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 (67 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
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