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Tailbone Pain: Common Causes and How to Find Relief

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Understanding Tailbone Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Tailbone pain, or coccyx pain, can be a debilitating condition affecting your daily activities and quality of life. Whether you're experiencing discomfort after a fall or dealing with persistent pain when sitting, understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for tailbone pain is essential. In this blog, we'll explore what tailbone pain is, its symptoms, causes, when to see an orthopaedic specialist, and the available treatments.

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What is Tailbone Pain?

Tailbone pain, medically called coccydynia, occurs in the coccyx, the small triangular bone at the bottom of your spine. This pain can range from a dull ache to sharp, severe pain and is often aggravated by sitting or leaning back. The coccyx serves as an attachment point for various muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and although it plays a minor role in overall mobility, pain in this area can be pretty impactful.

Symptoms of Tailbone Pain

Symptoms of tailbone pain can vary depending on the cause and severity. Common symptoms include:

Pain When Sitting

Tailbone pain when sitting or leaning back is a hallmark symptom. This pain can intensify after prolonged periods of sitting.

Localized Pain

Pain localized to the area around the coccyx, which can be tender to the touch.

Pain During Activities

Increased pain during activities such as sitting down, standing up, or bowel movements.

Bruising or Swelling

Visible bruising or swelling around the coccyx area, often seen with a bruised tailbone.

Radiating Pain

Pain that radiates to the lower back, hips, or legs.

Causes of Tailbone Pain

Several factors can contribute to tailbone pain:

  • Trauma: A direct injury from a fall or impact can lead to a bruised or broken tailbone.
  • Repetitive Strain: Prolonged sitting on hard surfaces or engaging in activities that put pressure on the coccyx can cause soreness and pain.
  • Childbirth: Women may experience tailbone pain after childbirth due to pressure on the coccyx during delivery.
  • Degenerative Joint Disease: Arthritis or other degenerative conditions affecting the coccygeal joints.
  • Infections or Tumors: Rarely, infections or tumors in the pelvic area can cause coccyx pain.
  • Poor Posture: Sitting with poor posture can place extra stress on the tailbone.

When to See an Orthopaedic Specialist

It is essential to consult with an orthopaedic specialist if you experience:

  • Persistent Pain: Tailbone pain persists for over a few weeks without improvement.
  • Severe Pain: Intense pain that limits your ability to perform daily activities.
  • Neurological Symptoms: Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs.
  • Unexplained Symptoms: Pain accompanied by unexplained weight loss, fever, or changes in bowel or bladder control.

OIBO's Orthopaedic Spine, Back, and Neck Specialists

At OIBO, we believe in the relentless pursuit of better orthopedic care, especially for spine, neck and back issues. Our team consists of multiple world-class, board-certified spine specialists who encounter these problems daily. This hyper-specialization means our patients receive the highest level of care, from treating back pain to managing scoliosis. You can trust our experienced and skilled doctors to provide the expert treatment you need to get back to being yourself.

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Learn more about our spine specialists on our Spine, Back & Neck Speciality page.


Treatment Options for Tailbone Pain

Treatment for tailbone pain aims to alleviate discomfort and address the underlying cause. Depending on the severity of the condition, options range from nonsurgical to surgical interventions.

Nonsurgical Treatments

  • Physical Therapy: Exercises and stretches to strengthen the muscles supporting the coccyx and improve posture.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Cushions and Supports: Using a cushioned seat or a donut-shaped pillow to relieve pressure on the tailbone when sitting.
  • Ice and Heat Therapy: Applying ice packs to reduce inflammation and heat packs to soothe sore muscles.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.

Surgical Treatments

Surgery is typically considered a last resort when nonsurgical treatments fail to provide relief. Surgical options include:

  • Coccygectomy: The surgical removal of the coccyx, considered when other treatments are ineffective and the pain is severe and chronic.

