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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 (94 Responses)
  1. Sam

    Pilonidal cysts are also a possible cause of tailbone pain.

    June 8, 2011 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Ken

    I broke my tailbone in 1998 and still have pain in it when i get up from being seated for an extended period of time.

    June 8, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jon

      That symptom of a tailbone pain when rising is typical of a tailbone that dislocates because of damage to the joint between the tailbone and the sacrum, or a joint between segments of the tailbone. See http://www.coccyx.org for more details.

      June 7, 2013 at 03:51 | Report abuse |
  3. B

    I strongly suggest looking into some pelvic strengthening exercises to build up the core muscles in this area of the body. I had pain simliar to what you described that wasn't treatable by anything else except such exercises.

    June 8, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. BioHzrd420

    Isn't this caused by "Diminished Gluteal Syndrome?"

    June 8, 2011 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ANt234576

    Try Chiropractic Care or Physical Therapy. That will bring things back in balance and helps strengthen the injured area.

    June 8, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Heather

    I fell off a horse onto my tailbone and later bruised it again – the pain became so unbearable that I went to the orthopedist for a cortisone shot – which helped for a while – my friend recommended acupuncture – my doctor took a before shot and off I went – 6 visits later I was free of pain! We took an after shot and the joints were substantially less inflamed and went on to be normal . A few years later I had a recurrence – went back to the Dr who told me to head straight to the accunpuncturist – and once again – i found relief. She was a Chinese Dr in Richardson Texas – fabulous!

    June 8, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Heann

      Was she hot?

      June 9, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
    • drsolo

      I did the same thing, slid off the back of a pony. I finally went to a chiropractor that was able to do something that fixed it. Hasnt been a problem since, oh at least 30 years later now.

      June 24, 2011 at 09:38 | Report abuse |
  7. A realist

    I slowly what developed into chronic, painful tailbone pain by sitting on an office chair that (like my butt) didn't have enough padding.
    A year of sitting on a bungee-cord-seat office chair cleared it up.
    Good luck to you.

    June 8, 2011 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. jj

    I used to have tailbone pain, probably from an office chair. My doctor encouraged me to "gain weight." I was very fussy about chairs from that point, and eventually the pain went away.

    I have no sympathy for the person who injured his tailbone from extreme biking.

    June 8, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Dianne

    I am 53 and overweight but that didn't keep me from going sledding last December. I was having a great time until a kids' sled ran into me while I was still sitting on mine. I gave it time but it started to get worse. I went to an accupuncturist and she helped. The key is to get blood flow back to that area because the nerves need blood in order to heal. It has helped but you also need to make sure you aren't reinjuring it by sitting on it too long.

    June 8, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. affie

    I fell directly on my tailbone, on the ice (this is Minnesota), when I was 8 and it hurt constantly until around the age of 23. I thought it would never clear up and, one day, I realized I wasn't in pain any longer. I'd say to try the exercise and if that doesn't work right away, it didn't for me, try and acupuncture. Don't wait for it to go away. You could be waiting a long, long time.

    June 8, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Clevetown

    I had an identical injury roughly ten years ago after an extended bike ride (FYI I am not overweight). The pain in my tailbone was brutal and went on for over a year; after multiple doctor visits, MRIs, xrays, prescription drugs etc., an orthopedist told me "It looks like you're going to have to live with it." That wasn't good enough for me!! Since I live in Cleveland, I sought out a bone specialist at the Cleveland Clinic; his first question was "Did you get a cortisone shot?" Of course I hadn't. It took two weeks for the effects of the cortisone to be felt and after about six months I needed a second shot. After that I was cured permanently. The lesson is, don't give up and find the best specialist you can!

