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Tailbone trauma - aftercare

Description

You were treated for an injured tailbone. The tailbone is also called the coccyx. It is the small bone at the lower tip of the spine.

At home, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions on how to take care of your tailbone so that heals well.

Alternative Names

Coccyx injury; Coccyx fracture; Coccydynia - aftercare

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.

Symptom Relief

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. The hole in the center will take pressure off your tailbone. You can buy the cushion at a drugstore.
  • Avoid sitting a lot. When sleeping, lie on your belly to take pressure off the tailbone.

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.

Activity

As your pain goes away, you can begin light physical activity. Slowly increase your activities, such as walking and sitting. You should:

  • Continue to avoid sitting for long periods.
  • Not sit on a hard surface.
  • Keep using the cushion or gel donut when sitting.
  • When sitting, alternate between each of your buttocks.
  • Ice after activity if there is any discomfort.

Follow-up

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, tingling or weakness in one or both legs
  • Sudden increase in pain or swelling
  • Injury does not seem to be healing as expected
  • Prolonged constipation
  • Problems controlling your bowel or bladder

References

Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM. Coccyx fracture: (tailbone fracture). In: Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM, eds. 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 Saunders; 2014:chap 55.

Review Date:11/27/2016
Reviewed By:C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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