Tailbone trauma is any injury that occurs to the coccyx or tailbone, which is found at the base of the spine.
What are the causes and risks of the injury?
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:
- certain medicines, such as corticosteroids
- contact sports, such as football
- a diet low in calcium
- obesity or overweight
- osteoporosis (bone thinning)
- poor balance or dizziness
What can be done to prevent the injury?
To prevent injury to the tailbone, a person should:
- avoid walking on very slippery surfaces
- be careful on ice
- avoid pushing hard against the tailbone during labor
A person who is elderly or prone to falls should:
- avoid any slippery surface
- make sure there is something to hang onto, such as a railing or grab bar
- use a cane or walker, if needed
- wear shoes with soles that provide good traction
An exercise program to improve balance may be helpful to elderly individuals or those with motor impairments.
How is the injury recognized?
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.
What are the treatments for the injury?
Treatment of tailbone trauma may involve any or all of the following measures:
- applying ice or cool compresses to the area
- eating a diet high in fiber and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent constipation
- sitting in a hot tub, whirlpool, or Jacuzzi tub to decrease pain and swelling
- using a rubber, air-filled donut to take the pressure off the tailbone when the person is sitting
- using 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.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Pain medicines may cause an upset stomach or drowsiness, but allergy to pain medications is unusual. Antibiotics can frequently cause an allergic reaction.
What happens after treatment for the injury?
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.