    June 8, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elliott Resnick

      I recently fractured my tailbone and I am debating about my choice of treatment. I have had a lot of cortisone injections for unrelated conditions at Cleveland Clinic. Can you please give me the name of your doctor who gave you the injections. Thanks

      October 21, 2015 at 22:46 | Report abuse |
  12. gmw

    After a decade of pain on/off (I'm an equestrian), I developed severe pain in the middle of the ride that I could no longer live with. I did not respond to corticosteroids. Plain xrays were interpreted as arthritis, but an MRI showed a displaced coccyx. I underwent coccygectomy with a surgeon who is considered an expert on this procedure. It completely relieved my pain, and I was able to return to the sports I love. If conservative measures fail, I highly recommend the surgery–but make sure you have it performed by a surgeon who does more than one or two a year. The surgeon I saw receives referrals from all over the West Coast, and I was one of two cases he did on the same day. It's a technically difficult surgery, but so very worth it–and so much better than the advice I originally received, which was also, "Learn to live with it"–never something an athlete wants to hear. (My surgeon was at UCSD).

    June 8, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yakobi.

      I'm with UCSD myself and have a similar problem. Can you give me that doctor's name?

      June 8, 2011 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      See my reply below: I have had both bone pain and endometriosis pain, which feel the same, but have different causes. My chiropractor slowly straightened the problem, and no more pain from that. I can sit for hours on anything but a hard bench, and the chiropractor cost (3 times a week, then 2 times, then once, then every other, then checkups) is still much much lower than the co-pay for one surgery for it.

      June 8, 2011 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
  13. Tony

    I've struggle with tailbone pain since I took a bad slip/fall. I find rolling around on a tennis ball helps a lot, both sitting on it, and while laying on my back.

    June 8, 2011 at 16:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. OvernOut

    A few of us parents can be observed standing at the corner of the fence in the stadium for our kids' sporting events instead of sitting in the bleachers. We have "bleacher bum" from years of sitting on hard bleacher seats. From marching band to track, oldest kid to youngest, I spent 15 years in the bleachers, as an observer or a parent volunteer. It caught up to me this year, had to have my tailbone x-rayed. Standing made the pain go away, so that's why some of us parents stand at the fence. Long car trips aggrevate the problem–in-laws all live 12 hours away–so more breaks during car trips, and I am all for fewer trips to the in-laws (whoo-hoo!).

    June 8, 2011 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Yakobi.

      That's why the Wright brothers invented the airplane, so people wouldn't have to spend 12 hours in a car!

      June 8, 2011 at 17:07 | Report abuse |
    • OvernOut

      Three trips from metro Detroit to New Jersey each year X two, three, four or five persons X 30 years-NEVER have had or will ever have the kind of dough it would take to fly! We put 240,000 miles on the Dodge minivan; the Chevys, Fords, Plymouths all went up to 200,000. Caravan would still be on the road, except somebody stole it and wrecked it. Still cheaper by car.

      June 8, 2011 at 19:42 | Report abuse |
    • Grandmaof3

      Been there. Done those trips. Then they start Teaching them SO you're still going, just in time for the youngest grandkiddo to start. I take my wheelchair, no matter how much it hurts. I cannot stand like that.

      November 18, 2019 at 13:08 | Report abuse |
  15. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

    Tailbone pain, or coccydynia, is also treated by trained pelvic floor physical therapists. To locate one in your area, you can visit the "Find a PT" section on the American Physical Therapy Association's website (http://www.apta.org/apta/findapt/index.aspx?navID=10737422525). Under 'Practice Area', select 'Women's Health'. You should be treated by a PT who has taken advanced certification courses in pelvic floor physical therapy.

    A pelvic floor-trained PT can do an internal or external exam of the coccyx to assess whether the pelvic floor muscles are in spasm (hypertonic), and whether the coccyx has been pulled into flexion, extension, or rotated. In addition, the PT should assess the other bony structures of the pelvis and the muscles and ligaments. The PT should also teach you stretches and a gradual core strengthening program, as well as work on good body mechanics so that the pain does not return.

    Good luck!

    June 8, 2011 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dee

      The dr told me that I have PFD and it the tailbone really bothersome and I get pains when I lean back and it get pain all over my pelvic floor and down there if you know what I mean ? do you think I should remove the tailbone or not ?

