It only takes a second or two to fall and land on your lower back. Most of the time, the resulting sharp, intense pain in the affected area is a temporary inconvenience. However, if your tailbone, which is the bone at the very end of your spine, produces discomfort that lingers or becomes worse over time, it may be fractured. Here’s what you can do about it.
Think of tailbone pain (coccydynia) as being similar to what you’d experience after stubbing your toe. The discomfort is intense and then becomes duller as the toe heals, which is similar to what normally happens when a tailbone is bruised but not broken.
Most of the time, it’s more likely you have a bruise and not a break since the tailbone is fairly strong and isn’t easy to fracture. However, if the resulting discomfort, which may be worse when sitting or making certain movements around the lower back and hips, persists, a doctor can determine if the tailbone is bruised or broken with the following methods:
If a tailbone is fractured, initial treatment usually involves conservative remedies. The most important thing is to limit direct pressure on the tailbone as the fracture heals. Donut pillows can help with such efforts, as can wedge-shaped and U or V-shaped pillows.
Also, avoid sitting on hard surfaces as much as possible. If you must sit at work, make more of an effort to stand as much as possible, or take periodic breaks to ease stress on your tailbone.
Watching your posture can also help. If you sit firmly on your bottom with your back straight, you’re less likely to be putting direct pressure on your tailbone. Non-surgical recommendations typically include:
Surgery is rarely necessary for a fractured tailbone. However, it may be an option if you’re not seeing any improvements after several weeks of conservative care. Additional image tests are usually done prior to surgery to determine if a fracture has worsened or if the tailbone has shifted out of its normal position. Surgery may involve:
No human being can completely avoid falling. Still, you can be more cautious when walking on uneven or slippery surfaces. If you play sports, avoid direct impacts as much as possible to minimize hard falls. If you do fall and experience pain for longer than 48-72 hours, see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon.
Get in touch with The Spine Institute if you think you have a broken tailbone or another serious condition that may require minimally invasive spinal surgery. Los Angeles patients can call 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.