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The last bone at the bottom of your spine is called the coccyx, more commonly referred to as the tailbone. Coccydynia is pain experienced in your tailbone due to injury or strain to the bone or the ligaments and muscles surrounding it.
For some patients, this pain resolves on its own after a few weeks or months. However, if you are experiencing chronic coccydynia, then it’s time to contact the spine specialists at Spine Institute of North America. If left untreated, coccydynia can severely impair your ability to carry out the activities you enjoy doing every day.
What Is Coccydynia?
When inflammation occurs in the bony area deep between the buttocks just above the anus, this is what causes coccydynia. The disorder is associated with pain and tenderness in the tailbone region. You may find that sitting only worsens your coccyx pain.
Many patients describe their pain as follows:
- Dull and achy the majority of the time
- Occasionally sharp
- Shooting leg pain or pain in their back, buttocks and hips
- Grows worse when moving from a sitting to a standing position or after standing for long periods of time
- Bowel movements and sexual intercourse can also worsen the pain
- Makes it difficult to sleep, drive, bend over or carry out other everyday activities
Receiving a Coccydynia Diagnosis
Because coccydynia sometimes improves on its own, many people avoid seeing a specialist for pain experienced in their tailbone. However, if you experience any of the following, be sure to make an appointment with a spine specialist right away:
- Pain that doesn’t resolve within a few weeks
- Home treatment doesn’t improve painful symptoms
- Pain is extremely severe
- Tailbone pain is accompanied with fever, bleeding or pain in other areas of your body
- You notice bruising or rash
When you meet with our spinal specialist, they will examine you to determine the underlying cause of your coccyx pain. In some cases, we can diagnose coccydynia based on your medical history, symptoms and a physical exam. However, to exclude other conditions, we may require further tests such as X-rays or an MRI scan.
Treatment Options Available for Coccydynia
In many cases, we can treat patients using conservative measures to resolve coccyx inflammation. This could include:
- Pain medication
- Use of a well-padded seat or pillow
- Avoiding long periods of sitting
- Hot or cold packs
- Wearing loose fitting clothing
However, if this fails to relieve your symptoms, we may recommend other treatment options to help reduce your coccydynia pain:
- Anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs): NSAIDs, such as Ibuprofen, can ease painful symptoms and reduce inflammation around your coccyx.
- Physiotherapy: A physiotherapist can offer posture advice and teach you techniques to reduce coccyx pain such as exercises, stretches and massages.
- Injections: Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation and pain, but relief usually only lasts a few weeks. A local anesthetic can also be injected into your coccyx nerves to alleviate pain signals coming to this region — a treatment option that generally lasts longer than corticosteroids.
- Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation: The DRG is a cluster of nerve cells that communicates with the nervous system, and it sits just outside the spinal canal between two discs in the back. It guides information from the arms and legs through the spinal cord and into the brain. Stimulating these nerves can help to block pain signals being sent to the brain, which provides relief for the patient.
- Surgery: If all other treatment options have failed, your specialist may recommend partial coccygectomy, where some of the tailbone is removed, or total coccygectomy to remove the entire coccyx. Most people find this greatly improves their painful symptoms, though others still experience coccydynia symptoms.
Prognosis for Coccydynia
Most people who develop coccydynia make a complete recovery after being treated with conservative measures. However, if you require surgery, although your symptoms should improve considerably, full recovery could take several months or even a year.
If you’re struggling with tail bone pain and you think that coccydynia may be the cause, don’t try to manage your chronic symptoms on your own. Contact Spine Institute of North America and make an appointment today.
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