Jillian Michaels Reveals Freak Accident Led to Secret Spinal Injury, Gruesome Year-long Recovery

Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels is opening up for the first time about the freak accident that led to a brutal year-long recovery from a spinal injury. The Biggest Loser alum, 49, slipped and fell in the spring of 2021 while walking into the bathroom to get wife DeShana Marie Minuto's attention, hitting her back on the edge of the bathtub. Michaels told PEOPLE Wednesday that it was "much more disturbing" than a flashier accident "because in a way, it wasn't preventable."

After six weeks of worsening lower back pain, Michaels's wife encouraged her to go to the emergency room when she began to feel "a lightning bolt" of pain down her leg. While doctors diagnosed her with some kind of "nerve impingement" and sent her home with pain medication, she continued to get worse. "I couldn't sleep," she explained. "The pain at night was so bad. I truly thought to myself, 'The only thing I think would be worse than this would be burns.' It was so crazy. I couldn't walk, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't stand. I was having to crawl on the ground. I'm like, 'My life is over.'"

After being shrugged off by doctors, Michaels found spine expert Dr. Stuart McGill, who diagnosed her with a fractured L3 vertebra, which she had made "so much worse" while trying to ease her back pain with stretches and traction. "What this guy basically has me doing is nothing," Michaels said of her treatment. "He literally is like, 'You're going to lay on your stomach. You're going to work on standing, you're going to walk as many steps as you can, you are going to lay back down and that's it.' That went on for a month."

Michaels continued to keep her injury a secret from the world, posting old content on social media as she was unsure what was happening next with her recovery. "I'm posting old videos from 20 years ago on social media," she said. "I'm not doing any press. I've disappeared off the grid. No one knows. Nobody has any idea as all of this is going on except my immediate circle. I'm like, 'I'm not telling this story until I know how this story ends.'"

Now, after a year of recovery, Michaels said she is living life close to how she was before she was injured. "I'm riding horses," said the mother of Lukensia, 13, and Phoenix, 10.  "I'm riding jet skis, I'm snowboarding. I'm just super, super careful."