One of the most common questions I get asked by prospective students when I’m giving my tours is some variation of “What is it like taking 30 credit hours a trimester? How do you do it?” My answer is that it’s like being in high school again. Most people went to high schools where they had 7-8 classes a day, about 50 minutes each, with 5 minutes of passing time in between. Yep, that’s Palmer too. With a few differences, of course. They are usually relieved to hear that there’s a lot less homework and assignments at Palmer, mostly just studying for exams, practicals, and the occasional quizzes. Not to say that you won’t be busy, but it’s definitely doable. Lets face it; this is a graduate school program to become a doctor. You don’t exactly expect or even want it to be easy. But hundreds of people graduate from Palmer every year, and they got through it—so can you!
That being said, it was a bit of a shock for me when I logged onto the Portal this trimester (our school website where we can view our schedule and grades) and saw that I am registered for 44 credit hours! That’s definitely a record setter for me. Don’t worry, 44 credit hours isn’t “normal”, even at Palmer—12 of those hours are elective hours that I voluntarily signed up for.
During the break between trimesters I took the Activator elective, where we learn the basics of Activator adjusting. The Activator is a handheld instrument that delivers a specific, low force adjustment (often called a “pogo stick”, “thumper” or “clicker” by patients). It involves protocols where the doctor checks the comparative lengths of the patient’s legs while playing “Simon says” with the patient (not really, but they’ll have the patient do things like “Put your left arm above your head”, “Shrug your shoulders”, and “Push your forehead into the table”, for example). The actions that the patient performs isolates specific spinal segments and causes a change in leg length if that area is misaligned and needs to be adjusted. It’s a pretty neat technique and a popular elective for students at Palmer to take.
Every Tuesday and Thursday evening for the first half of the trimester I’m taking the Thompson elective, which is a technique that utilizes the segmental drop table. Dr. Thompson was a Palmer grad who developed the table and adapted existing adjusting techniques for use with the table. The drop mechanism increases the speed of the adjustment so you don’t have to use as high of a force.
For four weekends during this trimester, all day Saturday and half of Sunday, I’m taking the NUCCA elective. NUCCA stands for the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association. NUCCA practitioners specialize in looking at the atlas, the top cervical vertebra in the spine, by taking a series of films that allows them to analyze the alignment of the atlas and formulate a specific listing for correcting that misalignment. The adjustment is done with the hands and is very low force. NUCCA is one of several “upper cervical specific” techniques that believe the atlas is the most important bone in the body to correct. The atlas surrounds the brainstem, and in the brainstem is the reticular formation, which is the control center that causes muscles in the body to extend. When the atlas is misaligned by even millimeters, it can put pressure on the brainstem and cause muscles along the spine to contract, and thus other bones to misalign, nerves to be irritated, and symptoms to appear. Correcting the atlas goes to the source of the problem and relieves the pressure on the brainstem, thus allowing the rest of the spine—and body—to correct itself. There are some who find it hard to believe that the atlas is the main place in the body that can be the source of so many symptoms, but upper cervical doctors have done a lot of research and get great results with their patients. If this interests you, I encourage you to read the book “what TIME, tuesday?” by James Tomasi about how a NUCCA adjustment saved his life.
So while Palmer keeps us busy with classes and electives, that’s one of the things that makes it such a great school. I feel so lucky that we can learn so many adjusting techniques, not only in the curriculum, but also as electives. In several of the electives I’ve taken, students and graduates from other chiropractic colleges have been in the classes taking them too because they weren’t offered at their colleges. There’s something for everyone at Palmer, whether you plan to adjust full spine, upper cervical specific, subluxation-based, tonal, hands-only, with an instrument….and if you have no idea what any of those things mean, that’s okay too, because you’ll learn—after 30+ credit hours a trimester, you’d certainly hope so!
Alissa Grover, 7th Trimester Student