Coccyx Pain / Tailbone Pain
The coccyx (also known as the tail bone) is the last few spinal segments in vertebrate animals. It is an extension of the sacrum, which we call the “tail” in reptiles and apes. In animals, the tail plays an important role in balancing activities such as climbing and jumping. Since humans have evolved from crawling on all fours (quadruped) to walking on two legs (biped), the human coccyx/tailbone gradually loses its function. Therefore, the length, number of segments, and even the shape of the coccyx/tailbone may vary from person to person. For example, most people have 3 to 5 coccygeal segments, but some may have up to 6.
Causes of Coccyx Pain / Tailbone Pain
Like in the upper spine, the coccygeal segments are connected by joints. Hence, problems such as sprains, subluxation, and even bone fractures may also occur in this region. The incidence of coccyx or tailbone pain is five times higher in women than in men. The following are common causes of coccygeal pain:
- Accidental trauma such as sitting backwards and falling on the ground
- Being hit or compressed by a hard object
- Sedentary or poor posture
- In late pregnancy, the soft tissues near the tailbone may be excessively strained as the fetus grows bigger
- Strains from excessive pressure during vaginal delivery
Symptoms of Coccyx Pain / Tailbone Pain
Symptoms include pain, bruising, or tingling sensation near the tailbone or end of the spine. This area includes the lower half of the sacrum close to the back of the anus. It is common to feel tenderness when sitting, or when standing up after sitting for a long time. Sometimes it is difficult to locate the area of discomfort, which may only be triggered by small movements of sitting or walking.
Diagnosis and treatment of Coccyx Pain / Tailbone Pain
Persistent coccyx / tailbone pain can significantly impact a person’s daily life. We recommend that patients get treatment as soon as possible so as not to miss the best treatment opportunity. Chiropractic treatment can effectively alleviate coccyx pain/tailbone pain. Your chiropractor will first examine the exact location of pain, as well as the mechanics of nearby structures such as the lumbar spinal joints and related muscles. X-ray examination can further confirm whether there is a fracture or subluxation/dislocation of any coccygeal segment, its length and degree of angulation. An excessively curved or straight coccyx is more prone to be sprained.
The most natural treatment for acute trauma is ice. After the acute inflammation subsides, your chiropractor may adjust the coccyx, lumbar or sacral spine according to examination findings. The muscles and ligaments connected to the coccyx / tailbone are quite complex and delicate in structure and function, so your chiropractor must distinguish the cause and manage the condition carefully. In rare cases, it may require surgical removal of the coccygeal segment(s) if all other treatments have failed, although there is no guarantee of complete recovery after the operation.
How to prevent Coccyx Pain / Tailbone Pain?
- To maintain a good sitting posture, you should sit evenly on the sitting bones (that is, the bottom of both buttocks), instead of sliding down into the seat which may cause compression of the sacrum and coccyx
- Avoid sitting for a long time, or sitting in chairs or sofas that are too soft, too deep, or lack lumbar support
- Avoid the posture of half-sitting and leaning against the headboard of the bed while reading or watching TV, as this position puts direct pressure on the tailbone
Due to its sensitive location, many patients may try to avoid seeking help for coccyx pain. However, like other back pain conditions, coccyx pain often leads to pain in other areas if diagnosis and treatment are delayed. For example, in order to avoid direct tenderness of the tailbone, one may sit in a poor posture that may cause further damage to the lumbar spinal joints. If you have sustained an injury to the tailbone or have been suffering from coccyx / tailbone pain for a long time, you should see a chiropractor as soon as possible.
What is the chiropractic treatment approach for Coccyx Pain/Tailbone Pain?
- Reduce Pain - For both acute and chronic pain, the goal of treatment initially would be to reduce the pain, or to “break the pain cycle”. As the pain level is reduced, the muscles will relax, reversing the pain cycle
- Restore normal joint mechanics - Depending on the examination findings, your chiropractor will adjust (manipulate) the coccygeal joints that are misaligned (subluxated). This may take place on the first treatment or on any subsequent treatments as deemed necessary.
- Improve flexibility and strength – To prevent future injuries, it is important to improve the flexibility of the joints and muscle strength. Your chiropractor will advise you on appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises according to your physical needs and fitness level.
- Lifestyle adjustments – Other factors like exercises, diet, working posture, sleep etc. may play a vital role in the development and otherwise prevention of neck pain. Your doctor will work with you to identify lifestyle adjustments that will help you maximize the quality of your health.
What are the recommended treatments for Coccyx Pain / Tailbone Pain?*
- Spinal manipulation - for restoration of joint movements
- Interferential current therapy - for relaxing muscles and enhance circulation
- Ultrasound therapy - for reducing inflammation
- Dry needling - for pain relief and relax muscles
- Shockwave therapy - to speed up tissue healing
- Exercise therapy
- Orthotic Insoles
* A proper diagnosis has to be obtained for all of the above conditions before an appropriate combination of treatments will be provided. This is just a list of possible treatments for the individual condition but not all of them may be necessary, nor is it limited to those listed only.