Due to its location, the tailbone (coccyx) can be a source of pain that usually becomes more noticeable when sitting or making movements that place pressure on the very bottom of your spine near the buttocks. Tailbone pain (coccydynia) is considered rare because the bone itself is fairly durable and not prone to injury. Often eased when standing or walking, tailbone pain can result from a hard fall or excess pressure on the bone. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons share information on tailbone pain and how it’s treated.
What Causes Tailbone Bone?
The most common cause of tailbone pain is a sudden force to this area of the body. Such an impact may be the result of a hard fall. For instance, falling off a ladder can directly impact the coccyx. The pain that’s felt is caused by the resulting inflammation that affects the bone, leading to localized pain.
Tailbone pain can also be caused by excessive movement that pulls the pelvic floor muscles attached to the tailbone. Limited tailbone mobility due to obesity may cause these same muscles to become tight, resulting in discomfort.
Rare causes of tailbone pain are pressure on the bone during childbirth, tumors or infections, and dislocation of the nearby sacrococcygeal joint. In some cases, there is no clear cause of tailbone pain. Symptoms that suggest coccydynia may include:
- Aching soreness that can range from mild to severe
- Tightness around the tailbone that becomes more noticeable with movement or pressure on the lower spine
- Increased pain when leaning backward, leaning flat against a wall, or sitting
How Is Tailbone Pain Diagnosed?
Sometimes mistaken for sciatica, tailbone pain is diagnosed with an MRI or X-ray imaging test and a physical exam that may include manual manipulation of the area to gauge the patient’s reaction. An injection of a local anesthetic (coccygeal discogram) may be placed directly into the area of the tailbone to identify the specific location causing the pain.
What Are the Possible Treatment Options?
According to various studies, non-surgical treatments for tailbone pain are successful about 90 percent of the time. The first remedy recommended is usually hot or cold therapy with an ice pack, heating pad, or warm bath to ease muscle irritation. Temporarily modifying sitting movements sometimes allows nearby tissues to naturally heal. Using supportive pillows while sitting can help achieve this goal. Treatment may also involve:
- Drinking more water and eating a diet rich in high-fiber foods to minimize constipation
- Use of anti-inflammatory medications
- Manual manipulations of the tailbone for therapeutic purposes
- Stretching ligaments attached to the tailbone
- Massage therapy
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units
Surgery for tailbone pain (coccygectomy) is rarely necessary or recommended unless symptoms are severe or conservative treatments aren’t effective. Part of the reason for the reluctance to perform the procedure is because recovery is typically a long, uncomfortable process due to the location of the tailbone. Making an effort to avoid direct blows to the base of the spine and eating foods that naturally ease tissue inflammation may help minimize the risk of experiencing coccydynia and the need for back surgery. Los Angeles residents who are seeking a solution to their tailbone pain may want to meet with a spine specialist.
At the Spine Institute Center, we specialize in a wide variety of procedures, from spinal fusion to spinal decompression. Los Angeles patients can trust in Dr. Bae to diagnose the source of their pain and determine an effective method for finding relief. Call our office today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.