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A Bipartisan Touch : Chiropractor in the Assembly Brings Relief to Colleagues


SACRAMENTO — The Democrat grasped the Republican by the head and delivered a swift twist to the neck.

Pop. Crunch.

"Feels good," pronounced Assemblyman Ted Weggeland (R-Riverside).

Elementary, said Assemblyman Martin Gallegos (D-Baldwin Park). "Subluxated third and fourth cervical vertebrae." Translation: A couple of spinal bones slightly out of alignment.

Gallegos, the Legislature's first and only chiropractor, was twisting necks where other politicians only twist arms.

Using a folding treatment table in his Capitol inner office, Gallegos has pressed, probed and popped the body parts of fellow members since his election to the Assembly in 1994. His San Gabriel Valley practice remains in the hands of partners.

The chiropractor-legislator cheerfully ministers to lawmakers, staff members, Democrats, Republicans, whoever asks, whoever has the need.

Here was Weggeland, for example, who has voted against Gallegos' bills on the Assembly Health Committee where they both serve, offering his stiff neck last week to the healing hands of his partisan rival for the first time.

Politically and monetarily, Gallegos said, the service is free. He estimated that he has treated 12 to 15 Assembly members, at least half of them Republicans.

"Strictly professional," he said as his fingers probed the nape of Weggeland's neck, checking for the telltale tightness signaling a misaligned vertebra. It's one thing for an opponent to rise on the Assembly floor to do legislative battle, he said, but with the patient on the table, "partisanship takes a low priority."

He says it's something he was trained to do, and wants to continue. Members oblige, he says, by "coming to me: 'Marty, my neck, it's killing me.' But then, too, I might notice someone rubbing their neck and I go to them," suggesting a date with the folding table.

"I've treated people in airports, even on the Assembly floor--some finger acupressure to relieve stiffness--and in the members' lounge."

But on this day, while limbering up fellow legislator Weggeland, Gallegos was in his smallish office where "I just move the coffee table," unfold the treatment table and, voila, the doctor is in.

"When I press here, what do you feel?" Gallegos asked.

"It seems tender there," the patient replied.

Weggeland, 32, said he thinks he felt the first strain while climbing up a porch, and again while jogging.

A few more questions, a few more probes and Gallegos was ready.

"Just relax," he said.

With Weggeland's head gripped firmly in both hands, Gallegos administered a slight but quick swiveling motion to the right, which caused a soft, crunchy popping sound . . . then to the left, another pop . . . and he was done.

A day later, Weggeland said he felt good and felt grateful--but left no doubt that he would still vote against Gallegos if need be.

Gallegos has received campaign contributions from chiropractic sources totaling at least $17,800 since 1994, according to the watchdog group Common Cause.

He has legislated on behalf of chiropractors and others in health treatment fields, but sparingly, records show, and he seems to have avoided the lobbying battles that flare up between chiropractors and physicians.

Last year he steered a bill to passage that he said prevents insurance companies from paying nonprofessional rates when health treatment experts, including chiropractors, testify at trials.

This year, according to a Republican analysis of Democrat Gallegos' bills, nothing he is advocating in more than a dozen health-related measures he has introduced would benefit chiropractors directly

Gallegos has sponsored an Assembly resolution (ACR 31) recognizing the "significant contributions" made by chiropractors to the "health and welfare" of Californians.

The resolution passed in May 1995, becoming an official proclamation of the Legislature, by unanimous vote of both houses.

Meanwhile, Gallegos continues donating his skills to fellow members, mostly for minor complaints on and off the folding table.

Occasionally, he said, members bring to him more serious complaints such as, say, a pain in the sacroiliac, or pelvis-spine joint. For that, said Gallegos, it's a date with the folding table "for sure."

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