The coccyx, or tailbone, is the triangular bony structure located at the bottom of the vertebral column. It is composed of three to five bony segments held in place by joints and ligaments. The medical term which means pain in the coccyx or tailbone area is Coccydynia. Although other medical issues such as sciatica, infection, pilonidal cysts and fractured bones may also mirror symptoms of an injured coccyx. Coccydynia is often associated with pain that worsens with constipation and may be relieved with bowel movement. According to Richard A. Staehler, MD pain can occur in the coccyx if an injury or some type of excess pressure on the area causes the bones to move beyond their normal very limited range of motion. Here we cover common causes and treatment of coccyx pain.
The three most common causes of injury to the coccyx are
- A fall directly on your tailbone
- A direct blow to the tailbone
- Repetitive straining or friction again the coccyx
When you least expect it and are caught off guard, a fall on your tailbone is most likely to happen. According to the New South Wales Fall Prevention Baseline Survey 2009 it was determined that most falls happen at home where we spend most of our time. Injury is more likely to happen in rooms or areas of the house you are in most often. Injury to the coccyx may occur during a fall in the bathroom or by slipping down the stairs wearing socks or by tripping on that little extra clutter around the house. However, you can injure your coccyx or tailbone on your vacation by falling off a horse or by slipping on the ice after a long day on the slopes. Although everyone slips and falls on occasion, you can help prevent falls and injury to your coccyx by maintaining proper health and getting regular exercise to improve your flexibility and balance.
Athletes and people who are actively involved in contact sports may also experience an injury to the coccyx through a direct blow to the tailbone. A direct blow to the tailbone caused by a ball, other player during game time or practice may result in a coccyx injury. Snowboarding, a sport in which you are likely to hit the ground hard may also result in injury to your tailbone. While not all tailbone injuries can be prevented, the proper use of padding and protective shorts/clothing may reduce your risk of injury and help prevent severe injury or damage to the coccyx.
Lastly, repetitive straining or friction against the coccyx may, over time, cause pain in your coccyx tail bone area. Activities that put pressure on your coccyx thereby causing injury to your tailbone may include rowing, bicycling and horseback riding to name a few. By varying your exercise program to include exercises on and off your tailbone you can help protect yourself from injuring your coccyx.
According to a recent Johns Hopkins Health Alert, an actual coccyx fracture is rare; instead, the injury usually bruises the bone or stretches ligaments in the area. In most cases of coccyx injury patients are treated with self-care techniques, but these symptoms require a visit to the doctor to rule out other possible causes. Injuries may result in a bruising, dislocation, or break of the coccyx and they may be slow to heal. Often, it hurts to cough, sneeze and even lay on your back. Because the female pelvis is broader most coccyx injuries occur in women.
The most common, non-surgical treatment for coccyx injuries is use of a specialized cushion with a cutout at the back under the coccyx since sitting on the affected area may put pressure on the area and aggravate the condition. The pain is generally worse when sitting for prolonged periods of time, or with direct pressure to the tailbone area. Other non-surgical methods for providing relief to an injured tailbone include the application of ice to the coccyx, use of an over-the-counter pain reliever, avoid sitting for extended periods of time, using proper posture when sitting, adding plenty of fiber to your diet to keep your bowel movements soft, and by spending some time in a hot tub or whirlpool.