The coccyx or tailbone is one of the smallest bones in the body, but it sure hurts when it's injured and untreated tailbone injuries can have serious health consequences, including cramps, digestive problems, leg and low back pain.
What is a Coccyx Injury?
The coccyx (pronounced "cock-sicks") or tailbone is made up of the final, bottom vertebrae in the spinal column. These vertebrae are typically well-protected, but when they are injured during a fall or other trauma, the tailbone can be bruised or misaligned. Coccyx pain, called coccygodynia or coccydynia, is very common after a fall on the lower back or seat bones.
An injury can misalign the tailbone so that it is in the wrong place, either side to side (to the left or right) or positioned too far to the front or back. Any form of misalignment can cause problems because of the many nerves and muscles that are attached to the coccyx nerves that run throughout the entire spine, the muscles of the pelvic floor, intestinal regions, and the thigh and upper leg.
How Does Tailbone Injury Happen?
Coccyx injuries usually happen because of a fall - down stairs, on ice, or onto any hard surface that impacts the posterior. Tailbone injuries are more common in women because the shape of a woman's pelvis leaves the coccyx more exposed.
Some of the reasons for coccyx injuries include:
A fall onto the tailboneDirect impact during sports or violenceCoccyx misalignment or fracture during childbirthRepetitive strain while rowing, cycling, etc.Bone spurs, infection, and tumors are the least common causes of tailbone injuryRisks and Effects of Coccyx Injuries
Medical wisdom says that most coccyx injuries repair themselves given time, but holistic experts believe otherwise.
In the immediate aftermath of a coccyx injury, while bruises are healing, doctors usually warn patients to expect discomfort during bowel movements and some constipation. These problems are expected to clear up as bruising heals but they often don't, and other problems can appear with time.
Because the nerves and muscles connected to the tailbone run throughout the lower body and up the spine, the effects of coccyx injuries can be far reaching:
headacheslow back painsciatica painpain in the coccyx area that does not abate over time (coccygodynia or coccydynia)chronic digestive problems, especially constipationmenstrual cramps pain during intercourse (for women)Some of these problems may appear right after a tailbone injury, while others show up in the following months or years. Even if am injury appears to be healing on its own, it's usually a good idea to investigate treatment (see below) to realign the lower spine.Treatments and Solutions for Coccyx Injuries and Pain
Most doctors recommend that pain be treated with ice, pain killers, and by avoiding further trauma to the area using special coccyx cushions that avoid placing pressure on the tailbone, so that coccydynia can mend itself.
If coccyx pain (and its associated problems) does not go away within a few weeks, the only medical option is surgery to remove the coccyx which does not always work to alleviate the pain (prompting some doctors to consider lasting coccyx pain a psychosomatic issue instead of a physical pain condition).
A more holistic approach links many symptoms (see above) with tailbone injuries. These problems are best addressed by healing the source of the problem the original coccyx misalignment.
Coccyx injuries can be treated on a deep level through practices like reiki, energy medicine, and acupuncture, but the most effective treatments for this kind of injury are craniosacral massage and osteopathy. These practices correct the subtle misalignment of the coccyx that causes digestive problems, cramps, and low back pain bringing relief for pain and any other symptoms.
SourceseMedicine Health, "Tailbone (Coccyx) Injury," eMedicineHealth.com, 2009.Sick Kids (The Hospital for Sick Children), "Tailbone Injury," AboutKidsHealth.com, 21 June 2004.WebMD, "Tailbone (Coccyx) Injury," WebMD.com, 2009.