      June 24, 2012 at 19:07 | Report abuse |
  16. L

    I injured my tail bone sledding one year as an adult, and suffered the same level of pain for one year. Then I went to a Dr. who did acupuncture - and he used a technique called moxbustion. After 2 or 3 treatments it was totally healed.

    June 8, 2011 at 21:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Chris

    If conservative therapy doesn't help, and your pain is from sitting and is relieved by standing, consider pudendal nerve entrapment before you have a coccyx removal. This is a kind of nerve pain that happens to cyclists among others, but it can be mistaken for tailbone pain.

    June 8, 2011 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dee

      I was sitting wrong and my tailbone pains it pelvic floor dsyfunction and I have IC and other two problem.
      it is hurts when Iean back it get pain all over my pelvic floor and my privite part too ,, I am female. so I dont know what should I do to remove my tailbone.. so It will stop the pain for good ..

      June 24, 2012 at 19:01 | Report abuse |
  18. Elizabeth

    If it is only bone pain, a good and gentle chiropractor can help; make sure that it is the right doctor though.
    Women can have transferred pain from endometriosis, and many women have this. If endometriosis finds its way into the spaces below the abdomen, it can hurt the lower back, feeling like the spine, like stabbing pain or a sledge hammer, every day. Sometimes physical activity (such as a 50 mile bike ride) can set this off, because it gives the endometriosis a chance to settle in the wrong place, and once there, it stays. See a very good gynecologist-surgeon (again, make sure it is a doctor with much experience in this; ask the Endometriosis Association) if the chiropractor doesn't work. There are other causes too which might include cancer; you need real expert advice to sort out this problem; go to a good primary-care doctor. My husband's primary care doctor gave him anti-spasmodics for "irritable bowel syndrome," but we found out that my husband has advanced cancer. Don't just wait for any pain to go away "by itself," even if you think the cause was over-exercise.

    June 8, 2011 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Sorry

    Tailbone pain from injury never goes away. It's like like my ex-girlfriend.

    June 8, 2011 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. charlie

    i had shots on my buttocks for hayfever. when i walked out of the dr.office i could not walk. my tailbone has been hurting for about three months i was wondering if the nurse hit nerves in my buttocks.i had an x-ray and nothing was wrong. i only hurts when i sit.

    June 8, 2011 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jay

    I have suffered from coccyx pain for over 2 years. There was no trauma. After multiple CT Scans, MRI's and X-Rays, the doctor finally came to the conclusion that I had arthritis in my tailbone probably related to long hours in the office chair. I've had 4 cortisone injections with no relief. The doctor plans on doing a nerve block next. I was advised that removal of the coccyx is not something I should consider. Of all places to get arthritis. I pain in unbearable 😦

    June 8, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Webadeb

      Do try seeing a chiropractor first.

      June 9, 2011 at 03:03 | Report abuse |
  22. Webadeb

    I also hurt my tailbone, during my first (and last! LOL) snowboarding class, and had pain for several months until I was able to go visit my chiropractor – who did ONE adjustment and fixed it just fine – I was 32 and though it was an embarrassing procedure, I am so thankful that he was able to fix my pain so immediately and quickly. That's why I'm commenting, to recommend going to a chiropractor who may be able to do an adjustment for you.

    June 9, 2011 at 03:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. dc mortimer

    As a kid I once got kicked there by a guy who was twice my size, it took about a year for the pain to leave, a very soar thing.

    June 9, 2011 at 06:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. thomas

    Try a good chiropractor.

    June 9, 2011 at 06:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Healthcare Not Sickness care

    It sounds like this Dr read straight out of a 1950's medical dictionary!! With all do respect to our cancer Doc, this should only be treated by a chiropractor or accupuncturist.

    Surgery......Really?

    June 9, 2011 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. John B

    I injured my tailbone while sledding as a teenager, and the pain lingered for over a decade.

