What is a tailbone?
The coccyx, also known as the tailbone, is the bony structure at the base of the vertebral column which assumes a triangular shape. This is not just composed of a single bone but rather of five bone segments. The tailbone sustains some injury since it can get bruised or broken easily. A bruised or broken tailbone is usually associated with pain which is referred to as coccydynia or coccygodynia. The pain brought about by a bruised tailbone may range from mild to severe. There can be several reasons for a bruised or broken tailbone. Usually the coccyx could get bruised, dislocated or fractured. Women are more prone to having bruised tailbone owing to the fact that women have relatively broader pelvis. On a survey conducted by coccyx.org, it was found out that women are five times more likely to suffer from a bruised tailbone.
Symptoms of a bruised tailbone
The most common symptom of a bruised tailbone is pain especially when sitting or standing. The pain is usually aggravated when additional pressure is exerted on the coccyx. However, there could also be other accompanying symptoms such as the following:
- Visible bruise - When there is traumatic injury in the tailbone, a bruise may be seen at the affected area.
- It may also affect bowel movement since pain is also be felt when defecating.
There can also be several reasons for a bruised tailbone. However, the most common cause of a bruised or broken tailbone is due to a direct trauma on the area. It may also be caused by the following:
- Falling on a hard surface which directly injures the coccyx.
- Contact sports - Most contact sports may cause direct blow on the tailbone resulting to an injury.
- Childbirth - Since the pelvis has to expand during childbirth. It may also likely damage the coccyx.
- Straining /Friction - Strain or the friction created in the coccyx during activities like cycling and rowing can injure the tailbone.
- There can also be other associated causes of tailbone bruises which include bone spurs, spine injury, nerve root compression, tumors and spine infections.
- The cause of the rest of the tailbone injuries remains unknown.
When you suspect that you are suffering from an injured tailbone, it is imperative to seek for medical attention the soonest so that undue damages can be prevented. It is suggested that you visit the emergency department of the nearest hospital so as prompt treatment may be given. However, when it seems impossible to reach the hospital, you may just visit the nearest clinic so as your condition will be evaluated.
By obtaining the patient’s medical history and physical examination, a bruised tailbone may be diagnosed. This may be further found out through imaging tests such as x-rays and scans.
- Rectal examination - A rectal exam may also be performed to check for dislocation in the coccyx. A finger is inserted into the rectum to palpate for any dislocation. Pain is usually felt when pressure is exerted into the tailbone.
- X-rays and Imaging studies - X-rays are also taken to detect for dislocation in the coccyx. Nevertheless, this may not yield precise results. Thus, MRIs are preferred over x-rays to detect for tailbone dislocation.
Bruised tailbone is usually associated with pain. The pain, however, can just be managed at home. The primary goal of bruised tailbone treatment is to alleviate pain. The following can be done at home to relieve the discomforts brought about by broken or bruised tailbone:
- In order to relieve pain at the tailbone area, avoid sitting for too long and when you sit do not put too much pressure on the coccyx area. You also have to sit on a hard surface on alternate buttocks so as not to exacerbate pain.
- Application of ice pack about 15 minutes would also help alleviate pain. You can do this up to four times daily during the first 24 hours after the injury.
- You may also take pain medications such as Ibuprofen.
- A doughnut cushion may also be used to keep the tailbone from touching the surface. This is a type of cushion which has a hole on it.
- To avoid constipation and bearing down during defecation, you should eat foods high in fiber.
- When in the hospital, you may be given stronger pain medications and as well as stool softeners.
- Doctors rarely resort to surgery to correct broken or dislocated tailbone.
It is also equally important to have regular follow up with regard the condition of your tailbone. Most people fail to visit their physician the next time around. This should be done so as to evaluate the progress of healing of a bruised or broken tailbone. Doctors also suggest that those patients who do not seem to respond well to the therapy should frequently submit themselves for a check up so as their condition can be well-managed.
A bruised tailbone may just resolve right away. This may just resolve within a few days. The longest time for a tailbone to heal is between 7 to 10 days.
It is difficult to veer away from tailbone injuries since most of the tailbone bruises happen due to an accident. Nevertheless, there are protective gears that can be worn so as not to inflict too much injury on the tailbone. When for example, you are engaging in a contact sports, you may try to wear protective padding over the tailbone so as to protect it especially from possible falls.
However, there’s nothing to worry about having a bruised tailbone because those who had previously suffered from it usually get better within a week. Nevertheless, the chance of recovery for a tailbone injury may also vary depending on the severity of the injury, treatment and compliance and the patient’s potentials to recover. However, there are also those who do not respond well to a medical treatment and may suffer chronic tailbone discomfort which can really be debilitating.
Karen on December 01, 2015:
I landed on my tailbone when I came of a horse, it still hurts after three weeks, is it safe for me to horse ride?
Kathleena on December 28, 2014:
I agree. My tailbone has been bruised and still hurts after two weeks. Sat on it wrong yesterday and back to the pain I had on day one. They can take several weeks to heal.
Ashley on August 19, 2014:
Hello i have a bruised tailbone but i has been "bruised" for four months! This a lie for it to heal in 7 to 10 days
Hardrive on April 06, 2014:
I suffered severe slip / fall: 10'; Axial Load Spinal Injury;
Do Not Allow any physician to perform spinal injection, as side effects are; Cushingoid syndrome or worse, adhesive arachnoiditis (Incurable spinal disease) My severe chronic pain was turned into severe intractable pain;
I live in Canada were doctors are ignorant and couldn't care if you ever get treated. (Especially when there is an insurance claim;
In the USA you have tailbone doctor, Patrick Foye;