June 8th, 2011
01:28 PM ET

Can my tailbone pain be cured?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Asked by Will of Denver, Colorado

I am an average person - good health and slightly overweight. Last year on a dare/challenge from a friend I rode my bicycle 50 miles without any previous training. I successfully completed the 50 miles, although I had extreme pain in my tailbone following the ride. I assumed this was temporary and continued to live my life. However, a year or so later it still has pain when I sit down. I'm not sure where to start besides seeing my normal doctor. Is this something that can be cured or could I have done lifelong damage to my tailbone?

Expert answer

Dear Will,

I think you already know that strenuous exercise without proper preparation through training is not a good idea.

That being said, the medical term for pain in the tailbone is coccydynia. It is usually caused by trauma and it usually gets better with conservative therapy over a period of several weeks, but it can sometimes take several months for it to improve.

The coccyx is a projection at the base of the spine. It is made of bone, cartilage and fibers. The coccyx bears weight when a person is sitting.

Some of the muscles that control defecation attach to the coccyx, and there may be pain in the injured tailbone upon defecation and when tightening the anal sphincter.

There are no national incidence numbers for this condition, but pain in the tailbone is a rather common problem. A busy primary care doctor usually sees a few cases per year. It is far more prevalent in women than men. It is rare in children.

The most common cause is traumatic injury from a fall backwards into a sitting position. Other causes include repetitive minor trauma from sitting a long time. People not only get it from long bike rides, but from sitting in a car or plane for a prolonged period. Sitting on hard surfaces is more likely to cause it.

Women can get coccydynia through trauma during vaginal birthing.

Obesity is a major risk factor in men and women. The diagnosis of coccydynia is made through the patient's history of the pain and trauma and from physical examination.

On examination, the physician can usually reproduce the symptoms through direct pressure on the tailbone. Initial treatment is conservative, using nonsteroidal pain medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen; protection of the area with a donut or wedge pillow; and alternating applications of heat and cold packs.

Patients with pain after more than three months of good conservative therapy merit further evaluation which might include X-rays of the pelvis and tailbone.

A very few patients will need to be treated with injections of local anesthetic, or local anesthetic and steroids, directly into the tailbone area. In a very rare case of protracted pain without improvement, the tailbone can be surgically removed. This operation is called a coccygyectomy.

soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Daniel

    I'm impressed, I must admit. Rarely do I encounter a website that's equally educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail in the head.
    Daniel http://www.bridgedtech.com/wiki/wikka.php?wakka=CarHeadUnitWithoutStrengthTroubleshootingGuide

    November 4, 2013 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jill McDOnald

    I'm not sure if you post blogs, but I have just started a blog, after suffering coccydynia for over 5 years.
    Please post?
    Many thanks,

    November 2, 2014 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. shifa kiran

    I too hav a coccyx pain frm past of 9 month after falling from bed...i took treatment before 9 month...but still I hav pain...iam feeling uncomfortable while sitting in chair...floor...plz kindly say wat to do???

    February 12, 2015 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Lizzie

    So yesterday I fell down the stairs in my friends house and I must have hurt my tailbone as its in pain. I thought that it would heal overnight but I struggled to sleep comfortably and most movements bring pain. Does anyone know how to heal this quickly as I do ballet and I need to be able to move for my show next week?

    April 5, 2015 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. LB

    Hello all. I had my tailbone removed about six months ago. It has been a blessing! Im still recovering as have had a ton of pain from the surgery, but I already know it was the best decision for me! My tailbone was bent backwards towards my back, all 7 bones, from a very bad labor of my son. It took me almost 2 years to find a surgeon. I went thru it all, pain mgmt, physical therapy, chiropractor, water therapy, nothing worked. I was in pain all the time. So I just wanted to post on here that there are things you can do to help, and if surgery is the answer, make sure you have a good surgeon. But it is possible!!!

    May 8, 2015 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. sonyamom24

    23 years ago I gave birth to my first child. 23 years later, I still have pain from "breaking" my tailbone during childbirth. I had four children total. The first two made my tailbone hurt the worst. The last two didn't not really impact. In fact, up until recently, I only had a few times when I had pain on my tailbone. I started working out this last year, and it has really flared up. I am carrying about 50 extra pounds which I know doesn't help, but I hate being in pain all the time. I have arthritis in my lower back that messes with my sciatic nerve as it is. I work out with weight machines and on a seated elliptical. I am afraid that machine is what has it flaring up, but any other aerobic activity bothers my sciatic, feet and knees. I am a walking mess! LOL I don't want more pain, but I refuse to not work out! Any thoughts?

    August 27, 2015 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Tej

    Hi, I'm Tej. Last year October I fell down, i was not badly hurt or injured. 2 days later i felt some discomfort near my tail bone but i just ignored thinking it must be due to some stress. The pain continued for 4 days (it wasn't major) and that's when i decided to see orthopaedic. My doctor took my x-rays and informed me that there is a minor fracture in my coccyx bone and asked me to take bed rest . She said it will heal with time and advised me not to sit on hard surface. She also mentioned it should not take more than 8 weeks to recover. After 8 weeks i couldn't feel any difference as i could feel the pain in my coccyx area and I couldn't sit normally like i used to sit before.

    Then i decided to see other doctor. He took my x-rays and informed me that the fracture is healed but there is muscle spasm amd lumber lordosis. So he advised me to go for physio therapy. I continued it for 1 month but it didn't help me much.

