Tailbone injury refers to damage such as a sprain, fracture or bruise to the coccyx or sacrum. The coccyx or the tailbone connects to the bottom of the sacrum, which is a part of the backbone that joins the pelvis. Therefore, a tailbone injury is also known as a sacrococcygeal injury. People commonly suffer from bruises of the tailbone from sports injuries and falls.
A person suffering from a tailbone injury may experience buttock or back pain depending on the area of injury. Additional symptoms of tailbone injury include swelling, bruising and tenderness above the affected area or buttocks.
If you report your injury to your doctor, he may advise treatment measures such as rest, narcotic pain medication or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and a donut pillow. Only severe and complicated injuries to the tailbone require surgery to repair the damage.
Disclaimer: this post on tailbone injury is for learning purposes only. To learn more about tailbone injuries and how to recognize and manage them, as well as other skeletal emergencies, enrol in St Mark James first aid training.
Some of the underlying causes of tailbone injuries commonly experienced by people include the following:
- Falls and jumps
- Automobile accidents
- Occupational injuries
- Sports injuries
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of tailbone injuries include:
- Back pain
- Lower back pain – above the pelvis or buttocks
- Worsening pain, especially while sitting
- Worsening pain while walking, jogging, running or jumping
- Pain and discomfort in the sacroiliac joints
- Bruises – above the buttocks
- Swelling – above the buttocks
- Tenderness – above the buttocks
- Coccyx pain
- Pain in the pelvis or pelvic pain
Follow these treatment steps if you see a casualty suffering from a tailbone injury due to an accident, fall or altercation:
1. Check for signs of spinal cord injury
Signs and symptoms of spinal cord injury include:
- Severe pain in the neck or back
- Weakness of the arms or legs
- Paralysis of a certain region of the body
- Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
If you suspect a spinal injury due to any of the above mentioned signs and symptoms, do NOT move the person.
2. Treat symptoms
To reduce pain and pressure, follow these steps:
- Use an ice pack to ice the tailbone or affected area for 3 to 4 hours. Continue doing this for 2 to 3 days or until symptoms disappear
- To ease pain, take over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Avoid giving aspirin to young children and teenagers under 18 years of age
- Purchase a doughnut cushion from a medical supply store and have the casualty use it while sitting
- Try to prevent constipation by drinking plenty of fluids and including an adequate supply of fiber into the patient’s diet
See a help care provider. The doctor will most likely perform an X-ray, MRI scan or a CT scan to analyze the injury to the bone. This will involve checking the severity of the fracture and deducing the required treatment steps. Surgery is only required for complicated fractures and injuries. Ideally, continued home care treatment will me recommended to reduce the duration of the recovery period.
To learn more about skeletal injuries and how to recognize and manage them sign up for first aid and CPR training (more information).