Edwards chiropractor Tom Palic uses cupping, lasers to keep patients moving
Special to the Daily
EDWARDS — When Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps dove into the pool at the Rio Olympics, many spectators wondered what the red, circular marks on his shoulders and back could be — polluted water, alien abduction?
It was nothing quite so sinister.
Phelps and many other decorated Olympians, including skier Ted Ligety, employ the ancient art of cupping, a Chinese therapy in which cups — heated, as in Phelps’ case, or not — are used to increase blood flow and circulation to the skin.
Closer to home, Edwards-based chiropractor Tom Palic uses cupping — sans heat — combined with more modern techniques, such as lasers and Graston, to help patients gain mobility and decrease pain. The premise for incorporating the old and the new, Palic explained, is to offer a one-stop shop, with natural, holistic and noninvasive treatments as alternatives to surgery, or when needed to complement post-surgical care.
“People are finding more uses for cupping besides increasing blood flow, which is how it originated,” Palic said.
The modern approach to cupping breaks up fascial restrictions by creating suction with the cups and working with the muscles to increase range of motion. Fascia is the thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle or other organ.
“When there is chronic tissue inflammation, the body tries to stabilize the joint, and this becomes a problem over time because the tissue keeps building up,” Palic said. “Elderly people, who are hunched over, are often supported by the fascia, which keeps them from falling, but at the same time, it is keeping them from standing upright.”
Loosening up with lasers
The Erchonia cold lasers Palic incorporates with the cupping help decrease inflammation, in addition to activating muscles that are turned off on the neurological level.
“Erchonia is one of the few lasers that is not high temperature. It is based on frequency, so it has very low wattage,” Palic said. “It stimulates the cells with frequency, which causes vibration and is not harmful to the tissues you do not want to destroy.”
A frequent chiropractic lecturer on lasers, Palic elaborates on how they increase the healing process, as well as aid recovery for burn patients.
“It can help heal scars from plastic surgery, and stem-cell labs use lasers to help cells proliferate,” he said.
The cupping and lasers are pain free, but some might not think the same of Graston, which can cause minor discomfort. Palic incorporates all three, if he deems necessary. Graston Technique uses stainless steel instruments, which although they may look like butter knives, are specifically designed to break up fascia and again decrease inflammation and scar tissue.
“Look, you can buy these things on Amazon (cupping kits, lasers and Graston tools), but if you don’t know how to use them properly for different situations, it’s not going to do any good,” Palic said, laughing.
For the past 10 years, he has been working with laser companies and incorporating the methodologies in his chiropractic skill set, which later included the cupping and Graston techniques.
‘He fixes me’
Carmel McGuckin, of Edwards, has been seeing Palic for more than 10 years.
“He fixes me when I’m broken,” she said matter-of-factly. “I’m not the kind of person that goes to a chiropractor every week. I go in there when I’m broken, and I always leave there feeling better.”
Several of McGuckin’s friends also see Palic, and there is a lot of comparing of cupping rings, a chiropractic medal of honor.
“I had a chronic lower-back issue, and I kept rubbing the spot trying to loosen it up and it just kept getting worse. Tom used the cupping on me, and it worked right away,” she said.
McGuckin recently saw Palic for a neck issue.
“He did the cupping and scraping, (a term used for the actual Graston technique), and I left without pain,” she said.
“Forty percent of pain fibers live in the fascia,” Palic said. “Aches and pains that people feel after working out or a long day of standing on your feet are most often the fascia.”
Palic works with many local athletes and quite a few ski racers, including Ligety, whose posters autographed with words of thanks grace Palic’s office. He worked with Ligety post-surgery and used lasers to help the healing process, as his muscles were inhibited.
There are other post-surgery laser success stories combining allopathic and holistic medicine. One man who had a hip replacement had been in physical therapy for eight months and still could not lift his leg. The scar from the surgery was so adhered to the muscles that any movement was not possible. After 30 minutes of laser therapy, he could move his hip freely.
“The sooner people start laser treatment after the wound is healed and closed, the easier it is to prevent atrophy and further scarring because the scar is like an iceberg. You see the top but not how deeply it spreads down into the fascia. It is always weaved and tied into the muscles,” Palic said.
Scar tissue from surgery creates movement inhibition, but by using cupping, lasers and Graston technique, in addition to traditional chiropractic adjustments, Palic gets patients up and running or back to whichever sports they choose.