lab, working on several students with assistance of professors or other onlooking students, the worries and insecurities wash away. We all know the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” Well, there is no better place to practice than Open lab!