Little House on the Prairie Star Details Spinal Surgery Journey

For nine years between 1974 and 1982, television audiences tuned in to Little House on the Prairie, the series that chronicled the life of the Ingalls family. One of the much-loved stars of the show was Melissa Gilbert, who played the role of Laura — fans tuned in each week to follow her as she grew to maturity. More than forty years later, Gilbert’s fans are again following her progress, but this time it’s regarding her recent spinal surgery. It’s her fourth time seeking help for extensive damage, and in the star’s words, this time her operation was “wildly successful.”

The 56-year-old star has been keeping her fans current on her condition via her Instagram account and through interviews with PEOPLE Magazine, telling the publication that her back problems began decades ago and were complicated by two head and neck injuries that she suffered nearly ten years ago, in 2012. She had her first neck fusion surgery in 2001, then underwent a second repair and fusion surgery in 2010 for a broken back — an injury she sustained while performing in a musical production of Little House on the Prairie. In 2012 she suffered two injuries: first she hit her head and incurred a whiplash while competing in Dancing With the Stars, then months later ended up with a concussion and compression of two discs in her neck when the balcony of a house she was renting collapsed over her head.

In 2016 she had a third spinal fusion surgery to address neck pain at the point of her C6-C7 vertebrae, but that fusion failed and the hardware that was installed began putting pressure on the C7 vertebrae. Her surgeon determined in April of 2020 that the hardware was actually making a hole in the vertebrae, necessitating surgery within 6 months to prevent paralysis, but because of restrictions on surgery caused by the COVID-19, her surgery was delayed. Though the actress had hoped to wait until the pandemic had become less of an issue, she began to experience worrying symptoms, including tingling in her hand and constant pain, so she chose to move forward with the surgery.

For her fourth spinal surgery, Gilbert’s surgeon suggested that she have an artificial disc inserted in her spine rather than undergo another fusion that might lead to the need for additional fusion surgery in the future. Afterwards, she posted comments on her Instagram account indicating that the surgery had been a success. “Dr Bray was able to remove all the old hardware, shave off bone spurs causing numbness in my right hand and, and, and, he was able to give me the artificial disc!!!”

Though not all of us are professional actresses at risk for the kind of injury that Miss Gilbert suffered, spine damage can affect anybody. If you are suffering from back pain, our spine surgery specialists can provide you with the diagnosis and guidance you need to provide you with relief. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

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