The tailbone or the coccyx is a bony structure that is located at the end of the vertebral column. A bruised tailbone can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, which can make sitting or sleeping quite uncomfortable for a few days.
The tailbone or the ‘coccyx’ is a bony structure located at the bottom of the vertebral column. It is actually not a single bone. Rather, it consists of three to five bony segments fused together at the end of the vertebral column. An injury or trauma to the tailbone can result in a bruise or break, that can manifest in pain and discomfort in the coccygeal area. The medical term for this condition is coccydynia. A bruised tailbone can cause a lot of pain and take considerable time to heal completely. Women are more commonly affected by this condition than men, mainly because their pelvis is broader, which makes the coccyx more susceptible to receive an injury or trauma.
A fall or a repetitive strain injury to the pelvic region due to activities like biking and cycling is the most common cause of tailbone pain. In women, pregnancy and childbirth can be some of the important factors that can cause a bruised tailbone. A direct blow to the coccyx can also injure this bony structure and cause coccydynia. Apart from these, pain in the coccygeal region can be caused by bone spurs, tumors, or compression or an injury to the nerves near the pelvis. Occasionally, an injury to another part of the vertebral column can also radiate to the coccygeal region, and cause pain and discomfort.
The most common symptom is the pain in the coccyx or the lower back region, especially while sitting and also when getting up from a sitting position. The pain can be quite acute while sitting or standing up, and when the area is touched or pressure is applied on it. The activities that put more pressure on the area, such as bowel movements and sexual intercourse can produce intense and acute pain. If bruised tailbone is caused by a severe injury or trauma to the lower back region, then swelling and tenderness can be experienced. Sometimes, the pain can also radiate from the lower back region to the legs.
This condition is usually diagnosed by evaluating the symptoms, along with a physical examination of the area. Sometimes, X-rays and MRI are performed to find out the extent of the injury, fracture, or the dislocation. Usually, the pain caused by this condition can be managed with the application of ice and heat.
An ice pack should be used first for about 15 to 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, the heat pack can be applied on the area. This can help reduce the pain and swelling, and thereby speed up the process of recovery. The injured tailbone can take a few weeks to heal completely with proper rest and the use of ice and heat pack.
If the pain is severe, then pain medications and steroid injections can be required. But these medications should be taken only under the supervision of a physician. In the meantime, avoid or limit the activities (like sitting for a long time) that can put excess pressure on the area. If possible, use ‘donut’ cushions or pillows to sit on, and try to lean forward while sitting. If you are experiencing pain during bowel movements, then increase the intake of fluid and fiber-rich foods. If these measures fail to provide relief, then talk to your physician regarding the use of stool softeners.
During the recovery period, it is very important to avoid straining your tailbone or the lower back region. Rarely, surgery can be required to treat this condition, if it is found to be caused by tumors. Therefore, one should consult a physician, if the symptoms of a bruised tailbone persist for a long time. In the future, tailbone injuries, especially the sports injuries can be prevented by wearing appropriate protective cushions.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.