If you’re not even sure what the word “coccyx” means, let’s get one thing clear first of all. Your coccyx is typically referred to as your “tailbone.”
But for a lot of us, the only thing we know about our tailbone is that, well, we have one.
Your tailbone, or coccyx, is much more important than you may think. It can be the cause of a few different painful complications and concerns for injury and other issues.
If you want to know a bit more about this underrated structure in your body, let’s talk about it.
What Is It?
First, what the heck is your coccyx actually?
It’s a tiny grouping of three to five bones in your tailbone area that start off as separate pieces but eventually fuse together by the time you’re 30. This is what makes it so unique.
It’s triangular in shape, weight-bearing, and an important part of body functions like walking and sitting.
Where Is It?
Your coccyx is located right beneath your sacrum in your spine.
When we think about our spine, know that it’s made out of multiple different vertebrae that are separated by discs. At the very bottom, right by your pelvis, are five fused vertebrae called the sacrum. And below that, at the very bottom tip of your spine, is the tiny bones that create your tailbone.
Knowing just how small it is and how connected it is to the rest of our spine, we can see that it’s an important bone, after all.
Why Does It Hurt?
Due to its shockingly small size and the fact that it’s located at the extreme bottom of your spine, you can imagine that it receives a lot of pressure that could cause complications.
There are a few different reasons that you may be experiencing tailbone pain, including rare things like bone spurs or some type of infection. It can also be caused by pain to the rest of the spine, but this is uncommon.
The common reasons why so many people experience pain in their coccyx are:
If you’re experiencing coccyx pain at the end of a long day of standing still or sitting, your coccyx pain is likely caused by an improper seating situation.
In today’s world, most of our seating options are not designed to be great for the human body. Many office chairs are either too low to the ground or too soft. This causes extra pressure from our coccyx sinking into the fabric and makes good posture near impossible.
To counteract this, you have to find a way to protect your coccyx from the poor seating of your chair.
Pregnancy causes a lot of changes to take place in the body. One of the most well-known among these is lower back pain.
The extra pressure of the baby causes your back to work harder to counteract the pressure. It also adds a lot of weight onto your pelvis specifically, which can cause that obnoxious coccyx pain.
As you may have guessed, a tailbone injury can cause significant pain in the coccyx. Since it’s such a small bone (or grouping of bones, if you’re under 30 and it’s still fusing), it can easily be injured.
Common causes of coccyx injury include things like a direct fall or impact injury. Childbirth can also often cause a coccyx injury due to the extra pressure from pushing for long periods of time.
Some coccyx injuries, however, have an unknown cause. Both males and females have a small and weak coccyx and can be injured by something as simple as sitting on a bench that’s too hard. This is why it’s so important to protect it and take care of it.
Complications of Coccyx Pain
Coccyx pain is usually worse when sitting or standing. It can also get worse when you’re in motion or any time you engage the muscles in your back to lift something or get up from a chair.
Since different things can cause coccyx pain, your symptoms can worsen with types of motion or resting. It may be easy to assume that resting your back is the best thing you can do to relieve coccyx pain, but that’s not always the case.
For instance, if your coccyx pain is caused by inflammation, you may find that you experience worse pain and tenderness in the morning. This is because the inflammation can worsen when you don’t move as much.
Aside from the obvious lower back pain while in a sitting position or standing, there are a few other complications from coccyx pain that you may not consider right off the bat.
Some complications that can arise from coccyx pain that you may not think about are pain during sexual intercourse and even constipation (the halt in bowel movements presenting with hard and small stools) caused by the coccyx pain.
So yes, coccyx injuries and pain are definitely going to interfere with your day-to-day life. Luckily, many of these injuries are completely preventable.
How Can You Protect Your Coccyx
With all of the ways that you can injure or bruise your coccyx, you probably want to know if there’s anything you can do to prevent causes of coccyx pain.
The answer is yes. You have plenty of options when it comes to preventing those painful coccyx injuries.
Here are a few ways that you can protect your coccyx in your daily life.
If you work at a job where you’re seated for most of the day, you most likely have noticed how sore and tender your coccyx can get. In this case, you definitely need to add something to your seating situation to keep your coccyx in a healthy position.
In these instances, it’s a good idea to use a coccyx seat cushion that has a cutout for your coccyx to ensure that you aren’t putting too much pressure on the tiny bone. This type of cushion will also encourage proper posture, making sure that the rest of your spine is in line as well.
Avoid Sitting or Standing Still for Too Long
While we’re on the topic of sitting for a long time, working like this is not great for your coccyx. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
If you work at an office, find reasons to get up and move around for a few minutes at least every couple of hours. This could mean getting a drink of water, going to the break room for coffee, or going to deliver a message to a colleague instead of emailing them.
On the opposite end of that, if you stand still for too long, you can also injure your coccyx. If you work at a checkout counter in retail, try to keep your body in motion by doing stretches at your station to avoid poor posture pitfalls. You could try a gentle spinal twist or just walk around in a circle for a bit.
Good Sleeping Positions
Lastly, you want to do your best to make sure you aren’t causing any damage to your coccyx while you’re sleeping.
Using a quality wedge cushion is a great way to keep your lower back elevated while you sleep and keep pressure off of your coccyx.
Your Coccyx Is a Tiny But Important Bone
If you’ve underestimated the importance of your coccyx before, we hope you understand just how key this small, triangular bone is to your wellness.
If you are not improving, it's time for a physical examination to receive a diagnosis from your doctor. Diagnostic tools include taking your medical history (including daily activities and possible coccyx trauma), an MRI, an x-ray, or a CT scan.
Possible treatment options are physical therapy, steroids, injections, medications like Ibuprofen or Aspirin, and stool softeners.