    Then my friend suggested me to see a chiropractor, i took chiropractic sessions for 2 months and the chiropractor also gave me some acupuncture sessions. I felt better then before. But again 2 weeks after completing the treatment i started feeling the pain. I went to the chiropractor and explained her, she didn't have any answer for the pain coming back. She suggested me to start the treatment again but i had lost confidence in her by then.

    After trying so many things i finally gave up on all doctors as nobody was able to fix my coccyx pain. I started practicing yoga and it relieved my pain to some extent but yoga didn't help me when i had to sit for longer durations like movies or meeting.

    Then one of my friend suggested me a doctor who uses electrostic and magnetic vibrations to activate the body to heal itself. He told me that my spine needs to be adjusted by pressing some points in the spine and then it should get better. i took 4 sessions of this doctor. According to him i should get better within 3 session but as i didn't feel better he asked me to take forth session, i still feel the same the way i used to feel after doing yoga. The effect of his treatment is there for short term. It doesn't help me when i have sit for longer duration. I haven't discontinued his treatment yet but am not sure whether i should see me.

    Im totally tired seeing different doctors now.

    The issue with my lower back is that i feel pain when i sit for longer duration like during watching movie for while working in office. The pain is not major but it makes me feel uncomfortable. I cannot concentrate on what i'm doing if i have to sit for long duration. Can i get an advice or solution on this please! Will i be able to sit normally like before?


    September 19, 2015 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. savanna

    I'm a regular 15 year old and I have gotten a sudden pain in my tailbone. There is so much pain when I walk sit down and lie down if just standing. I we to see a doc and they prescribed me pain killers and muscle relaxers which don't really work. But just the other day there was blood coming out of my buttwhole and I don't know what it is. Can you help?

    November 1, 2015 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. emeligrace

    my tailbone has been hurting for 3 and a half years. my parents don't really believe that its that bad, and i never swear, but my tailbone hurts so F******* much! i can't sit down straight, and sometimes i get this cramp-like feeling that starts by the back of my knees to the top of my neck. this is usually after a day of gym. ouch. normally i will get cramp-like feelings from the bottom of my butt to mid-back. not THAT painful but a good 7 out of 10. I'm not a really crybaby but sometimes it hurts so much i cry.

    this all happened 3,5 years ago, from fainting , hitting a bookshelf and landing on the floor with my tailbone.

    November 30, 2015 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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  11. Terri

    HOT BATH. Believe me, I thought this was crazy but a friend told me she had tailbone pain and cured it by soaking in a hot bath tub. I fell on the ice last January and went flying up and landed on my bottom. I have been in a lot of pain since. Had X-rays and MRI. Aylio coccyx cushion helped make sitting tolerable. Had one at the office and one at home. This week though I was especially bad after a plane ride and was nearly done with a novel. So I drew the hottest bath I could tolerate, relaxed in it and read for twenty minutes. Literally I was 90 percent better when I got out!!! And that was 4 days ago. This is the best I have felt since my fall. I had to tell others because I really am shocked and amazed that this actually worked. Please give it a try. There certainly is no downside and maybe it will work for you too.

    January 8, 2016 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. caylin

    When I was about 7 I fell in the shower and hit my tailbone on the spout. It hurt for a while and eventually I forgot about it. About 7 months ago i feel a distance and landed on a stack of wood and the sharp edge hit my tailbone. I'm not sure if i broke it or if it's just bruised. Some days it hurts really bad and some days i can take Ibuprofen and be alright for a while. It hasn't went away just some days i can tolerate the pain. Should i get it X-rayed ?

    March 23, 2016 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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  14. Past Suffer Who Found a Solution

    A few years ago I rode the back of a bike for one day and for several months after started experience pain around my tailbone. It only got worse.

    See your GP and ask about physical therapists in your area that focus on pelvic pain! For me it turned out to be my muscles shortened and muscle memory squeezing my nerves all around my tailbone/pelvic muscles. I had no idea because how well do we identify these muscles in this area? Try this before considering a cortisone injection. (Before finding my physical therapist, A doctor had advised me to do the injection, so i did and it was the worst decision of my life. I had awful effects after it and it didn't help the problem at all. Just want to save you from the cost and trouble if it helps).

    I also recommend adding stretching, yoga, pilates, dancing, walking/jogging to your weekly routine. If you're sitting at an office or in a car a lot, your muscles can get shortened/tense and these activities will help relieve the muscles and reduce your pain.

    Now if you physically broke your tailbone or had a recent serious injury like falling on it, then you may want to try a different course of action. I did not experience these. Again mine i believe was related to bike riding.

    Hope this helps someone out there! It can be a tough journey to find out what's wrong and what to do!

    August 6, 2016 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Shelby

    I fell down the stairs in January of 2013 and to this day, I have excruciating pain right between my butt crack. At first, it was pain in that area and then I would start to go numb on either side on my butt cheeks. But about a month ago, I went to an orthopedic dr who did xray/MRI and found no issues except some obvious inflammation so he suggested doing a steroid shot. That was two weeks ago tomorrow and my paid is worse than before. It's still between my crack but a little higher up and instead of my butt cheeks going numb, the pain spreads to them. The pain used to be an 8/10 and now its about a 10/10. Even with a coccyx pillow, I hurt on both of my butt cheeks. I'm just so tired of this pain and hope that over the next few weeks, something can be done. What sucks though is my dr is always booked up at least a month in advance... -_- good luck guys.

    August 29, 2016 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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