Coccyx Bone: Definition, Location & Function

Instructor: Justine Fritzel

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

The coccyx is a small bone at the base of your spine. In this lesson, we will learn more about the coccyx, including its exact location, its structure, why it's vestigial, and its current function.

The Spine

Our spines are made up of 24 small bones in our back that support the weight of our body. If you think about it, how would we hold up the top half of our body if we didn't have a spine? It also helps us to be able to move and be flexible.

Even more importantly, the spine is a protective case around our spinal cord which is connected to our brain to allow all messages to and from the brain to travel to the rest of our body.

The spinal column consists of different vertebrae, with the coccyx at the very bottom
spinal cord

Those 24 small bones are called vertebrae and are round, stacked bones to create the spine. At the base of your skull begins the seven cervical vertebrae, followed by twelve thoracic vertebrae, followed by five lumbar vertebrae. These are all individual bones.

After the lumbar vertebrae is the sacral region. The sacrum is different in that the five vertebrae that make it up are not separated, but are actually fused together. Extending off of the sacrum, is the coccyx, which we will focus on in this lesson.

What is the Coccyx?

The coccyx, pronounced KOCK-six, consists of four small bones that are semi-fused, forming a small triangular bone extending from the sacrum. The coccyx is often referred to as the 'tailbone' as it's located at the base of your spine.

The base of spine called the coccyx

The coccyx is referred to as a vestigial vertebrae. This means that through evolution it has lost its function - in this case as a tail. If you have ever broken your tailbone, you know how very painful this can be. It can be frustrating to think you experienced all that pain for a body part that serves no purpose!

Let's look more into the function of the coccyx next.

Does the Coccyx Have any Purpose?

Although the coccyx is not necessary, the coccyx does have some purpose. When you sit in a chair, your weight is distributed onto your hip bones and your tailbone. This allows you to be balanced and have stability so you don't topple over easily in your chair. Think of a three legged stool - if there were only two legs, you could tip it easily.

The coccyx provides a third point of contact along with the two pelvic boness, providing balance when seated

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