Tailbone (Coccyx) Pain Constant friction against the tailbone from bicycling or rowing

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Is Constant Friction to Blame for Your Coccyx Pain?

Coccydynia is the formal term used to describe pain that emanates from the coccyx or tailbone of the spine. While the most frequent cause of coccyx pain is trauma, it can also result from steady pressure on the tailbone and surrounding tissue. Pressure, combined with repetitive motion, will generate friction that will inflame the area. Activities such as bicycle riding and rowing can create the constant friction that produces coccyx pain.

Constant Friction as a Cause of Coccyx Pain

In order to understand how constant friction can generate coccyx pain, it is useful to take a look at where the coccyx is and how it is designed to perform. The coccyx is the fifth and final region of the spine. While it can consist of three to five vertebrae, 80% of people possess four. Similar to the sacral spine above it, the vertebrae of the coccyx may be fused. They may also remain in two segments. Either way, mobility is limited. The coccyx is often considered a vestigial remnant of a tail, which gives us its common name, the tailbone. The coccyx is a relatively small structure of the spine. It varies in length from 3 to 10 centimeters.

The coccyx serves several basic functions. It provides a point of attachment for tendons, ligaments, and muscles of the pelvic region. It is the point at which the spinal cord is anchored. The coccyx helps give support to the spine. Along with the ischium bones, the coccyx forms a tripod for stability while seated.

Simply sitting on a hard surface for an extended period of time can produce inflammation and pain in the tailbone. When you combine sitting with physical activity such as riding a bike or rowing a boat, the element of friction is introduced into the equation. This exacerbates the pressure on the coccyx and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and nerves. Riding a horse has also been cited as creating the same aggravation to the base of the spine. The most obvious way to relieve this pain is to cease the activity and rest. Since rest doesn’t come naturally to many, medical professionals recommend conservative therapies such as over the counter analgesics, cold and hot compresses, stretching exercises, and massage.

Beyond physical trauma and repetitive activities, coccyx pain can be induced by childbirth, infections, tumors, and injuries to other parts of the spine. Whatever behavior moves the bones in the coccyx beyond their limited range of motion can cause the ligaments, muscles, and nerves to become inflamed. If you are experiencing tailbone pain, or any pain in the lower back, buttocks, hips, or legs, get in touch with an expert in spine health. Early diagnosis and treatment can help ameliorate current pain and prevent long term, chronic issues.







Health Tips for Tailbone

  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Take frequent walks or standing breaks if possible. Lean forward to direct your weight away from the tailbone.
  • Use a doughnut pillow to sit on, particularly during periods of tailbone pain. Use ice or heat to relieve tenderness or pain.
  • Watch your weight. Extra pounds can put extra stress on the tailbone.
  • Eat more fiber. Fiber rich foods can soften stools and help avoid constipation that can further irritate the muscles surrounding the coccyx.

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