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Coccyx: Understanding the Tailbone

Coccyx, generally known as the tailbone, is a combination of three to five distinct bones. These bones form by adulthood. The coccyx is located at the bottom of the spinal column. The bones are not fully fused, and allow a minimum amount of movement because of ligaments and fibrous joints. The coccyx joins the sacrum at the sacrococcygeal joint and may fuse with it later in life. This situation occurs more in women than in men.

The function of the Coccyx

The coccyx adjusts a bit inward or outward when sitting or standing to aid with balance and support. As the site of connection for muscles that support the anus and vagina, it helps to control defecation and urination. Additionally, it assists with leg motion and serves as the spinal cords’ point of attachment. In women, the coccyx extends backward during childbirth to allow more space for the head of the fetus to exit the birth canal.

It can fracture if a person has a vertical, abrupt fall onto the buttocks. Moreover, it may break if a woman experiences childbirth complications. Activities that place repetitive stress on the area, and an infection or tumor can also cause injury. A damaged coccyx can lead to pain and changes in mobility. In rare cases, it causes dislocation of the sacrococcygeal joint.

Diagnosis of coccydynia or a painful coccyx starts with a complete medical history analysis and a thorough physical examination with palpation. X-rays, CT, and MRI scans will pinpoint the exact location of the injury. A Coccygeal discogram can also help with this process.

Treatment of Coccydynia focuses on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication hot and cold packs and activity modification. Also, dietary changes to enable ease of bowel movements, and steroidal injections for inflammation relief are effective. Physical therapy including massage, stretching, use of a TENS unit, and manual manipulation can also be initiated once the pain has improved. It is relatively rare to require surgical intervention.

If you have experienced pain in the coccyx, please contact our Seguin or New Braunfels offices. Then you can learn about our treatment choices from one of our specialists.