(Tailbone Fracture; Broken Tailbone)
A coccyx fracture is a broken tailbone. The coccyx is the lowest part of the backbone or spine. It is small and shaped like a triangle. The bone curves gently from the end of the spine into the pelvis.
Causes of coccyx fracture include:
Risk factors that increase your chance of a coccyx fracture include:
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. A physical exam will be done. The exam may include a rectal exam. During a rectal exam, the doctor places a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and feels for any abnormalities. If the coccyx is fractured, your doctor may feel abnormal movement of the coccyx. You will experience pain. X-rays may or may not be needed.
The goal is to manage pain until the bone can heal. Strong muscles in the area can pull the coccyx back out of position. The location of the coccyx and the number of muscles attached to it makes it difficult to prevent it from moving while it is healing.
The area may remain painful for a long period of time, even after the fracture has healed. You may be advised to stay in bed for a day or two, or move only as comfort allows. Steroid injections or surgery may be considered if severe pain persists. Surgery for a painful coccyx fracture is rare and not very successful. Usually, pain slowly disappears.
You may be given medication to ease the pain. To reduce discomfort during bowel movements:
Sitting can be uncomfortable after a coccyx fracture. Suggestions to make sitting less painful include:
If pain continues and causes disability, a coccygectomy might be recommended. During this procedure, the doctor removes the coccyx. It is not a common procedure and the success rate is not high.
If you are diagnosed with a coccyx fracture, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help prevent a coccyx fracture:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Acute low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 16, 2013. Accessed January 29, 2013.
Low back pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00311. Updated May 2009. Accessed January 29, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2012 by John C. Keel, MD