Boggs All Cracked Up Chiropractor Makes Back Pain-Free

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By JOHN GIANNONE
Thursday, March 20th 1997, 2:02AM

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TAMPA He wasn't ready to walk away prematurely like Don Mattingly or Kirby Puckett did. But for Wade Boggs, the breaking point was within his grasp and the end of a brilliant career was in sight.

A degenerative disc problem that was 10 years in the making had depleted Boggs' strength, limited his lateral movement and severely tested his patience. Indeed, Boggs was reduced to part-time status during the Yankees' finest hour last October.

Finally, when the Yankees signed Charlie Hayes to a contract extension over the winter and opened the third base competition, Boggs who turns 39 in June knew it was time for drastic action.

Enter Frank Farkas.

When Joe Torre dispenses with the foregone conclusion of the spring and names Boggs the starter in the coming days, you can bet Boggs will make good on a debt of gratitude to a chiropractor who essentially saved his career.

"The muscle relaxants weren't working, the (steroid-based drug) prednisone wasn't working, nothing was working anymore," Boggs recalled. "My legs were like jelly. There was no explosiveness.

"I gave Craig an ultimatum. Either get me to the point where I can be pain-free and play to the expectations I have for myself and do the things I did in the past, or that's it . . ."

Boggs was determined not to endure another season like 1996. Even though it ended with Boggs winning his first World Series in 15 years and jubilantly riding atop a police horse, the lower back pain was so intense at times that Boggs almost was unable to breathe.

"In Detroit (in early September) was the worst," Boggs said. "It was unbearable, bar none. I never had pain in my life that bad. I was really scared because I thought I ruptured a disc."

The agony was the result of the compression of a disc after years of excessive pounding. That caused nerves inside the disc to touch and sent Boggs into spasmodic fits of pain even during the simplest off-field chores.

After painkillers, relaxants and even acupuncture failed to alleviate the problem and a series of tests showed no herniated or ruptured disc, Boggs and the Yankees were at wit's end.

Then in January, Boggs called upon Frank Farkas, a Tampa chiropractor, in a last-ditch effort to ease his pain."I kept waiting in the back of my mind for something to happen," Boggs said. "But I don't feel that stiffness in the entire midsection anymore. I haven't winced since I started this."

The task for Farkas was to stretch Boggs' vertebrae back to its normal length and prevent the nerves from coming together. Twice a week, Boggs undergoes chiropractic therapy he called "the medicine of manipulation."

Now, after proving his physical worth to Torre, Boggs sounds like the host of a cheesy infomercial for chiropractors. He has convinced Farkas to establish a network whereby Boggs can receive treatment in New York and every other AL city.

Gone are the trips to the whirlpool and the lower-back ice packs after the game. Now Boggs is able to leap from bed, spring from the dugout and swing without a hint of discomfort."Everyone says chiropractors are quacks, but I'm the torch-bearer here," Boggs said. "It's a sensitive subject with orthopedic doctors and trainers, because if it ain't torn or broken then there's nothing wrong."But when you invest millions and millions of dollars in players, you owe it to yourself to at least look at it."