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Tailbone Pain and Injury

Treatment Tips for Tailbone Pain and Injury

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Updated May 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Victoria, British Columbia, USA
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Your tailbone (coccyx) is actually made up of several small bones that are located at the very end of your spinal column, below the pelvis (sacrum). The coccyx is made up up several segments called the coccygeal vertebrae. The number of segments, the curvature, and the movement of these bones can vary slightly between individuals, but most people have 4 segments that curve slightly inward. Because of its location, appearance and function, it is often referred to as the "tailbone." The coccyx is the point of attachment for various muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

What Is a Tailbone Injury?

In general, tailbone injuries are due to a direct fall onto the coccyx. The severity of the injury can range from a bruise to a fracture. Some sports, such as cycling or rowing, can increase the risk of coccyx pain due to repetitive pressure or friction on the coccyx. Nerve compression or a bone spur may also result in pain in the area of the coccyx.

Symptoms of a Tailbone Injury

The most common symptoms of a tailbone injury are tenderness and pain when sitting or applying direct pressure to the coccyx. Pain during sitting may increase while leaning slightly backward, due to increased pressure on the coccyx, or if sitting on a soft surface.

Pain during bowel movements is quite common. Visible bruising may often be seen over the tailbone.

X-rays don't always reveal a tailbone injury, but your doctor may take x-rays while you're in the standing and seated positions to assess the extent of the injury and note any alignment problems, dislocations or fractures of the tailbone.

Treating a Tailbone Injury

Most tailbone injuries heal on their own given time and self treatment. Because tailbone injuries can be painful, conservative home-treatment is used to reduce pain and help you avoid further injury as you heal.

Patients are advised to avoid long periods of sitting, so if you can stand during the day, that is recommended. If you must sit, sit on hard surface or lean forward to take the pressure of your tailbone. Some people sit on a "doughnut" cushion with a hole in the middle of it to relieve tailbone pressure during sitting.

Eating high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of water can help soften stools and make bowel movements easier.

Ice can be applied to the tailbone area for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day for up to 3 days after the injury. Your doctor may also recommend an over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, to reduce pain and inflammation.

For those in significant distress, a physician may prescribe stronger pain medications, or inject a local anesthetic into the coccyx to control pain.

Return to Sports After a Tailbone Injury

A bruised tailbone may take several days to weeks to completely heal. A fractured tailbone can take 4 to 6 weeks. In general, you should be able to return to activities slowly as you heal. A full return to sports may depend upon the sport you play, but you need to be able to sit, bend, walk without pain.

Preventing a Tailbone Injury

While not all tailbone injuries can be prevented, it's important to use the appropriate protective equipment and gear for your sports. The right padding can often reduce the risk of injuries to the tailbone.

Source

Tailbone Disorders. Medline Plus, MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine). [http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tailbonedisorders.html]. Last accessed April, 2010.

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