The coccyx or tailbone is the last segment of the spinal column, and is located between the buttocks. This bony structure called coccyx, consists of around three to five vertebrae, which can be either fused or separate. Usually, the coccyx is situated deep inside, to avoid injury and trauma. Some people, especially women, have prominent tailbone. In such people, the tailbone is more vulnerable to injuries. An injury to the coccyx may cause bruises, fractures, or dislocation of the structure, thereby causing tailbone pain.
Pain, that is specifically located at the coccyx or tailbone is called coccydynia or tailbone pain. It is otherwise known as coccygodynia, coccygeal pain, or coccaglia. Pain in the butt region can be caused by various reasons, like sore gluteal muscles; but only when it is related to the coccyx, the pain can be considered coccydynia. In most cases, such pain is caused by direct injury to the coccyx.
Females are found to be more vulnerable to this condition, as they have broad and prominent tailbones. This makes them prone to tailbone injury during childbirth. Tailbone pain during pregnancy is also very common, as the growing uterus exerts pressure on the bone. Some women experience it after childbirth.
Falling in a seated position or a direct blow to the coccyx may also cause this pain. It has also been observed that people who indulge in regular cycling or rowing are prone to this condition. In some cases, tailbone pain is found to be idiopathic in nature; and rarely, it can be caused by bone spurs, tumors, compression of nerve roots, or injuries to other parts of the spine, and local infections.
How to Identify Tailbone Pain
As there are many other conditions, like sciatica, that can cause pain in the tailbone region; you have to know the exact symptoms of coccydynia, in order to identify the pain. The most common symptom of coccydynia is tailbone pain when sitting, especially for longer periods. The pain may aggravate while sitting on softer surfaces, rather than hard ones, and gets worse with movement.
Tenderness of the coccyx region, shooting pains down the legs, pain during bowel movements and sexual intercourse/ menstruation, may also point towards coccydynia. The affected person may also experience weakness and sleeping problems.
Usually, the condition is diagnosed with physical examination of the patient, but sometimes, X-rays and other advanced diagnostic techniques, like MRI, may be required. A simple method adopted for diagnosis is to inject local anesthetic drugs to the affected part. If the patient gets immediate relief with that, then it can be concluded that the pain is related to the coccyx only.
Tailbone pain treatment includes use of medication, like painkillers, stool softeners, and injections. Strict home care may also be required. In some cases, if the patient does not respond to medication and home care, surgery to remove the tailbone (coccygectomy) may be suggested. This is usually done in cancer patients.
Otherwise, preventive measures, along with medication may provide relief. Patients have to use special cushions for sitting, and they have to avoid sitting for long hours. Application of ice packs may also provide relief. In short, if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, consult your health care provider, and get it diagnosed at the earliest.
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.