Although The Incredible Hulk went off the air in 1982, Ferrigno is still recognized as the man behind the green super-human with bulging biceps. And while he doesn’t routinely don body make-up anymore, Ferrigno continues to focus on physical prowess as a fitness trainer and consultant, a passion that was derailed when one of the world’s strongest men developed chronic pain from plantar fasciitis.

“People who don’t understand this condition would say things like, ‘Why are you complaining about your feet?’” Ferrigno recalls. “But this is a chronic, very painful condition. I had a hard time even walking. I would go maybe 50 feet and then my brain would start signaling pain, pain, pain.” Born Louis Jude Ferrigno in Brooklyn, New York on November 9, 1951, Ferrigno’s journey toward becoming one of the most recognized superheroes of all time began with a devastating loss. Several severe ear infections as an infant left him with an 80 percent hearing loss that wasn’t diagnosed until he was three years old. Challenges he faced from the hearing loss would prompt Ferrigno to embrace physical fitness and training throughout his lifetime; some challenges began in response to teasing from schoolmates.

“I threw myself into athletics—weight lifting and bodybuilding,” Ferrigno says. “Being bullied when I was young, I used the pain in the gym to release my anger and fear in order to become stronger.”

louferigno22Fighting Pain, Training to Stay Strong

Always a believer in strength through training, Ferrigno tried a variety of exercise techniques and training equipment to circumvent his pain when he developed plantar fasciitis. He also received cortisone injections, experimented with different support shoes and tried walking on the treadmill at a “significant” angle to build strength—all to no avail. “My doctor said mine was the worst case of plantar fasciitis anyone had ever seen,” Ferrigno says. “And the pain affected my attitude about everything. I didn’t want to be a person who had to take medications all the time. I just wanted to live a normal life.”

New Pain-relieving Technique

Ferrigno eventually underwent a new procedure called Tenex HealthTX, a minimally invasive procedure that cuts and removes damaged tissue in a targeted manner using ultrasound image guidance. Using local anesthetics, the procedure is completed on an outpatient basis, with most patients experiencing short recovery times and no need for further treatments. Ferrigno says the surgery made all the difference in his pain treatment strategy.

“Before the surgery, I was kind of depressed and felt like I had run out of choices,” he says. “My whole life is about working out and being in shape, and that had been taken away. Sure, I knew I was not going to be hiking up and down mountains on a regular basis at 63 years old, but it was to the point where any pressure at all irritated my feet, causing significant pain. The surgery took most of the pain away.”

Ferrigno Fit: the Hulk and His Daughter Help Families Stay Healthy

Ferrigno is back at his normal training routine and works out regularly, unimpeded by pain. He continues to work in movies and television, reintroducing himself to small-screen audiences on Donald Trump’s The Apprentice in 2012. Additionally, Ferrigno and his daughter, Shanna, operate Ferrigno FIT, an organization dedicated to helping people improve their lives through health and fitness. Shanna Ferrigno explains that her father’s experience with chronic pain helped to shape the program they developed.

“My father is the most incredible man that I know,” Shanna Ferrigno says. “He is humble and kind. I admire that through all of his pain he worked hard on making it better and not just taking a bunch of pain pills to deal with it.”

The Ferrigno FIT website includes video training, exercise tips, healthy recipes and inspirational advice on achieving maximum health. Shanna is the company’s chief executive officer and works with her dad to help other families develop healthy habits.

“I started a nonprofit for childhood obesity five years ago,” she says. “I noticed that by focusing mostly on the kids it let the parents off the hook.”

According to Shanna, Ferrigno FIT helps families understand what routines sabotage health. She says that parents may change what they feed their children once they understand more about calories and nutrition, but often continue to eat the same non-healthy foods themselves, leaving kids to feel as though they are being punished by eating well.

hulk4“A family needs to be a team,” she says. “It’s important to be active as a family and to eat healthily as a family. Parents need to realize that taking walks with your kids can be a great time to get to know about their day, fears and hopes.

“I started Ferrigno FIT with my parents, Lou and Carla,” she continues. “Through Ferrigno FIT, we have a summer event called ‘Hey There Muscles’ at the Santa Monica Pier. It’s a free, four-week workout series that runs through July, and it’s been a huge hit. My parents and I are active with our community and really enjoy running the event. We are active daily and work out four to six days a week.”

Shanna says that the activities she shares with her dad are a welcome change from when her father was dealing with chronic pain.

LOU1

“We Ferrignos are athletes, no strangers when it comes to injuries and chronic pain, and at Ferrigno FIT, we discuss the importance of preventative care,” she says.“My father has had many injuries over the years—two hips and two knees replaced is no joke. He is a warrior.

“But plantar fasciitis would leave him feeling defeated at the end of the day,” Shanna continues. “He has worked hard to work through it and was open to trying anything and everything. Through his determination and consistency, he has seen incredible improvement.”

Sheriff Ferrigno

Today, Ferrigno spends off-screen hours serving as a reserve deputy sheriff for San Luis Obispo County. Sworn in in 2012, he is proud to honor his father, who was a lieutenant with the New York Police when Lou was a boy. He has fond memories of going target shooting with his dad, and continues to shoot recreationally now. He and Carla enjoy “just being together and doing things like watching movies,” according to Ferrigno.

“Every day is a good day for me,” he says. While Ferrigno FIT encourages people to take steps toward optimal health through exercise, diet and smart habits, everybody’s favorite Hulk encourages anyone experiencing chronic pain to take equally proactive action. “Learn about your pain and the nature of the problem,” Ferrigno says. “Read as much as you can about your condition and possible treatments. Ask questions and get more than one opinion. Take action and don’t let things advance more than necessary.

“Exercise on a regular basis, train properly, and eat and sleep well,” he adds. “You really can deal with pain more quickly if you are in good shape.” {PP}