Why Does My Tailbone Hurt?

The tailbone is a small, multi-segmented bone that resides at the bottom of the spinal cord, above the buttocks. The bone helps to stabilise us when we sit, and many ligaments, tendons, and muscles all intertwines around the area. The tailbone is known medically as the coccyx, and pain in the coccyx area is termed coccydynia. So, when pondering the question –why does my tailbone hurt? It is often due to injury or trauma at the coccyx area, although this is not always the cause. This article will highlight the possible causes of pain, as well as methods of relief.

Why Does My Tailbone Hurt?

As mentioned, pain in the tailbone, or coccydynia, is caused by damage to the coccyx, or trauma to the surrounding tissue of the coccyx, which causes pain at the base of the spinal cord, which is particularly notable when attempting to sit down. Various causes can lead to this discomfort, most of which are detailed below:

1.      Coccyx Injury

Injury to the coccyx happens when an individual suffers a forceful impact on the base of their spine. This can happen numerous ways, including:

  • During a sports game
  • Falling down whilst taking part in activities such as skiing
  • Falling from an elevated position, such as falling off of a horse
  • Falling off a trampoline and landing on the floor/side bars

Less commonly, coccydynia can be caused by sexual intercourse; anal sex in particular. When the coccyx becomes injured, it is often only bruised, although if the impact that caused the injury was severe enough, it can lead to a dislocation of the coccyx, or even cause the bone to fracture.

2.       RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)

If you repeat a motion or stay in a position for too long of a time, you can cause damage to your body. This is known as repetitive strain injury. Those who take part in sports such as cycling, or rowing, are at risk of developing coccydynia as a result of RSI.  This is because the action of leaning forward, stretching the spine’s base, when repeated numerous times at high intensity, can cause the muscles and ligaments in the coccyx to stretch and strain. Consistent straining of these muscles and ligaments will make them unable to hold the coccyx in its proper position, which leads to pain in the area.

3.       Unhealthy Body Weight

Why does my tailbone hurt? The answer can be as simple as being overweight or underweight. Individuals who are overweight may place an excess amount of pressure upon their coccyx when they sit down, which can lead co coccydynia. On the other end of the spectrum, those who are underweight may develop coccydynia, as they do not have sufficient fat within their buttocks to protects the coccyx and prevent it rubbing against surrounding tissue.

4.       Growing Old

As we age, it is possible for the cartilage around the coccyx (which holds it in place) to wear down. In addition to this, the bones that comprise the coccyx may become more tightly and compactly fused together. Both of these circumstances can lead to pain in the area.

5.       Giving Birth

During pregnancy, a hormone is released in the third trimester that allows the coccyx to become more flexible, ready for child birth. In some instances, giving birth can cause overstretching of the muscles and ligaments around the coccyx, which alters their position and leads to coccydynia.

6.       More Serious Causes

Although uncommon, coccydynia can be caused by some cancers. Cancer that begins in a person’s bones, known as sarcoma (an extremely rare type of cancer), can cause coccydynia, as well as cancer that originated in other parts of the body and has spread to the bones, known as metastatic cancer

7.       Other Causes

  • Simply riding a bike can cause coccydynia.
  • In individuals who are middle-aged or older, arthritis of the tailbone may be the cause of pain in the area, as well as tail bone spurs.

If you are suffering from pain in the tailbone that hasn’t subsided after several days, then contact a health care professional. They will either perform an x-ray or MRI scan to assess your injury and its severity. These examinations may be administered in different positions, standing, sitting, etc. Your health care provider may also check the area with their hands to see if any growths or abnormalities exist that may be placing unwanted pressure against your coccyx.

How to Get Relief from Tailbone Pain

After learning the causes to explain why does my tailbone hurt, here’s what to do. In most instances, the cause of coccydynia will resolve itself and the pain will reduce and eventually be abolished. Until that time, if you are experiencing pain in the tailbone, then there are methods you can try at home to ease the pain. These methods include:

  1. Adjusting Your Sleeping Position

It can be beneficial to sleep on your side, or on your front. It may also prove helpful to use a pillow to cushion the coccyx area.

  1. Ensuring Proper Posture

This is especially important when sitting, if you are experiencing discomfort, try leaning forward when sitting. In daily life, ensure to sit upright, engage your core, keep your neck straight, and slightly arch your back.

  1. Using Cushions When Sitting

Many ring and doughnut shaped cushions are available to help ease the pain that you experience when sitting.

  1. Apply Heat or Ice

Applying heat or ice to the coccyx area can help to reduce inflammation and the pain sensation.

  1. Used Medication

Some over-the-counter pain relievers may prove useful in reducing the amount of pain that you experience. If these treatments do nothing to help the pain that you feel, and the pain remains after numerous days, then it would be most advisable to visit a health care professional as this is an indication of chronic coccydynia.

How to Manage Chronic Coccydynia

  1. Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can provide you with beneficial stretches and exercises to help ease the level of pain that you are experiencing.

  1. Massage

This involves massaging the muscles that are attached to the coccyx to help ease the pain.

3. Medication

Medication administered directly to the coccyx area via an injection can help to ease the pain felt by individuals. Some antidepressants can also help to ease the pain, as well as certain anti-epileptics.

4. Exercises to Reduce Pain

Some exercise can be performed to help reduce the pain felt in the coccyx area, these exercises include:

  • Weightless Squats

Squats are great for building leg muscles and core strength, and they are also helpful to ease coccyx pain. Simply stand with your feel shoulder width apart, hold your arms out in front of you and bend your knees as if you were about to sit, go down whilst keeping your back straight, then return to the starting position.

  • Spinal Twist

This stretch helps to promote blood flow to the coccyx area as well as provide release to the lower back. It is performed by lying on your back with both legs straight, flat on the floor. Raise your left knee to your chest whilst keeping your right leg flat, and keeping your shoulders touching the floor. Hold the stretch for one minute.

  • Anal Lock

This is a useful exercise as it can be performed almost anywhere. It involved contracting the same muscles you would contract when attempting to ‘hold it in’ when you really need a toilet. Tense the muscle and hold for around ten to fifteen seconds, then release, and repeat.

  • Yoga

Some yoga stretches, such as Shalbasana and Bhujangasana, can be helpful in relieving coccyx pain.

  • Swimming

Swimming is great exercise that works the whole body. Some individuals have reported that swimming for twenty minutes a day has helped to relieve chronic coccyx pain.

5. Surgery

Surgery is generally only offered when all other methods of treatment have failed to have an impact. The surgery commonly used is known as a coccygectomy, wherein the coccyx is removed. 

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