    June 9, 2011 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Rhiannon

    I dislocated my tailbone 9 years ago and had gone through every therapy mentioned above. Last year I finally had my tailbone removed. My injury had stretched out all the ligaments holding the tailbone in place & to quote the surgoen it was "loose and flopping." Never anything one wants to hear about what's a usually rather stable section of bone. It's now been 8 months and the only time I have problems with residual pain is when it's very cold outside or a big weather front moves in.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dee

      Do you think it worth it to remove the tailbone and it will stop the pain ?

      June 24, 2012 at 19:04 | Report abuse |
  28. LizRod22

    My 9lb baby did a number on my tailbone nearly 8 years ago, and I still have lingering pain. Long rides in the car are the worst. I guess it's a comfort to know this type of thing is semi-normal.

    June 9, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Derek

    Def try a chiropractor. The cost will be alot cheaper than surgery and will also fix the problem instead of cover it up like shots do. coccyx adjustments are not that common, but call around and find one who is familiar with them. Your best bet would be a chiropractor who specializes in treating infants.

    June 9, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Jeff

    Not mentioned in the article is chiropracty. My chiro completely solved my tailbone pain.

    June 9, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. HPN

    Good news, had a similar problem, the Dr. told me to take three 600 mg. tablets spread out over 24 hours of Ibuprofin per day and it would take a couple of weeks to get into my system. Two weeks later I was pain free. I would come off now and then to see if I needed it, which I would and soon as I got back on it, the pain went away. You can do some of these other things in addition searching for permenent relief, but if you were like me you want something that works now., this worked for me. Many years later I had back surgery for another problem, and the surgery ended up giving permenant relief.

    June 9, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Dana

    Twenty three years ago, when I had my first child, I popped my tailbone. My dr checked to see if it was "out of joint". It was not, it was severly bruised. To this day I have pain! After sitting for a peiod of time...I have to shift from cheek to cheek and get up slowly!! I hate to tell you it can be a life long pain (in the butt)!

    June 9, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. ashley

    There's two new fields of physical therapy which help individuals with low back pain/hip pain/tailbone pain...women's health and men's health. Because it is new, most individuals in the medical community are unfamiliar with it. I had chronic tailbone pain for 5 years, and this area of physical therapy practice helped me greatly! Womens health can also help with pain during pregnancy as well as pain following child birth. These two areas of PT can also help with incontinence. Check it out! http://www.womenshealthapta.org/plp/index.cfm

    June 9, 2011 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Melanie

    I had tailbone pain for over a year after having my first child that weighed over 9 lbs. Fiver years later I was riding a bicycle in the yard and hit a bump and the pain started again and lasted for another year. I try to stay away from bicycles now.

    July 5, 2011 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Brenda

    Hi. My name is Brenda and I wanted to ask why my tailbone is hurting so bad. This all started after I sat on my floor for 2 hours and. Know it hurts immensely when I change from sitting to standing.
    Is there anything that can help this?

    July 16, 2011 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Michelle

    Most doctors say there is no cure. I had chronic tailbone pain for 4 years following the birth of child #5. I tried everything, chiropractic, tylonol and aleve, ice and heat, topical creams, physical therapy, pelvic floor therapy, cortisone injections, special seat cushions, nothing worked, although the injections gave me relief for short periods of time. I recently was referred to a rheumatologist for other joint pain. He prescribed celebrex. The change didn't happen overnight, it took nearly 2 months before I began to notice improvement, in my joints. Then I realized that my tailbone was also improving and the pain was also completely gone. After 6 months on celebrex 200mg twice daily, I am pain free, and feel like I have my life back! Hope this helps someone else.

    December 5, 2011 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. nicole

    I started an exercise regimen where I get down on all 4s with a 9.5 lb sand weight strapped to my thigh and I think I may have done something to hurt my tailbone. (Coccyx) it hurts to wlk and to jump on trampoline. (I have kids so I can't just lay around) anyways, its been hurting for about 6 mos now. I asked my doc about it while in her office for an unrelated issue. She didn't even do anything about it let alone even respond to my question. I'm worried it could be colon cancer or some other type of cancer as I have read stories about tail bone pain being caused by cancer of the colon. I need to make anoth apt w my doc to see if there is anything she can do (colonoscopy perhaps) I am 29. I feel too young for something like this. I have also recently developed panic disorder and begantaking concerta for my adhd. I have no insurance and am simply going nuts with worry.

