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 (68 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
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