Tailbone (Coccyx) Pain when sitting for extended periods

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Pain When Sitting for Extended Periods – Understanding the Coccyx

The tailbone, the triangular shaped bone that is medically known as the coccyx, consists of three to five bones fused to the sacrum by a vestigial disc and ligaments. Coccyx damage can be the result of accidents or falls and can sometimes result in severe pain while sitting for extended periods of time in some patients.

Pain When Sitting for Extended Periods as a Symptom of Coccyx Damage

Coccyx pain can be made worse when doing what seem to be simple daily activities like sitting for an extended period of time. The pain may be felt along the tailbone and possibly in the legs. The lumbosacral joint (L5-S1) may also play a role in coccyx pain while sitting for extended periods of time.

Is Pain While Sitting for Extended Periods a Symptom of Coccyx Damage?

The coccyx, also known as the tailbone, is rarely a source of pain. However, accidents or falls can lead to coccyx pain, called coccydynia. The lumbar spine runs from five to six inches below the shoulder blades and ends at the sacrum. The first joint of the sacrum, the lumbosacral joint (L5-S1) may be a source of referred pain to the coccyx as it provides rotation. The coccyx itself has limited movement because it is fused to the sacrum by a vestigial disc and ligaments.

Women are more likely than men to feel coccyx pain due to the differences in their pelvic anatomy in this area. Women have a wider pelvis and slight rotation of the coccyx. The pelvis tilts forward resulting in women placing more pressure on the coccyx when sitting down. Coccyx damage may be the result of a difficult labor and delivery during childbirth or of a traumatic accident or hard fall.

For mild to moderate pain when sitting for extended periods, an over-the-counter medication like an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) is usually recommended by physicians as a first course of treatment for the coccyx pain. Ibuprofen and naproxen are examples of NSAID medications. If the patient has problems with stomach bleeding and ulcers or is taking a blood thinner, then acetaminophen may be the recommended medication for pain relief. There are very few side effects involved with acetaminophen; however, it is not recommended for patients with liver damage or disease.

For severe coccyx pain, the physician may prescribe prescription pain medication or injection. The patient should clarify with both the physician and the pharmacist all other drugs they may be taking in order to avoid any dangerous drug interactions, side effects, and risks of these medications.

Using a doughnut shaped pillow or wedge pillow may relieve the pressure on the coccyx when sitting for extended periods of time. It is advised to avoid sitting for too long however, and to stretch whenever possible to keep the coccyx area from becoming stiff. A physical therapist can also help demonstrate the best exercises to relieve coccyx pain.

At-a-Glance: Pain When Sitting for Extended Periods as a Symptom of Coccyx Pain

  • The lumbosacral joint (L5-S1) can cause referred pain to the coccyx due to its rotation
  • If trauma or a fall has occurred, a bruise may be visible on the tailbone and this area can be tender to the touch or when pressure is placed on it while sitting
  • In women, more pressure is placed on the coccyx when sitting
  • Pain medications may help with referred coccyx pain until healing is complete

Health Tips For Coccyx Pain

  • Lean forward when sitting down to relieve pressure on the coccyx
  • Use a doughnut shaped or wedge pillow to relieve coccyx pressure
  • Use heat or ice packs for 10 to 15 minutes at a time to help with coccyx inflammation
  • Consider an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen, but talk to your doctor about it first
  • Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time
  • Consider physical therapy to learn stretches to help alleviate the coccyx pain

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