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Tailbone trauma - aftercare

Alternate Names

Coccyx injury: Coccyx fracture

Description

A group of three to five small bones called the coccyx is at the base of your spine. When you have a tailbone injury, you have bruised or fractured one of these bones.

More about Your Injury

Most tailbone injuries lead to bruising and pain but rarely lead to an actual fracture or broken bone.

Tailbone injuries are often caused by backward falls onto a hard surface, such as a slippery floor or ice.

Symptoms of a tailbone injury include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the lower back
  • Pain on top of the buttocks area
  • Pain or numbness with sitting
  • Bruising and swelling around the base of the spine

What to Expect

A tailbone injury can be very painful and slow to heal. Healing time for an injured tailbone depends on the severity of the injury.

  • If you have a fracture, healing can take up to 8 weeks.
  • If your tailbone injury is a bruised, healing will take about 4 weeks.

In rare cases, symptoms do not improve. Injection of a steroid medication may be tried. Surgery to remove part of the tailbone may be discussed at some point, but rarely not until 6 months or more after the injury.

Symptom Relief

Follow these steps for the first few days or weeks after your injury:

  • Rest -- halt any physical activity that causes pain. The more you rest, the quicker the injury can heal.
  • Ice your tailbone for about 20 minutes every hour while awake for the first 48 hours, then 2 - 3 times a day. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Use a cushion or gel donut when sitting. You can find one at your local drugstore.
  • Take pain medication.

For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and others) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, and others). You can buy these medications without a prescription.

  • Do not use these medications for the first 24 hours after your injury. They may increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Talk with your health care provider before using these medicines if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, or have had stomach ulcers or internal bleeding in the past.
  • Do not take more than the amount recommended on the bottle or more than your health care provider advises you to take.

It may be painful to go to the bathroom. Softening your stools may make it easier when using the bathroom. Eat plenty of fiber and drink plenty of fluids. You can also find stool softeners at your local drugstore.

Activity

As your pain goes away, you can begin light physical activity. Slowly increase your activities such as walking and sitting.

  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time.
  • Do not sit on a hard surface.
  • Use gel or rubber cushion when sitting. The hole in the center will take pressure off your tailbone.
  • When sitting, alternate between each side or your buttocks.
  • Ice after activity if there is any discomfort.

Follow-up

Your doctor may not need to follow up if the injury is healing as expected. Your doctor may want to you to follow up if the injury is more severe.

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor if you have:

  • Sudden numbness or tingling
  • Sudden increase in pain or swelling
  • Injury does not seem to be healing as expected
  • Leg weakness
  • Prolonged constipation
  • Problems controlling your bowels or bladder

References

Choi, SB, Cwinn, AA. Pelvic Trauma. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7thed. Philadelphia, Pa. Mosby Elsevier, 2009: chap 52.

Review Date: 7/4/2012
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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