Tailbone pain, called “coccydynia,” is pain in and around the small triangular bone at the very bottom of your spinal column, above the cleft of your buttocks.
The term “coccyx” comes from the Greek word for “cuckoo” as it resembles a bird’s beak with the tip pointed down. “Dynia” means “pain,” and so “coccydynia” literally means “pain of the coccyx.” And because the bone corresponds to the location of an animal’s tail, it’s called the “tailbone.”
Your coccyx is made up of three to five fused vertebrae (bones). It lies beneath the sacrum, a bone structure at the base of your spine. Several tendons, muscles and ligaments connect to it. Both the coccyx and the ischial tuberosities (two bones that make up the bottom of your pelvis) bear your weight when you sit down. Two-thirds of adults have a coccyx that curves a bit instead of pointing straight down, but one that is curved too far is abnormal and, therefore, painful.
Tailbone pain ranges from a dull ache to a fierce stab. It can last for weeks, months or sometimes longer. There are three types of events that cause tailbone pain:
Interestingly, for one-third of those with coccydynia, the cause is unknown.
No. Tailbone pain is rarely lifelong.
Tailbone pain is common.
Women are five times more likely than men to develop coccydynia. Adults and adolescents get it more often than children. Obese persons are three times more susceptible than those at the ideal weight according to the BMI (Body Mass Index) scale. You’re also more vulnerable if you lose weight too quickly.
Who hasn’t fallen backwards onto their behind? Maybe your feet slipped out from under you on the ice. Maybe you fell off a ladder. Or, maybe you were leaning too far back in your office chair and took a tumble. If you take a really bad fall you can bruise, break (fracture) or dislocate (knock out of place) your tailbone (coccyx).
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
Sports like bicycling and rowing require you to lean back and forth and stretch your spine. Too much of that repeated motion can strain the tissues around your coccyx.
During the third trimester of pregnancy, a woman’s body secretes hormones that soften the area between the sacrum and the coccyx. This enables the coccyx to move as necessary during childbirth. This is a natural process but, unfortunately, such movement may stretch the muscles and ligaments around the coccyx too far, causing additional pain. Such a strain on those soft tissues keeps them from supporting your coccyx at the correct angle.
Extra weight applies additional pressure to the coccyx. This can cause the coccyx to lean backward. Your tailbone will hurt if it is out of position.
If you don’t have enough fat in your buttocks to prevent your coccyx from rubbing against the muscles, ligaments and tendons, that can cause. The rubbing inflames the soft tissues.
Just this simple act can increase coccyx pain, especially if you’re sitting on a hard or narrow surface. Do your best to get up often, stretch and take a short walk. Better yet, find yourself a softer, more comfortable place to sit or use a cushioned seat.
Only in rare cases is tailbone pain a sign of cancer. It is extremely unlikely.
Other related symptoms that may occur with coccydynia include:
As the fetus grows, its weight does put pressure on your pelvic space, causing pain in that general area.
Yes, chronic coccydynia is one of the causes of rectal pain.
Tailbone pain is typically worse when a woman is menstruating.
First, after getting your general medical history, your healthcare provider will ask you about any recent traumas including a fall or childbirth. Next he/she will do a visual examination of the area checking for an obvious fracture, deformity, mass or an abscess (infection).
What tests are used to diagnose tailbone pain (coccydynia)?
To check for a fracture:
To check for inflammation and chordoma (a rare type of cancerous tumor of the spine):
Most people recover without undergoing any sort of treatment. Of those who do require treatment, 90% just need to use at-home remedies.
At-home remedies for tailbone pain (coccydynia) include:
Outpatient treatments for tailbone pain (coccydynia) include:
Surgical options include:
Recovery time from a coccygectomy can take a few months — maybe a year. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that the pain will go away even if the bone is gone. Again, this procedure is rare.
Other symptoms that could occur along with coccydynia, such as depression, anxiety and sciatica, should also be addressed and treated as well.
When you are pregnant, it’s normal to have tailbone pain. Pain comes from sitting for long periods of time, but can also occur when standing and walking. This is because the growing fetus is putting pressure on the bone. Physical therapists recommend you lie on your side when you sleep and sit on a coccyx cushion. Both will help relieve some of the pain by taking pressure off of your coccyx.
Yes. Standing up and walking around decreases pressure on your coccyx, reducing pain.
Sitting, driving, bending and sleep are all affected by tailbone pain. In severe cases it can vastly decrease your quality of life. Lie on your side to reduce tailbone pain.
Yes. A chiropractor can help correct the misalignment of a coccyx that leans too far forward or back.
You can reduce your risk of tailbone pain by:
Dull pain, hard pain, stabbing pain, and any other amount and severity of pain in between. Your pain will be worse when you sit and stand up, and also when you have a bowel movement and have sexual intercourse.
Only a few days or weeks, typically. Less time if you use your at-home remedies.
Tailbone pain is uncomfortable but it shouldn’t keep you from your daily activities. If it does, contact your healthcare provider and make an appointment right away.
Tailbone pain is not something you just have to live with. Follow the at-home remedy recommendations and check with your healthcare provider about outpatient options.
Don’t sit for long periods of time without standing up, take a short walk or do a couple quick stretches. If you love to ride your bike, cut back for now. Lie on your side when you sleep. Spend more time on your feet! Use the at-home remedies and stay in contact with your healthcare provider.
See your healthcare provider if your severe tailbone pain does not improve within a few weeks. Also see him/her if your at-home remedies don’t work.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Tailbone pain is uncomfortable but temporary. Keep vigilant. Take your medications as prescribed, apply your ice packs, take hot baths, get a donut (the cushion and, well, you might as well get the chocolate glazed one as well) and spend more time on your feet and keep those feet moving. Don’t let your coccydynia get unbearable before you contact your healthcare provider!
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 07/06/2020