Tailbone Injury

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A tailbone injury is a condition where the coccyx bone becomes unstable, dislocated or broken, ranging from simple bruises to fractures. Majority of cases of tailbone injuries are painful but only lead to bruising. Fractures of the tailbone are uncommon but possible.Women at their 30’s and 40’s are at greatest risk from suffering tailbone injuries due to their wider pelvis and less fat tissue surrounding the coccyx. Tailbone injuries are commonly due to falls that land on the buttocks or repetitive friction or pressure on the coccyx. Tailbone injuries may take time to heal but can be effectively treated with careful treatment.

The tailbone, also called the coccyx, is the small, triangular tail-like bone at the end of the spinal cord, located near the anus. It is composed of three to five fused bones that curve slightly inward. The coccyx is the point of attachment for several muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Causes of Tailbone Injury

Tailbone injuries are commonly due to falls or by direct trauma to the coccyx area. The most common causes include:

  • Falling onto the tailbone in a seated position, frequently against hard surfaces and slippery floors
  • Direct blow to the tailbone
  • Certain sports, such as cycling, rowing, or anything that involves sitting for a prolonged period of time
  • Childbirth
  • Nerve compression
  • Bone spur
  • Local infections
  • In some cases, it is idiopathic

Symptoms of Tailbone Injury

Seek medical attention is one is experiencing symptoms of tailbone injury. The following are the general symptoms:

  • Severe pain and tenderness when applying direct pressure to the coccyx, such as sitting
  • Pain may increase while leaning slightly backward or when sitting on a soft surface
  • Pain when passing stool and straining
  • Painful sexual intercourse, especially for women
  • Evident bruising over the area of the tailbone if caused by trauma
  • In some cases, numbness

First Aid Treatment for Tailbone Injury

Tailbone Injury
Tailbone Injury

Tailbone injuries are not often considered medical emergencies. Though it may require a visit to the physician or orthopaedist (bone doctor) to be sure, it can be managed at home. While waiting for a physician’s advice, the following steps may be done for the first few days to weeks after the injury to help ease the pain from the injury to the tailbone:

  • Stop any physical activity that causes pain. Rest the coccyx. It is generally advised to take extended rest periods to promote healing.
  • Do not sit for extended periods of time and do not sit on a hard surface.
  • Apply ice compress to the tailbone for 20 minutes every waking hour. After the first 48 hours, reduce it two to three times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin to avoid causing further damage to the tailbone and do not fall asleep with the ice compress left on the back.
  • When sitting, use a cushion or gel donut.
  • Take over-the-counter naproxen or ibuprofen to help relieve pain, preferably after the first 24 hours post injury.
  • Ask the physician before taking other medications while healing from the tailbone injury.
  • To reduce pain during bowel movements, eat a high-fibre diet and drink plenty of water to soften the stools.

Disclaimer: Do not use this article for medical diagnosis or advice. To learn more about tailbone injuries and other bone-related injuries, enrol in First Aid Courses.

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