Michael Ricci (70-year-old retired businessman)

I had a chronic lower back problem all of my adult life up until two years ago. It all started when I was in the Air Force during the Korean War. A doctor told me that my left leg was shorter than my right, so I should wear a lift in my left shoe. When I did, the spasms went away.

However, a few years later, after I had left the Air Force, the spasms returned. When I consulted a civilian doctor, he said that my legs were the same length, and I should stop wearing the heel lift. But after I took out the lift, the problem only got worse. And that’s how it went for the next forty years, with my back getting weaker and weaker.

Then, in 1990, a chiropractor measured my legs with an X-ray machine and found that my left leg was in fact 91/2 millimeters shorter than my right one. After that, I wore a lift under the entire sole and heel of my left foot.

In 1997, while I was teeing off at a golf course, I got a back spasm and fell down in great pain. From that point on, doctors, physical therapists, and other body workers all tried to help me, but to no avail. One expert in stretching worked on me for nearly a year. That reduced the pain somewhat, but I still hurt all day and couldn’t sleep very well. In fact, I was a basket case.

One day, the stretching expert advised me to see his own personal trainer to increase my strength and mobility. I thought, why not? It might give me some quality of life. So I went to see Jerzy Gregorek, who is an Olympic weightlifter and coach. What he saw was a 6′-1″ 200-pound weakling, who could not walk up a flight of stairs without breathing heavily and who had to sit down to put on his pants because he had no flexibility. On top of that, I couldn’t raise my arms over my head, thanks to the extreme pain in my shoulder, and my back was always killing me.

Jerzy put me on a modified Happy Body program, doing light exercises on the floor. Gradually, he gave me more difficult exercises, and after six months, he started having me squat.

One day, while he was watching me squatting, he noticed that my left hip was higher than my right one. When I told him about the lift in my left shoe, he asked if one leg had been shorter than the other when I was a teenager. I said no. “Then your left leg is not shorter,” he said. “The problem must come from muscular imbalance. The muscles on one side must be too tight, and the ones on the other side too loose. That’s why it appears that one leg is longer than the other. Take out the lift.”

That night, I slept well for the first time in years. And in the morning, I was already feeling better.

Jerzy intensified my exercises even more, which increased my strength and flexibility, and my pain started to fade. I began to believe that I could actually have a life without pain. In fact, two years later, I now have no back problem at all. I can bend over to touch my toes with 180-pound weights in my hands, I can press 120 pounds from behind my head, and I can do the row with 250 pounds. In short, I feel terrific-like a young man. I wish I had learned about this when I was 30. I feel like I’ve found the fountain of youth.

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