A tailbone or coccyx is the triangle-shaped bony structure that is located at the base of the vertebral column. It is comprised of 3-5 bony segments that are held in place by the joints and ligaments. A coccyx or tailbone injury can lead to pain and discomfort in the tailbone area. Always remember that these injuries can result to a dislocation, bruise or break. Even though they heal at a slow rate, majority of injuries to the tailbone or coccyx can be managed with conservative treatment options. A tailbone injury is quite common among women since the female pelvis is broader and more exposed.
Causes of tailbone injury
Majority of injuries to the tailbone are caused by direct trauma to the coccyx area.
- Direct blow to the tailbone area especially those that occur during contact sports.
- Falling on the tailbone in a seated position on a hard surface. This is considered as the most common cause.
- Injury or fracture during childbirth
- Repetitive friction or strain against the coccyx can lead to injury
- Less common causes include compression of nerve roots, bone spurs, local infections, tumors and injuries to other parts of the spine
Symptoms of tailbone injury
- Severe tenderness and localized pain that is felt in the coccyx area
- Pain is aggravated when sitting for extended periods or with direct pressure to the tailbone area
- In traumatic injuries, a bruise is visible in the affected area
- Painful bowel movements and straining
- Pain during intercourse in some women
When to seek medical care
If the individual has signs and symptoms of tailbone injury or discomfort that is unexplained in the coccyx area, it is best to contact a doctor. It might be required for the doctor to decide if the injury is traumatic or if the pain is caused by other serious problems.
Injuries to the coccyx region rarely require a visit to the emergency department. Nevertheless, if the individual could not get in touch with his/her doctor or concerned about the symptoms, it is best to go directly to the emergency department at the nearest hospital.
Treatment of tailbone injury
Injuries to the coccyx can be extremely painful but first aid measures at home are aimed at controlling pain while at the same time avoiding further irritation to the coccyx.
- Avoid sitting down for extended periods. When seated, instruct the individual to sit on hard surfaces and alternate sitting on every side of the buttocks. Additionally, lean forward and direct the weight away from the tailbone.
- Provide over-the-counter medications for pain to relieve pain.
- In case of traumatic injuries, apply ice to the tailbone for 15-20 minutes, 4 times in a day for the initial days after the injury.
- Provide foods that are rich in fiber to soften the stools while at the same time prevent constipation.
- Use a pillow or doughnut cushion to sit on. These cushions have a hole in the center to prevent the tailbone from getting in touch with the flat surface.