We all know that pain can be a result of many different things. Sometimes, the cause of your pain is not as simple as you might think. Coccydynia is a condition where one experiences chronic pain in the coccyx or tailbone region due to inflammation, and sometimes pressure on the area from external or internal influences. Explore what causes this condition, how it may affect your life, and what treatment options are available for those experiencing symptoms of coccydynia.
How Does the Coccyx Cause Pain?
The coccyx is the lowest part of the spine, located at the bottom of the back. It consists of 3 to 5 bony segments that are normally joined together. The coccyx serves as an attachment site for several muscles, ligaments and tendons, and it helps you maintain balance when you sit down and stand up. Coccydynia occurs when one or more bones of the coccyx are fractured or dislocated or when tendons become inflamed.
A coccyx fracture usually causes severe pain. Most coccyx fractures heal within 6 weeks if they are managed correctly during the healing process, but it may persist for many months in some patients.
Symptoms of Coccydynia
Coccydynia causes persistent pain and tenderness in your coccyx and surrounding areas because of injury, direct trauma or overuse. Sitting and standing for long periods make the pain worse because these movements put pressure on the coccyx. Other common symptoms of tailbone pain include:
- Pain during bowel movements or sexual intercourse
- A popping sensation followed by pain after a coccyx injury
- Tingling or numbness in the buttocks
- Pain and weakness in legs
- Difficulty sleeping and doing everyday activities
- Feelings of being in a crooked seated position
You may also feel severe pain when you change positions, cough, sneeze or touch or stretch the affected area.
Causes of Coccydynia
There can be many causes of coccydynia depending on how it first develops. Most people sustain tailbone injury through external trauma during an intense painless event such as lifting something heavy.
Besides tailbone injury, coccyx pain can also be caused by direct pressure or impact on it. For example, if you sit on a hard surface for too long, fall on your buttocks hard enough or get in and out of a car often, this causes one or more bones to break or slip out of position. This can cause coccydynia symptoms to set off.
Other reasons that may increase your risk of tailbone pain include:
- Degenerative joint disease such as osteoarthritis
- Infections of the skin around the coccyx area
- Overweight problems
- Pregnancy and childbirth-related factors, including pelvic floor muscle strain
- Bone cancer
- Bad posture as a result of sitting in an awkward position for long periods of time
Treatment of Coccyx Pain
Having your coccyx bone assessed by a medical professional and undergoing essential diagnostic tests will help you determine the best course of treatment, whether you suffer from chronic coccydynia or achy pain from an acute injury to your coccyx.
In addition to a thorough physical exam, x-rays are used during the diagnosis of coccydynia to check the coccyx for fractures, dislocations and tumours. Your doctor may also order blood tests to check for infection. An MRI or CT scan may be done if coccyx tumors are suspected.
Treatments include pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Other options include splinting or wearing a coccyx seat cushion. Surgery may be necessary if other treatments have not helped. Non-surgical treatments include:
- Applying ice packs to the coccyx for 20 minutes at a time
- Coccygeal manipulation or manual manipulation under anaesthesia
Chronic tailbone pain can also be managed with physical therapy. A physical therapist focuses on educating patients to help them fix their poor posture to take pressure off their coccyx. They can also recommend the best coccygeal cushion to support the coccyx when sitting.
How to Prevent Coccydynia
In some workplaces, employees may be required to sit on hard surfaces for long periods of time. This increases the risk of developing coccydynia. If you have a desk job, try changing positions frequently or use a doughnut-shaped cushion or coccyx pillow when sitting.
To prevent coccyx pain from occurring, ensure that the coccyx is properly aligned when sitting. Coccydynia cannot always be prevented, but these tips can help reduce the risk of falls that could cause coccyx injury:
- Wear shoes when walking outside
- Remove tripping hazards from floors at home, work, school or in public areas
- Avoid getting up in dim light when it is hard to see obstacles in the way
- Wear a seatbelt at all times when riding in a car
- Exercise regularly to improve muscle strength and flexibility
Natural therapists who specialise in manual therapies, such as chiropractors, massage therapists or Bowen therapy practitioners, can also address coccyx pain as they offer many benefits. Check out the Natural Therapy Pages' list of practitioners in your area to find a health professional who can meet your needs.