Broken or Fractured Coccyx: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

Ever fallen from some height and hit your tailbone? Ow! In this lesson, learn about the symptoms and treatment of a broken coccyx, including various pain management strategies.

Slippery Conditions

It was the middle of winter when an unexpected ice storm came through Melissa's town. The morning started with rain, but the temperature dropped and everything was covered in a sheet of ice.

Unknowing of the severity of the conditions, Melissa headed out her front door to get into her car to go to work. As she stepped onto her driveway, her feet immediately came out from underneath her. She landed straight down on her butt with a thud. She immediately felt pain and tears started running down her face.

She was able to get herself up and carefully get back into her house. She didn't have any obvious injuries besides the pain. She thought she would just rest and feel better soon. After a few hours of not being able to tolerate the pain, she decided to go see her doctor.

What is the Coccyx?

Melissa's husband assisted her to the doctor's office. She could hardly tolerate sitting in the car and once at the physician's office, she refused to sit in a chair in the waiting room. Standing was painful, but sitting was much worse!

Her physician evaluated her and took an X-ray of her lower back. He told her she had a fractured coccyx. She had no idea what that was.

Coccyx
coccyx

He explained that the coccyx is a small, triangular shaped bone at the base of the spine. It is made up of four small bones that are mostly fused together. He said that might know it better as the 'tailbone'. The doctor explains that a fracture and a broken bone are the same thing.

Symptoms of a Broken Coccyx

The main symptom associated with a broken coccyx is pain in the area, just as we saw with Melissa. Pain in the tailbone area can be severe and it can be tender to the touch. If the injury was traumatic, bruising can occur over the area.

Sitting can make the pain worse, as we use our tailbones as part of balancing while sitting. Some might experience pain when trying to have a bowel movement and women may have pain when having sex. This is because some muscles in the pelvic area are connected to the coccyx.

Treatment

A fractured coccyx takes time to heal. This is a very painful injury so focusing on pain management is key. Using over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help. Melissa can apply ice to the area to help with pain as well.

It's important to avoid sitting for long periods of time, as this can make the pain worse. If you do have to sit, try to have a comfortable chair and shift your weight frequently to relieve the pressure on the coccyx.

Use of a donut cushion can help as it relieves any pressure put directly onto the coccyx. Since pain can be increased when having a bowel movement, you will want to avoid constipation by eating a high fiber diet and taking stool softeners if necessary.

Using a donut cushion can help relieve pressure on an injured coccyx and make sitting easier
donut cusion

Usually these simple steps should heal Melissa's broken tailbone in time. Some people may not be able to manage their pain with these interventions and the doctor may need to prescribe stronger pain medications.

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