First Lady Sidelined By Pinched Nerve

ABC News Jon Garcia Reports: First Lady Laura Bush, one of the President's most faithful traveling companions, has cancelled her trip to Australia with him early next month because of a pinched nerve, White House officials announced Sunday.

Mrs Bush suffered the painful injury earlier this spring while she was hiking in Zion National Park in Utah, her spokeswoman, Sally McDonough, said.

"The nerve is in her neck area and it is uncomfortable," said McDonough. Asked if the First Lady was taking any medication for the pain, McDonough replied, "none that I'm aware of."

The First Lady has been undergoing physical therapy for the injury under the care of White House doctors. Though she was able to travel to Africa in June, those doctors now recommend Mrs. Bush sit this trip out because of the long hours of the flights to and from Australia, McDonough said. Mrs. Bush called the wife of Australian Prime Minister John Howard yesterday to send her regrets.

The White House had not disclosed the injury previously because it had not affected Mrs. Bush's public schedule. Until now.

McDonough says the doctors' recommendation to curtail travel applies only to long, international flights. Her regular domestic schedule should not be affected, she said.

President Bush is scheduled to visit Australia for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on Sept 8 -9.

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