    December 11, 2011 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Rachna

    Nicole and everybody who is in pain, check out this chair http://carmichaelthrone.com/ and pass it on to people who sits all day, young or old. Everybody needs it.

    January 26, 2012 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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    February 7, 2012 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. victor

    what if its been hurting over years and all these medicine not really working??? ive x rayed already but the dang doctor said i have no problum since i can walk. i was standing and a really heavy object pushed me to a wall, applying extreme amount force to my tailbone heard a pop. now i really wish i was dead then keep having this problum.

    March 2, 2012 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
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  42. Gloria

    I was in two really bad car accidents, one in 2005 in which I almost severed my left foot, but thank God for Dr William Zuelzer and Dr Isaac of MCV my foot was saved!!! The accident that I had in 2010 my back was broken, lungs collapsed,broken pelvis and a number of left leg injurys it left me with severe chronic pain especially in my tailbone area. Trust me I am thankful to God for saving my life but sometimes the pain leaves me so sad and depressed. I have had MRI. Xrays, nerve blocks,all kinds of shots, percoset, morphine, ibuprofen and acupuncture one time and still have no relief. I have no life because I can barely function . The doctors seem to have given up and act like I am making up my pain and like I am crazy. I am so weary that I feel like giving up but I won't. I pray to God for relief and will continue to pray.My husband has been a Godsend and help me as much as he can but he also suffer from back pain so when he is sick I gain strength from God and help him and vice versa. I also have a beautiful Maltese named Marlowe that make me happy and he is always at my side. If someone can help or know something that may help please, please let me know.

    June 26, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Wendy

    I had a boating accident 5 years ago in 2007. My pelvic bone was cracked, among other broken bones. I recovered after 7 months, & now 5 years later, my tailbone suddenly starting hurting when I lay on my back & I have to sit leaning forward. I cannot have any pressure on that area. Bone scan, x-rays, & a colonosopy shows nothing.Ibuprophen did not really provide much relief.Now I have been taking Celebrex for one week & have seen improvement already. The doctor told me the injury 5 yrs. ago has probably caused arthritus in my coccyx. I pray everyday that I will not have to live with this the rest of my life or take Celebrex the rest of my life.

    June 30, 2012 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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  50. Sheepmanswife

    I broke my tailbone the 1st time at 14. Then broke it again in 2006 with a delivery, and again in 2008 after my 3rd pregnancy. After 9 months of severe pain, my Dr. finally x-rayed it. The bottom 4 bones that make up the coccyx had completely broken off from the spine and then broke in 2 again. So when I sat, I was sitting on broken bone. When I stood, it would slide up behind my spine. An back surgeon removed the tailbone. when i went in for my 2 week check, I was on even more pain than before and just felt awful. I didn't even get to see the Dr., just his PA. I tried to tell him something was wrong, he thought i was just after more pain pills. By 10:00 pm, I was laying on the floor in my hallway wanting to die! My husband finally got home and took me to the ER. They life-flighted me to Salt Lake City. I had sepsis. I was on the hospital for 4 days and had IV antibiotics and then oral for 2 more weeks. The severe pain has NEVER gone away. I feel like the Dr. did a crappy job in the first place. Now my Internist is telling me I am going to have chronic pain from it for the rest of my life. It literally hurts 24 hours day. I wish there was something out there besides narcotics to take the pain away. even with that, I still feel the pain whenever I sit. Even when I lay on my side. I have overcompensated and tried to avoid sitting straight up. I lean clear over and sit on my hips.. So now I am having hip problems from sitting on them. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, I would so appreciate it!!

    October 22, 2013 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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