The Coccyx or Tailbone is a small triangular bone that consists of four fused vertebrae that lies at the bottom of the spine and is curved like a hawk’s beak.
The coccyx is an attachment site for muscles, ligaments and nerves. When sitting the coccyx supports and stabilises the human body.
Coccydynia or tailbone pain can be caused by many conditions, but sometimes the cause of the pain is never known.
Injury to the coccyx can result in a fracture, dislocation or bruising. This can be caused during childbirth, a direct blow to the area such as during sports activities, landing hard on the area in a seated position and repetitive straining such as cycling.
Tailbone pain can vary from one person to the next depending on the injury caused. This could be a sharp or stabbing pain to a dull throbbing ache. The pain can last anything from a few weeks to months.
There are several things that we can do ourselves to help manage the pain, allowing us to get on with our day to day life more comfortably.
- Over the counter painkillers may help with the pain.
- Wear comfortable non-restrictive clothing.
- Try to keep mobile as much as possible, as the pain will allow.
- Try a coccyx cushion. These are designed to relieve the pressure on the coccyx area when sitting.
- Try applying cold and warm packs to your coccyx area. Frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel make an ideal cold pack!
- Sitting to open your bowels may become a problem. This can then lead to constipation. To help with constipation, drink more water and eat more fibre. If needed laxatives are available over the counter.
- If the pain is persistent or worsens seek medical intervention.
Sometimes a simple painkiller may not be enough, and your GP may prescribe alternative treatment.
- Stronger painkillers
- For people who do not like taking medication or want to take as few drugs as possible, a TENS Machine may be an alternative. A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) applies electric stimulation that interferes with pain signals from the coccyx to the brain.
For coccyx pain that is not helped by non-surgical treatment and/or self-help, surgery may be recommended. Surgery in which the tailbone is removed is called a Coccygectomy.
Be tail aware look after your coccyx!
Wendy Attew, Senior Moving and Handling Consultant