The tailbone (or the coccyx) is a set of three to five bones at the end of the spine. These small bones may or may not be fused together in some individuals. Tailbone injuries are not very common, but they can cause long-term discomfort if not treated properly.
Injuries to the Tailbone
The tailbone is most commonly injured after a hard fall directly on the bone. Women also are susceptible to tailbone injuries when giving birth, as pressure from the baby passing through the pelvis can cause bruising, and in rare cases, a fracture. If you sit in the same position for long periods of time, typically on narrow surfaces, you can sometimes place stress on the tailbone, also resulting in pain, bruising, and injury.
Symptoms of a Tailbone Injury
Tailbone injury symptoms include:
- Difficulty sitting in certain positions
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling in the tailbone area
- Bruising and redness in the tailbone area
If symptoms become unbearable, do not get better with home treatment, or are unusually persistent, you should consult your doctor.
Treatment for Tailbone Injuries
If you’re experiencing symptoms of tailbone injury, you should begin applying ice to the area within the first 48 hours following injury. The ice can be placed on the region of pain for up to 20 minutes several times a day. This can help reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling.
- Try not to sit on your tailbone, as it can cause more pain and swelling. Use either a doughnut-shaped or V-shaped cushion to take pressure off the area while sitting.
- For the first few days after your injury, avoid positions and activities that cause pain. Some people may have difficulty while having a bowel movement, so you can consider using a stool softener to help relieve this problem.
- Anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen and naproxen can be used to help reduce pain and swelling. Acetaminophen can also be used as an alternative for pain control. These medications should be used as directed.
Tailbone injuries tend to take weeks, even months to completely heal. Because of the coccyx’s unusual position of the injury, it is difficult to completely rest the area, requiring a longer recovery time. If your tailbone pain fails to improve with initial home treatment, it may be time to consult a doctor.
Depending on the cause of your tailbone pain, your doctor might recommend conservative treatments including physical therapy, injections, and oral medications. If your pain persists after trying conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery.
For more information on tailbone injuries, or to schedule an appointment with a UPMC Orthopaedic Care specialist, visit UPMC.com/Ortho.