Whoopi Goldberg returned to The View on June 29 after being absent from the show for a week, which left viewers wondering if something happened to her. Whoopi gave an update on her health and shared that she was “laying in a hospital room” and is now using a walker due to sciatica pain.
“I was out because I was dealing with something called sciatica, which is basically a bulging disc in your back and it impacts the sciatic nerve, which sends pain down your leg,” she explained.
Sciatica is a symptom of a problem with the largest nerve in the body, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Your sciatic nerve controls the muscles in the back of your knee and lower leg and gives you feeling in the back of your thigh, part of your lower leg, and the sole of your foot. Sciatica, which usually only occurs on one side of the body, typically starts in the lower back before extending down to the leg, calf, foot, and even toes.
WELCOME BACK, WHOOPI! ❤️ Our @WhoopiGoldberg returns to @TheView after suffering from sciatica and shares about her recovery. https://t.co/f8u2wbJuik pic.twitter.com/cqOW6sbRvQ
Whoopi joked it was like a “bad boyfriend” who came back to “mess with me.” She said it was “impossible” for her to move her leg, and the pain she experienced was “really horrible.”
Symptoms can vary from person to person, but the hallmark sign of sciatica is pain that radiates from your lower spine to your butt and then down the back of your leg, according to the Mayo Clinic. The discomfort can also vary from a mild ache to a sharp, burning feeling or even excruciating pain.
Most experts believe sciatica is linked to aging, but that’s not necessarily true, says Neel Anand, M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles. “It can actually occur in people of all ages,” he says, even in those in their 20s. A ruptured disk in your back, narrowing of the spinal canal (a condition called spinal stenosis) or an injury like a pelvic fracture can all lead to sciatica. Many times though, it’s tough for doctors to figure out the root cause.
“I have a walker, which kind of freaks me out. I didn’t know that I needed it,” Whoopi said. But now it’s like her “new best friend” after she’s seen how much it can help her.
“Using a walker is not the standard of care, but some people like to use it,” says Anil Nanda, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Some people like the security of the walker because the pain can be so intense that they fall.”
Depending on the cause of your sciatica, it’s entirely possible to have an episode once and then be OK, says Medhat Mikhael, M.D., pain management specialist and medical director of the non-operative program at the Spine Health Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA. Treatments vary from OTC meds and gentle stretches to steroid injections and physical therapy.
Preventive measures are also key to keep future sciatica issues from happening. “Exercise regularly to help keep your spine strong, maintain good posture while you’re in a seated position, and use good body mechanics if you stand for long periods or do a lot of heavy lifting for work,” Dr. Anand says. “Though it is impossible to completely eliminate your sciatica risk, understanding that a painful episode is likely short-lived can go a long way to putting your mind at ease when one decides to strike.”
Wishing Whoopi a speedy recovery!
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