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Coccyx Injury - Tailbone Trauma


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

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:

  • arthritis
  • certain medicines, such as corticosteroids
  • contact sports, such as football
  • a diet low in calcium
  • obesity or overweight
  • osteoporosis, or bone thinning
  • poor balance or dizziness
  • pregnancy

  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the injury?

    Tailbone trauma can cause:

  • bruising
  • difficulty sitting
  • difficulty rising from a sitting position
  • difficulty walking
  • pain in the tailbone area
  • painful bowel movements, leading to constipation
  • swelling
  • A severe injury may cause chronic pain and nerve damage. The individual may experience long-term difficulty with walking and bowel movements.


    Diagnosis & Tests

    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.


    Prevention & Expectations

    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 inability to move about as easily as others\ \limited movement of arms or legs\ \decrease in strength or control of the muscles and bones\ \abnormal or impaired coordination\ \medical condition requiring bed rest\ ',CAPTION,'Mobility Impairment');" onmouseout="return nd();"> motor impairments.


    Treatment & Monitoring

    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 or antibiotics may cause stomach upset or 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.


    Attribution

    Author:James Broomfield, MD
    Date Written:
    Editor:Ballenberg, Sally, BS
    Edit Date:04/30/01
    Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed:08/09/01


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