Adele collapses backstage during a recent Las Vegas residency concert, possibly due to her sciatica

By Stephanie Srakocic | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published September 13, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Singer Adele, who has sciatica and other chronic pain conditions, collapsed backstage during a recent performance.

  • Touring and performing puts musicians at risk of injury, with many famous singers suffering lifelong injuries.

During a recent concert, Adele revealed to a crowd of fans that she’d collapsed backstage and could not move on her own due to a sciatica attack. According to reports, Adele also told the audience that her team needed to pick her up from the floor. She then said she’d be taking a mid-show break to “‘rest [her] sciatica.’”[] 

Adele, 35, is currently performing as part of her residency at the Colosseum at Ceasers Palace in Las Vegas, NV, and has talked multiple times about the health issues that have impacted her recent concerts and early years. The singer has been open about her recent diagnosis of sciatica, chronic pain, and spinal compression. In a November 2021 interview with The Face, Adele shared that she first suffered a slipped disc in her spine as a teenager.[][] 

“‘I slipped my first disc when I was 15 from sneezing,’” Adele told the magazine. “‘I was in bed, and I sneezed and my fifth one flew out.’” This injury led Adele to experience chronic back pain for over half her life.[] 

On New Year’s Eve, 2022, Adele was reportedly bent over onstage during a Las Vegas residency performance. At the time, she explained to the crowd that her sciatica was causing her to “‘wobble’” and “‘waddle.’” Adele gave more details later, saying that her L5 disc was “‘worn away.’”[] 

In addition to revealing her sciatica and damage to her L5 disc, Adele has shared that she experienced a slipped L6 disc in 2021.[] Having an L6 disc is rare, about 10% of adults have one.[]

In the same Face magazine interview, Adele stated that starting a regular exercise routine and strengthening her core helped to alleviate some of her chronic pain and reduce some of her flare-ups. However, it’s clear that Adele has been experiencing pain during her residency. It’s likely very difficult to manage the unpredictability of chronic pain while also managing a concert residency schedule.[] 

As internal medicine physician Reuben Nalda, MD, explains, “These flare-ups are when all the pain really occurs because, normally, when a person has sciatica, it’s not a damaged nerve or a problem with the nerve itself.” “It’s compression on that nerve. It’s when something in the spine puts pressure on that nerve. It’s common for that to be related to factors like poor posture, but things like stress and injury can also put pressure on the spine. When that pressure isn’t happening, the pain often isn’t there, but the longer you [put pressure] on the spine, the worse it tends to get,” Dr. Nalda adds. 

The physical toll of touring and concert schedules 

Adele is far from the only musician to perform while managing a painful condition. In fact, for many notable musicians, touring and performing have led to serious injuries and permanent physical conditions. For instance, in 2020, Madonna canceled a string of concerts due to pain from injuries sustained while touring; Patti Smith has experienced chronic neck pain since falling off a stage in 1977.[][] 

Dave Brooks, a journalist who covers concerts for Billboard, told The Guardian that the nature of touring can lead to this sort of injury and body damage:  “‘The fact is, it’s really hard to tour. It’s terribly hard on your body and mentally difficult too.”[]

Musicians are also always at risk of overuse injuries and associated pain. Statistics vary, but research shows that between 60% and 90% of professional musicians suffer musculoskeletal pain. Stars who add elements such as dance or stunts to their performances increase the stress put on their bodies—and the risk of pain. Often, when one thinks of celebrities suffering serious injuries, athletes come to mind. There is, of course, good reason for this, but musicians are also at increased risk that is unique to their industry.[]

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