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SWIMMERS ATTEST, ROLFING LINES UP BODY
Published: Sunday, June 6, 2004
FEATURES - LIFE 01I
By Mark Ellis
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
When it needed a tuneup, the U.S. synchronized-swimming team called a Columbus body mechanic.
Michael Lucas has helped shape the team members who will travel to the Summer Olympics in Greece.
''They're incredible athletes,'' said the North Side resident, 50. ''And they have repetitive-motion things just like everybody else. They have low-back issues. . . . They use their arms a lot to maintain balance in the water.''
Lucas aids swimmers in managing pain and maintaining flexibility through a technique known as Rolfing.
''We sought his work because we see the benefit of body work in athletes,'' team director Linai Vaz DeNegri said from Santa Clara, Calif. ''Everything should be in sync -- body and mind.''
Rolfing resembles massage, with a few differences: The client helps move the body, and the practitioner doesn't use oils or lotions.
Developed about 50 years ago by Ida Rolf, the technique centers on body alignment and gravity, Lucas said.
The body of a person with an injury, chronic pain or a repetitive-strain ailment tries to compensate for its damaged parts.
Lucas should know.
He discovered Rolfing in 1993 after he fractured his pelvis in a 20-foot fall while designing an exhibit at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
"To this day I'm thankful I lived and that I'm not paralyzed,'' he said.
Then a marathoner, he recovered enough to run after four months.
Yet his body, he said, was out of alignment: While running, he injured his right foot by tearing a band of tissue, the plantar fascia, that helps form the arch.
The pain was "indescribable.''
A massage therapist suggested Rolfing.
"Within three or four months, I was running again and I was pain-free,'' Lucas said. "What I really wanted to do was do for others what was done for me.''
Making a midlife career change, he enrolled at the Rolf Institute in Boulder, Colo., to become one of about 1,500 certified Rolfers.
He has worked full time since January 2000 at the Columbus Polarity Center on the North Side.
Rolfing generally involves 10 90-minute sessions, rarely covered by medical insurance, each in the $80-to-$100 range.
With changed patterns of motion during walking or running, "You've gotten rid of your problem,'' Lucas said.
The focus is on the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds the bones, joints and muscles.
"It's the blueprint of the body,'' he said. "It's as viscous as water in its healthy state and as strong as spun steel when it gets gunked up.''
Rolfers manipulate the fascia with their hands and elbows, using deep, slow pressure.
One client, George Korpi, had back pain so strong that he could drive a car only about as far as he could drive a golf ball -- and he quit golfing in August.
He also couldn't sit comfortably, which forced him to watch television while standing.
Physical therapy and chiropractic didn't help.
An orthopedic specialist recommended spinal surgery, which Korpi declined.
So the retired educator turned to Lucas.
"I've had no back pain since I went to him,'' said Korpi, 66, of Upper Arlington. "I'm back carrying my (golf) bag.''
Lucas "pushes down on that muscle, and he doesn't go fast -- down the full length of it.''
Korpi has begun stretching exercises suggested by Lucas, adjusted his gait and discarded custom-made insoles.
The patient found the Rolfer through Mary Jo Ruggieri, the former Ohio State synchronized-swimming coach -- on whose team daughter Carol swam -- and founder of the Columbus Polarity Center.
Ruggieri also referred Lucas to the U.S. team.
In the past two years, he has traveled with the swimmers to Spain and Switzerland for competitions.
He won't assist the team in Athens because of credentials limits, Vaz DeNegri said.
Although the Rolfing treatment doesn't work for everyone, Lucas said, about 70 percent of his clients benefit.
"It's like working with a three-dimensional, holographic puzzle. In a way, I look at it as an art form.''
Those who Rolf
Among the Rolfing practitioners in central Ohio:
* Michael Lucas, 614-299-9438 [Now Michael Loukas 263-3739]
* Lisbeth Johnson, 614-267-4286
* Austin McElroy, 740-587-1553
* Larry Stone, 614-268-1557
* Michael Waller, 1-800-529-6136
Those who get Rolfed
Among the celebrity Rolfing clients:
* Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics general manager and former professional basketball player
* Charles Barkley, pro-basketball commentator and former player
* LeVar Burton, actor
* Mario Lemieux, pro hockey player
* Ivan Lendl, former pro tennis player
* Willie Nelson, singer-songwriter
* Elvis Stojko, figure skater
Source: The Rolf Institute
Illustration: Photo appeared in newspaper, not in the archive.
caption: (1) FRED SQUILLANTE | DISPATCH
Michael Lucas applies pressure to the leg of Victoria Glimcher.
(2) FILE PHOTO
Former NBA player Charles Barkley, who enjoys Rolfing
(3) FRED SQUILLANTE | DISPATCH
Michael Lucas uses hands and elbows in applying the Rolfing technique to client Victoria Glimcher.
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