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Melissa Gilbert Played with a Broken Back for Months - Then a Balcony Fell on Her Head

Joe Akins
Oct 11, 2021
10:00 A.M.
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Melissa Gilbert has graced the screen for more than three decades since she was a little girl, but ever since, she has been plagued by several health concerns which almost affected her career.


As the saying goes, "the show must go on." This has been Melissa Gilbert's mantra for more than three decades since she played Laura Ingalls on the famous sitcom "Little House on the Prairie."

Gilbert has been a mainstay in the movie industry since her appearance on the show, but alongside her long movie career, she has been through some unfavorable circumstances.

A picture of Melissa Gilbert speaking at an event. | Photo: Getty Images

A picture of Melissa Gilbert speaking at an event. | Photo: Getty Images



Gilbert is remembered fondly by many for playing the adorable Laura Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie" the character that made her a household name. However, her experience on the show was not always pleasant.

For a long time, the 57-year-old actress suffered from back pains while on the tour of the "Little House on the Prairie" musical. During this period, Gilbert was faced with grave discomfort as she fought through excruciating back pain.

Melissa Gilbert at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California in February 2019. | Photo: Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert at the 34th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California in February 2019. | Photo: Getty Images


Rather than leave the production for health reasons, Gilbert stayed and endured the horrifying pain. Shortly after the show, the tour ended, Gilbert met with a neurosurgeon, who told her that her back had been broken for months.

Speaking of the experience, Gilbert admitted that she prioritized her role as Ma on the musical over her health. She also noted that she decided that she would go to the ER if the pain got worse and she could not feel her legs.


Gilbert was 46 when she played a woman in her 20s on the musical, and although her acting skill was flawless, acting the role with a broken back earned her more praise.

After the show ended, she underwent surgery to replace a disc with a plastic implant and fuse a vertebra in her lower spine. She noted that her height had been affected by the broken back, but she didn't let it affect her performance on the show.

Her recovery took six months, after which Gilbert received the go-ahead to take more acting gigs. For her resilience and professionalism, Gilbert received the praises of her colleagues.



Unfortunately, that was not the end of Gilbert's many health scares. In 2012, Gilbert suffered an accident while appearing on "Dancing With the Stars."

The actress reportedly hit her head while performing a Paso Doble with her dance partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Shortly after the accident, the "When We Last Spoke" actress complained of dizziness.

At the end of the broadcast, Gilbert was hospitalized after what had been her best performance on the show. The day was going well for the actress and her partner until the unexpected fall happened.


According to reports, the partners had earned a cumulated score of 22 for their performance on that day, a result of which they were proud.

However, that was the end of their time on "DWTS" as Gilbert was wheeled off on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a hospital with about 20 minutes left on the show. Her concerned dance partner, Chmerkovskiy, followed her to provide support and comfort.

Initially, Chmerkovskiy and Gilbert had tried to work around her previously broken back. However, they couldn't recover from her fall. Gilbert would later return to full health with no cause for alarm.



Aside from being an actress, Gilbert also nursed political ambitions and decided to run for Congress in Michigan's 8th district. Even though Gilbert performed well on the polls, sadly, she had to end her campaign due to health issues.

She admitted that the decision to end her campaign was a tough call, but she had to heed her doctor's advice to withdraw and focus on her health. Her doctors explained that her health status made it almost impossible for her to fit into the demanding nature of running for office.


When one might start to think that was all, Gilbert sustained a serious injury when the balcony of a house she was renting in Studio City, California, collapsed over her head. The accident left the actress with a concussion and injuries to her neck.

Years later, Gilbert finally underwent surgery to fix all her injuries; the operation was successful, and the excited movie star shared pictures from her recovery with fans who were glad the dark days were over.

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