The tailbone or coccyx is the last segment of the spinal column. This structure is composed of three to five vertebrae, that can be either fused or separate. In case of humans, the tailbone is normally situated deep inside (below the sacrum), so that it is protected from any injury or trauma. However, some people, especially women, have prominent tailbones that are prone to injuries. A direct blow to the area or a seated fall may cause tailbone injuries. The most common among them are bruises and dislocations. Even hairline cracks and minor fractures may occur in some cases; but, complex bone fractures are very rare.
As mentioned above, complex fractures of the tailbone are uncommon. However, hairline fractures and minor cracks may cause severe pain, tenderness and discomfort in the area. In case of trauma, the area may have bruises too. A fractured tailbone makes it difficult for the person to sit for longer periods, especially on soft surfaces. Bowel movement can also be painful for them. In case of women with this condition, sexual intercourse may cause pain. Some people experience shooting pain in the legs, due to fracture of the tailbone.
In most cases, people suffer from hairline fracture of the tailbone. The common ones are hairline fractures or simple fractures located at the joints between the coccygeal vertebrae. Another common type of fracture is the chip type break at the tip of the tailbone. A tailbone fracture occurs only when a strong and concentrated force is applied to the bone, at a certain angle. A seated fall or a direct blow to the region can cause such fractures. Pregnancy and childbirth may cause tailbone injuries or minor fractures. Those who indulge in regular rowing or bicycling have an increased risk of tailbone fractures.
While most of the tailbone fractures are not medical emergencies, complex ones can cause excruciating pain, tingling and numbness in the area, and weakness in the legs. In such cases, emergency medical attention is needed. Diagnosis is often done with X-rays and other such techniques. In most cases, the condition heals on its own, and the treatment includes oral medication like pain killers, stool softeners, injections, use of special seat cushions, and lifestyle changes. It will take almost a year (sometimes, more) for healing. Even exercises are recommended during this period. If the symptoms do not subside after 12 to 15 months of treatment, further diagnosis may be required, to detect other problems. In case of a complex tailbone fracture, where the surrounding tissues get damaged or the bone is damaged entirely; coccyx repair surgery or coccyx removal surgery is preferred.
In short, tailbone fractures are not common, but minor fractures may develop in some cases. Complex and complicated tailbone fractures are extremely rare. If you develop fractured tailbone symptoms, contact an expert doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Apart from medication, you may use ice packs to reduce pain and swelling in the area, and consume fiber rich foods to avoid constipation. Bed rest is often advised to avoid movements, that may slow down the healing process.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.