Understanding the Causes of Tailbone Pain

Tailbone pain, also called coccydynia, is diagnosed if you have persistent pain at the very bottom of your spine. Typically, the pain is worse when sitting and when rising from a sitting to a standing position.

This blog post reviews the causes of tailbone pain and illustrates how tailbone pain develops.

Watch our new Coccydynia (Tailbone Pain) Video

Causes of tailbone pain

The coccyx, or tailbone, highlighted below in blue, is made up of small bones at the very bottom of the spine. There is limited movement in the coccyx, and its size can vary.

See Anatomy of the Coccyx (Tailbone)

Coccyx Inflammation

Common causes of tailbone pain

In general, pain can develop in the tailbone due to several causes:

  • An injury or sudden force, such as falling down the stairs or slipping on the ice
  • Excess pressure on the area, such as sitting for long periods on a hard chair or sitting with a child or other type of added weight on your lap for long periods
  • See Office Chair: How to Reduce Back Pain?

  • During childbirth, the baby's head may press against the tailbone, forcing it backward
  • See What Causes Back Pain During Pregnancy?

Any of the above can force the coccyx to move beyond its limited range of motion, causing both local inflammation and pain.

See Tailbone Pain Causes

Rare causes of tailbone pain

Other causes of tailbone pain are rare but do occur, including:

  • The bones of the coccyx can fracture due to serious trauma to the area
  • A tumor or infection in the coccyx can be the cause of the pain
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Sacrum rotated outward

In women, the hip is tilted forward, and the sacrum is rotated outward.

women sit on coccyx

Therefore, women are more likely to bear weight on their tailbones when they sit, or more likely to injure it in a fall, and coccydynia is more prevalent in women than men.

beyond normal range

This image demonstrates ligaments being stretched as the tailbone moves beyond its normal range of motion.

The good news is that tailbone pain usually heals on its own, and chronic tailbone pain can usually be managed with activity modifications and nonsurgical care, such as NSAIDs and ice packs.

See Treatment for Coccydynia (Tailbone Pain)

However, if the pain is significant it's important to seek medical attention in order to get a treatment plan and help minimize the chance of your tailbone pain worsening or becoming chronic. Surgery is available for severe, chronic coccyx pain (a coccygectomy), but there is a long and usually difficult recovery period after the surgery so it is preferable to manage the pain and avoid surgery if at all possible.

Learn more:

Lower Back Pain Symptoms and Causes

Lower Back Pain Treatment

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