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Diagnosing and Treating a Broken Tailbone Symptoms


A broken tailbone can be a bit embarrassing and, sometimes, very painful.  The most common cause of a broken tailbone is blunt force trauma, most often caused by falling in a sitting position onto a hard surface.  Although a more conservative treatment is often the best approach, when it comes to a broken or otherwise traumatized tailbone, it is not (as many believe) the only treatment.

The Coccyx

The medical name for the tailbone is the coccyx.  It is a vestigial bone left over from the point in our evolutionary tree when our ancestors branched away from the apes.  In apes, it is the set of bones that connect to the tail.  In humans, it is triangular shaped bone at the end of the spinal column near the anus.

Symptoms of a Broken Tailbone

It is not always easy to diagnose a broken tailbone.  The most common cause of a broken tailbone is a fall onto a hard surface.  Sometimes, a person injures it in contact sports such as football or hockey. 

Most often, pain is what drives people to see a physician.  Pain to the coccyx (which physicians term “coccydynia”) is not, however, a clear sign of a break.  In fact, coccydynia may simply indicate bruising or trauma.  Many breaks to the coccyx may go undetected because they do not cause pain.  In the same way, many very painful bruises may seem like they indicate something serious, but may actually not be a break.  Therefore, if you experience a trauma to the tailbone, you should go to the doctor to determine whether it is a break.

Sometimes, a person will experience discomfort or pain from the coccyx without a pre-existing trauma to the area.  This could be due to another condition near the coccyx or it could be because of an infection or tumor within the coccyx.  Either way, the person should go to a physician to have his or her condition evaluated.

Coccydynia may also occur during bowel movements, while sitting or (in women) during sexual intercourse.

Diagnosing a Broken Tailbone

Your physician will do a physical exam of not only the area around your coccyx, but of your spinal column since a pain to this area could indicate a problem in the surrounding area as well.  Sometimes the physician will conduct a digital examination of your rectum to feel for any breaks or abnormalities or to attempt to reproduce your pain.

The next step is usually to conduct a scan of your coccyx with an MRI or CAT scan.  This will determine whether you actually have a break or whether the cause of your pain is actually something else.


Typically, the most prudent treatment for injuries to the tailbone is rest and recuperation.  If it is painful to sit, the sufferer should avoid doing so as much as possible and use pillows to reduce his or her discomfort. 

If the sufferer is treating the pain himself of herself, then it may be useful applying ice to the area 15 to 20 minutes a day to help manage the pain. 

Over the counter painkillers may also help.

A physician might prescribe stool softeners or similar remedies to help patients who have difficulty with bowel movements because of the pain from their broken tailbone.  Prescription painkillers may also help patients cope with the pain from an injured or broken tailbone. 

In the case of infection, antibiotics are often the answer.

In some cases, the only remedy may involve surgery, although this is not recommended as a first line of defense since so many muscles and tissues surround or connect to the coccyx.  

Medical practitioners rarely recommend complete removal of the coccyx. 


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