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By Joan Reis Nielsen, Contributing Writer
Chiropractic care was established in 1895 as an alternative form of medicine to bring pain relief to patients with musculoskeletal disorders, especially concerning the spine.
Since then, chiropractic practice has been on a rocky road to mainstream acceptance, even including a famous conspiracy to destroy it that culminated in 1987 — but more on that later.
Meanwhile, let’s consider San Pedro’s modern chiropractor, Dr. Mary Ann Pirozzi. With a bachelor of science in human physiology and a minor in chemistry from California State University Long Beach, she went on to graduate from Cleveland Chiropractic College in Los Angeles, in 1996. Her career choice was not unusual or alternative. She was raised with parents who often brought members of her family to chiropractors for treatment. “They were just another type of doctor, like the dentist or the medical doctor that we saw regularly,” she said.
Pirozzi had quite a unique experience early on in her career.
“At 27 years old, I walked into the room to evaluate a new patient and I started performing the exam, asking him about his history,” she recalled. “Even though I introduced myself as Dr. Pirozzi, after a few minutes he looked at me and said ‘So when is the doctor coming in?’ I reiterated the fact that I was the doctor, and even though he was a little taken aback, he agreed to continue on with his treatment and left pleasantly surprised. He became a consistent patient after that.”
Pirozzi even refrained from putting her first name on the sign outside her office because she wanted patients to come in and see her without prejudices or preconceptions about her capability.
“I have always felt that women have to do things better and aim higher to gain respect in the professional arena,” she said. “Thankfully, I am always up to the challenge.”
Pirozzi’s practice focuses on the entire family, ranging from 3 to 83 years old.
“I do have a slightly higher percentage of female patients, but I think that may be because women know that I will be able to uniquely relate to what they are going through and understand specific issues they may be experiencing, and they gravitate towards that,” Pirozzi said.
The chiropractic technique she uses is called “diversified” because it incorporates many different techniques. Most of the time it will incorporate an osseous adjustment, which is an actual realignment of the spine. But for elderly patients, or those who are not able to tolerate an osseous adjustment, she uses non-force techniques like activator and trigger point therapy, along with soft tissue and therapeutic exercise. Her office also offers acupuncture, reflexology, hot stone and lymphatic massage and cranial sacral therapy. She has a state of the art Erchonia cold laser in her office that helps with pain, inflammation and various other conditions. She is also a certified Kinesio-Taping practitioner.
“In many cases, patients feel they just have to live with their pain, but I can actually help them correct the cause of the problem and feel better overall, even increasing their mental clarity and energy level,” Pirozzi said.
People live with pain for many years without any options except for many medications as strong as opiates, injections or surgery.
“So many patients come into my office and getting treatment from me is their first chiropractic experience,” she said. “I take that responsibility seriously and am always learning new techniques, acquiring new certifications and bringing in new technology to ensure they have a positive experience and improvement of their symptoms.
“There is joy in seeing patients go back to playing with their grandkids again, getting them back to work so they can provide for their family or helping them with sports injuries, so that they all can get back to doing what they enjoy, pain-free.”
Now back to that conspiracy.
In the Wilk vs. American Medical Association case, the AMA was convicted of conspiring to destroy the chiropractic profession entirely. After a legal battle that began in 1976, the AMA lost the final trial on Sept. 25, 1987.
At the time, trial Judge Susan Getzendanner issued her opinion that the AMA had violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act, and that it had engaged in an unlawful conspiracy in restraint of trade “to contain and eliminate the chiropractic profession.”
“[The] AMA had entered into a long history of illegal behavior,” Getzendanner said.
She then issued a permanent injunction against the AMA. The AMA brought appeal after appeal, even the Supreme Court refused to hear one and upheld the judge’s decision.
“In July 2014, The Journal of the American Medical Association recommended chiropractic as the first means of defense in back pain treatment,” Pirozzi said. “I also believe that the current opiate epidemic opens the door for chiropractic, by offering pain management that is safe, effective and cost efficient. It provides patients with treatment that can get to the root of their pain, versus just masking it temporarily with prescription medications.”