Tailbone pain can significantly impact your daily life, making understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options essential. Whether you're dealing with a bruised tailbone from sitting or severe coccyx pain after an injury, there are various ways to manage and alleviate this discomfort. If you experience persistent or severe tailbone pain, consulting an orthopaedic specialist is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

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For more information on spine health and treatment options, schedule an appointment with our experienced orthopaedic team. Your comfort and well-being are our top priorities, and we are here to help you find relief from tailbone pain.

Common Spine Conditions Similar to Tailbone Pain

Due to overlapping symptoms, tailbone or coccyx pain can sometimes be confused with other conditions. Understanding these conditions and knowing when tailbone pain requires serious medical attention is crucial for proper diagnosis and treatment. In this blog, we'll explore conditions that can be mistaken for tailbone pain and discuss the signs indicating when tailbone pain might be serious.

Several conditions can mimic tailbone pain due to their similar symptoms:

Piriformis Syndrome

  • Description: This condition occurs when the piriformis muscle in the buttock region irritates the sciatic nerve.
  • Symptoms: Pain in the buttocks and lower back, which can radiate down the leg, similar to sciatic pain.
  • Confusion with Tailbone Pain: The location of the pain in the buttocks and lower back can be mistaken for coccyx pain.

Sciatica

  • Description: Sciatica involves compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, leading to radiating pain down the leg.
  • Symptoms: Sharp shooting pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs, often on one side of the body.
  • Confusion with Tailbone Pain: The radiating pain can sometimes be mistaken for pain originating from the coccyx.

Lower Back Strain or Sprain

  • Description: Injury or overuse of muscles and ligaments in the lower back can cause pain and discomfort.
  • Symptoms: Lower back pain, muscle spasms, and stiffness.
  • Confusion with Tailbone Pain: Lower back pain can sometimes be generalized, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact source.

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

  • Description: Issues with the muscles and connective tissues in the pelvic floor can cause pain and discomfort.
  • Symptoms: Pain in the pelvic region, lower back, and tailbone, along with urinary and bowel symptoms.
  • Confusion with Tailbone Pain: The close proximity of the pelvic floor muscles to the coccyx can make it challenging to distinguish the pain source.

Proctalgia Fugax

  • Description: A condition characterized by sudden, severe pain in the rectum, often lasting for a few minutes.
  • Symptoms: Intense rectal pain that comes and goes without warning.
  • Confusion with Tailbone Pain: The location of the pain can be mistaken for pain originating from the coccyx.

When to Seek Urgent Care for Tailbone Pain

While tailbone pain is often not severe and can be managed with nonsurgical treatments, some sure signs and symptoms warrant immediate medical attention.

Symptoms to look out for:

Severe or Persistent Pain

Tailbone pain that is severe, persistent, and does not improve with rest or over-the-counter medications.

Bladder or Bowel Dysfunction

Difficulty controlling bladder or bowel movements can be a sign of a more severe condition affecting the nerves in the lower spine.

Pain Radiating to Other Areas

Pain that radiates to the lower back, hips, or legs, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness or weakness.

Neurological Symptoms

Symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs may indicate nerve compression or damage.

Unexplained Weight Loss or Fever

Unexplained weight loss or persistent fever could indicate an infection or tumor.

Visible Deformity or Severe Swelling

A visible deformity in the coccyx area or severe swelling and bruising may indicate a fracture or severe injury.

Tailbone pain can be serious when accompanied by severe or persistent pain, neurological symptoms, bladder or bowel dysfunction, unexplained weight loss or fever, radiating pain, or visible deformity. If you experience any of these signs, seeking medical attention from an orthopaedic specialist is crucial.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please seek care promptly.

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We listen. We collaborate. We Serve.

Compassionate Orthopaedic Care In New Jersey

Patients deserve personalized, outcome-driven care provided by physicians who genuinely care about them. As medicine has become more corporate and transactional, OrthoNJ prioritizes exceptional doctor/patient relationships. This is why we say we have The Power to Put Patients First.

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