Coccydynia is the medical term for pain in the coccyx, also known as the tailbone. The coccyx is the very bottom portion of the spine that consists of three to five separate or fused vertebrae. It is attached to the sacrum, or large bone at the base of the spine, by a joint that allows limited movement between the sacrum and the coccyx.
Coccydynia is usually caused by an injury or by suffering a hard impact to the base of the spine. This injury can result from playing contact sports or falling down. This condition can also stem from childbirth when the muscles and ligaments around the coccyx overstretch, causing the coccyx to become misplaced. Having poor posture or suffering from obesity can also lead to pain in the coccyx, or can make an existing case of coccydynia worse.
The main symptom of coccydynia is pain and discomfort at the base of the spine. The severity of the pain can vary, but will tend to get worse over time if not treated. Many people find that the pain will generally worsen when moving from a sitting position to standing. Other symptoms may include having a backache, shooting pain down the legs, or pain in the buttocks and hips.
A doctor will perform a physical examination that may include diagnostic testing such as x-ray or MRI scans to rule out other potential causes of pain. If the area is tender to palpitation, this could lead the doctor to make a diagnosis. In some instances, a pelvic and/or rectal exam may be necessary to rule out other issues such as a tumor.
Treatment for coccydynia is usually noninvasive. Applying heat and/or ice to the area will usually bring immediate relief. You will be advised to avoid sitting for long periods of time which can aggravate the area. External massage and manipulation by a physical therapist will bring relief as treatment will be aimed at relaxing and extending the muscles in the surrounding area, allowing the coccyx to return to its normal position.