Tailbone (Coccyx) Pain Infection in the Tailbone

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Is Infection 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 infection. The joints of the coccyx may become infected, or infections in the lower spine, buttocks, and pelvic region may create the sensation of pain emanating from the tailbone. Infection is not a common cause of coccyx pain, but a positive diagnosis would require treatment to alleviate the condition.

Infection as a Cause of Coccyx Pain

In order to understand how infection can contribute to 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.

While it is not an infection of the coccyx itself, a pilonidal cyst may form on the tip of the tailbone and become infected and filled with pus. This would generate pain, swelling, and redness at the bottom of the spine. An ingrown hair is the likely cause of such cysts. Once infected, the technical term becomes pilonidal abscess. The treatment is to lance and drain the abscess to remove the infection.

Other infections may be suggested by pain emanating from the coccyx. The membranes of the coccygeal joints may become infected. Infection of the sacrum may radiate pain to the tailbone. Shingles of the buttocks has been observed as creating acute pain in the region. While infection is not a primary cause of coccydynia, it is a possibility.

Beyond infections, coccyx pain can be induced by physical trauma, repetitive stress activities that create friction on the tailbone, childbirth, 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 dislocation and 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.

Sources:

http://webmd.com/skin-problems- and-treatments/guide/pilonidal- cysts

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2027&pf=2/coccydynia/article.htm

http://tailbonedoctor.com/about-tailbone- pain/

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.
  • Consider over the counter medications to relieve pain and inflammation.

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