The coccyx, more commonly known as the tailbone, is a small, triangle-shaped bone that’s situated at the bottom of your spine. Three to five spinal bones make up the coccyx — it actually varies between individuals. Its main function is to serve as an attachment site for tendons, ligaments and muscles.
A coccyx injury is painful. Discomfort in your tailbone area can be the result of bruises, dislocation or a fracture of your coccyx bone. These injuries can come from a variety of different causes. Coccyx protection and injury prevention are the two most important factors in keeping your coccyx safe.
Primary causes of tailbone injuries are accidents that lead to trauma in your coccyx area. Coccyx injuries occur mostly in women because the female pelvis is broader, making the tailbone more exposed. Some common causes of injuries include:
- A fall where you land on your tailbone
- A direct blow to your tailbone
- Repetitive straining
- An injury or fracture that occurs during childbirth
The symptoms include pain and tenderness, but it’s also possible that the injury doesn’t show any external signs. You may have trouble with bowel movements that become straining and painful. The pain is worse when sitting for prolonged periods of time. If the symptoms worsen, contact your doctor or spine specialist to make sure the pain isn’t indicative of a more serious injury.
A tailbone injury can be painful and slow to heal. Treatment varies, based on the severity of your injury. A fracture may take anywhere from eight to 12 weeks to heal, and a tailbone bruise can still take about four weeks to heal. Your doctor may recommend steps for optimal coccyx protection once there’s a confirmed diagnosis. These steps include:
- Get lots of rest and relaxation. The more you rest, the quicker the injury can heal.
- Stop any physical activity that causes pain.
- Ice your tailbone area two to three times a day.
- Avoid sitting too often. Get up and move around
- Lie on your stomach while sleeping to take pressure off your tailbone.
- Use ibuprofen for pain relief when needed.
Going to the bathroom may be painful, so it’s recommended that you take stool softeners to lessen the pain and prevent constipation. As the pain starts to go away, continue to avoid sitting for long periods and be sure to apply ice after activity if any discomfort remains. Talk to your doctor if the pain gets worse or doesn’t go away.
Coccyx Protection and Injury Prevention
Most tailbone injuries are accidental and usually can’t be avoided. Coccyx protection starts with recognizing when you might be in a situation, such as playing contact sports, that could lead to a coccyx injury. Wear proper padding to prevent a tailbone injury. Pay extra attention when you’re walking on slippery surfaces, such as an icy sidewalk in the winter.
Take the proper steps to care for your tailbone after an injury and do what you can to prevent any further injury. Your medical doctors and physical therapists at the Southeastern Spine Institute can provide you with additional suggestions to improve your coccyx protection so you can maintain your active lifestyle and be pain-free.