Tailbone trauma - aftercare
Coccyx injury; Coccyx fracture
The tailbone, or coccyx, is made up of three to five small bones. It 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. Only in rare cases is there a 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 between 8 to 12 weeks.
- If your tailbone injury is a bruise, healing takes about 4 weeks.
In rare cases, symptoms do not improve. Injection of a steroid medicine may be tried. Surgery to remove part of the tailbone may be discussed at some point, but not until 6 months or more after the injury.
Follow these steps for the first few days or weeks after your injury:
- Rest and stop 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 to 3 times a day. DO NOT apply ice directly to the skin.
- Use a cushion or gel donut when sitting. You can buy one at a drugstore.
- Take pain medicine.
For pain, you can use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and others) or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, and others). You can buy these medicines without a prescription.
- DO NOT use these medicines for the first 24 hours after your injury. They may increase the risk of bleeding.
- Talk with your health care provider before using these drugs 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 provider advises you to take.
It may be painful to go to the bathroom. Eat plenty of fiber and drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation. Use stool softener medicine if needed. You can buy stool softeners at the drugstore.
As your pain goes away, you can begin light physical activity. Slowly increase your activities, such as walking and sitting. You should:
- Avoid sitting for long periods
- 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
Your doctor may not need to follow up if the injury is healing as expected. If the injury is more severe, you will likely need to see the doctor.
When to Call the Doctor
Call the doctor if you have any of the following:
- 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
Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM. Coccyx fracture. In: Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM. Minor Emergencies. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 106.
Choi, SB, Cwinn, AA. Pelvic trauma. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA. Elsevier Mosby; 2014:chap 55.
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.