Tailbone trauma is any injury that occurs to the coccyx or tailbone, which is found at the base of the spine.
Tailbone trauma can cause: bruisingdifficulty sittingdifficulty rising from a sitting positiondifficulty walkingpain in the tailbone areapainful bowel movements, leading to constipationswelling
A severe injury may cause chronic pain and nerve damage. The individual may experience long-term difficulty with walking and bowel movements.
Usually, tailbone trauma occurs when a person falls backward onto the tailbone and lands on a hard surface. This happens more often to elderly people. It is also more likely to occur when walking on very slick surfaces, such as a wet or polished floor or ice.
Tailbone trauma may also be caused by a direct blow to the area or by strain during childbirth.
The factors that increase an individual's risk for tailbone trauma include the following: arthritiscertain medicines, such as corticosteroidscontact sports, such as footballa diet low in calciumobesity or overweightosteoporosis (bone thinning)poor balance or dizzinesspregnancy
To prevent injury to the tailbone, a person should: avoid walking on very slippery surfacesbe careful on iceavoid pushing hard against the tailbone during labor
A person who is elderly or prone to falls should: avoid any slippery surfacemake sure there is something to hang onto, such as a railing or grab baruse a cane or walker, if neededwear shoes with soles that provide good traction
An exercise program to improve balance may be helpful to elderly individuals or those with motor impairments.
Tailbone trauma is usually diagnosed when a person reports a fall and the healthcare provider examines him or her. The provider may order an X-ray of the lower spine.
Treatment of tailbone trauma may involve any or all of the following measures: applying ice or cool compresses to the areaeating a diet high in fiber and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent constipationsitting in a hot tub, whirlpool, or Jacuzzi tub to decrease pain and swellingusing a rubber, air-filled donut to take the pressure off the tailbone when the person is sittingusing stool softeners to make bowel movements easier and less painful
If the injury is severe, the healthcare provider may advise surgery to remove the damaged section of coccyx. If there is an open wound, the provider may prescribe oral antibiotics to avoid infection.
Pain medicines may cause an upset stomach or drowsiness, but allergy to pain medications is unusual. Antibiotics can frequently cause an allergic reaction.
Unfortunately, a tailbone injury can take quite a while to heal. Some people do not completely recover for 6 to 8 weeks or even longer. While the injury is healing, it is essential to avoid taking other falls that would injure this area again and lengthen the recovery time. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.