A coccyx injury can be a painful and debilitating trauma for any patient to endure. These traumas can greatly influence normal day to day activities, such as sitting and physical activity. Coccyx pain has a bad reputation as being stubborn, treatment-resistant and long-lasting. Injury to the coccyx might take time to resolve, but with appropriate medical treatment, the tailbone should heal to be as good as new.
The coccyx is the final vertebral segments of the spinal column and is commonly called the tailbone. The name is appropriate, since these vertebrae are the remains of what used to be a vestigial tail in our ancestors of long ago. Of all the possible low back pain conditions, coccyx symptoms are so frustrating. This is because everyone knows that the coccyx serves no anatomic function and to suffer such pain in a useless piece of the body adds insult on top of already considerable injury.
This essay details many facts about tailbone injury and provides guidance for patients who can not find relief from their coccyx pain.
A bruise on the tailbone can be a very painful event. The coccyx is sensitive and any jarring effect is likely to resonate throughout the spine. Bruising does not require medical care, but some home-based remedies are useful in relieving the pain.
Ice is great for the first 24 to 48 hours, followed by heat. OTC pain management is ok, if the pain is severe. Hydrotherapy is also a good choice for a bruised tailbone. Make sure to avoid aggravating the region by sitting or lying on your back. Even though a bone bruise is not a significant injury, the symptoms can still last for weeks. It is not uncommon for severe bruises to cause pain for 2 months or more.
A fracture to the coccyx is far more serious. While physicians usually do little or nothing for this injury, it is still recommended to get checked out if you suspect a fracture to have occurred. Minor hairline fractures should heal fine without any professional intervention, but this process will take time and might be highly uncomfortable to endure.
The coccyx has a variable anatomy in each individual. In some people it is one solid piece of bone. In others it is segmented into 2, or more commonly, 3 pieces of bone. Remember that the coccyx can be fractured along the natural vertebral separations which will make the damage difficult to diagnose. This situation is often responsible for long-term pain where no fracture was discovered, but exists nonetheless.
For serious vertebral fractures where pieces of bone have been moved from their respective proper anatomical locations, surgery, in the form of open reduction, might be necessary.
During martial arts training, these types of spinal injuries are common. Judo and grappling arts are especially liable for causing many tailbone injuries among students. Luckily, during my training, I have never injured my tailbone to any real degree. It is one of the few areas of my body which has not been traumatized during training. I did injure my coccyx once as a child, in the bathtub, and I remember it hurting for a very long time. I may have even fractured it, but never sought treatment, so I guess I will never know for sure. I do recall the pain lasting for almost a full year.
If you have injured your tailbone, it would be a good idea to get an imaging study done to make sure everything will heal on its own. After that, you must simply be patient. Try to avoid activities which will aggravate the injury.
Most of all, do not get used to taking pain killers, and especially prescription pain relievers, since dependency can definitely occur before the injury fully heals.