Tailbone Pain – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Tailbone pain is literally a pain in the butt. Actually, it is a pain at the bottom of the spine, which is where the coccyx or tailbone sits. But, many people who experience this type of tailbone pain cannot differentiate it from pain in a buttocks’ muscle. The one commonality to both conditions is intense pain in the area, which worsens when you sit down.

Tailbone pain is often misdiagnosed because of the location of the coccyx, the technical word for tailbone. Because it sits at the very end of the spine, it can be diagnosed as buttocks pain or even more often, as lower back pain. Tailbone pain is actually a different condition altogether. Its medical name is coccydynia, and its causes are not clearly understood today, even with the vast amount of medical knowledge that’s available.

Causes of Tailbone Pain

Women are much more apt to have tailbone pain than men. The two primary causes are:

Childbirth

Falling

When a woman gives birth, the head of the baby passes over the tailbone and can cause damage. Tailbone pain can also be caused by a tumor or infection, but these cases are quite rare. Sometimes, there is no trauma involved at all in the development of tailbone pain. You can just wake up one morning in agony and never really know the cause.

If you have a job where you sit for many, many hours each day, this could eventually lead to tailbone pain.

Falling is a common cause although many times people cannot remember an actual fall that might have injured the coccyx (tailbone). It can easily be broken, or have pieces of bone chipped off, during a fall from skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, or by playing football.

Symptoms of Tailbone Pain

The tailbone is made up of four different bones which are fused together. It connects to the sacrum via ligaments and with a vestigial disc. This is where a tail would be attached if humans had one like some other kinds of mammals do.

Pain during sitting or after sitting are symptoms of coccydynia. Interestingly enough, this pain often occurs when sitting on a padded chair and not a hard one. That is because cushioning can cause upward pressure.

Another symptom that occurs in just about every case is severe pain when moving from a sitting to a standing position.

As with many other types of pain, tailbone pain has symptoms that could be representative of other problems as well. These include:

A constant deep ache in the rear end

Pain which travels down the legs

Pain during sexual intercourse

Pain when having bowel movements

Pain during a woman’s menstrual cycle

When tailbone pain remains undiagnosed for a long period of time, some secondary symptoms can set in as well. These might include:

Pain in the feet

Pain in the entire buttocks

Aches or pains in other areas of the body, such as the hips or entire lower back area

One of the problems with tailbone pain is that when sitting becomes painful, we try to sit at different angles to relieve the pain. This puts unusual pressure on other bones and muscles and can cause pain in these other areas as well. Unfortunately, many times these secondary symptoms can mask the real problem.

Diagnosis of Tailbone Pain

The first thing that a doctor or other health professional will do when you complain of tailbone pain is to take a history and give you a physical examination. This should include a pelvic and a rectal exam to see if the reason for the pain is a tumor.

Next will come an x-ray to see if there is any kind of fracture of the coccyx or sacrum. If this proves negative or inconclusive, an MRI will probably be done to make sure there is no infection or tumor that was not picked up by the x-ray. CT scans do not usually help in diagnosis of tailbone pain, and most of the x-rays and MRIs are negative, meaning they show no problems. Pain in this area is difficult to diagnose because it could have so many different causes.

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