Everything You Need To Know About Tailbone Pain

By Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
February 9, 2022

If you have ever taken a sudden, heavy fall, you know how painful it can be on your tailbone.

Whether you took a tumble on an icy street, fell down the stairs, or slipped on your icy driveway, you know how painful an injury to your tailbone can be.

Landing on your tailbone can cause a shooting pain from the base of your spine upwards. 

And these are not the only circumstances in which you might have tailbone pain.

You may also experience it if you have recently given birth, have been sitting on a hard or narrow surface for a long period of time, or are menstruating.

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to know symptoms to look out for, how to treat it, and when you may need to see a health care provider.

What is Tailbone Pain?

Your coccyx is a small, triangular bone at the bottom of your spine above your buttocks.

It is sometimes referred to as your tailbone because the bone is located in the same area as many animals that have tails. 

Coccydynia is the official name for tailbone pain.

Tailbone pain can be dull and achy, though it can also sometimes become a sharp, shooting pain.

Constant pain is common, but it and may be worsened by certain activities.

The pain in your coccyx can radiate up and down your spine.

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Causes of Tailbone Pain

Suffering from a sore coccyx?

This bone can be easily bruised or fractured if you take a tumble and land on your buttocks.

Pain can also develop if you sit on hard surfaces for a prolonged period of time.

You may also get coccyx pain from the following medical conditions:

  • Menstruation
  • Vaginal birth
  • Pregnancy
  • Bone spurs
  • Degenerative changes or arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Overuse or repetitive activities

Coccydynia is more common in women and some episodes occur on their own, without any known cause.

Symptoms of Tailbone Pain

If you have coccydynia, you may have any of the following symptoms: 

  • An achy or sharp pain in the tailbone
  • Pain when standing up from sitting 
  • Pain when sitting for long periods of time
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain with bowel movements

Other than tailbone pain, you may also experience any of the following related symptoms:

  • Back pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Buttocks pain

Diagnosing Tailbone Pain

When you visit your health care provider, they will ask you for your medical history and about any recent events that may have caused the pain such as a recent fall.

If you are pregnant or obese, it may attribute your tailbone pain to the added pressure on your coccyx.

Your healthcare provider will complete a physical exam to determine the extent of the tailbone pain.

They may order out any of the following diagnostic tests:

  • X-rays: An x-ray can show if there is a problem with the coccyx bone such as a fracture.
  • CT scans: Issues such as a tumor, infections, or abnormalities of the sacrococcygeal joint can be seen on a CT scan.
  • MRI or bone scans: If your healthcare provider wants to assess small, detailed structures such as nerves, muscles, and tissue, doctor a MRI may be ordered.

Treating and Managing Tailbone Pain

Tailbone pain can be treated with medications, physical therapy, and at-home remedies.

In many cases, you can make a full recovery with just home remedies, but in some cases medications and physical therapy are also necessary.

In severe cases, usually with a tailbone injury, you may need to see a specialist for additional treatment.

Medications

  • NSAIDs: NSAIDs refer to a group of medications that reduce inflammation and help with pain. Motrin (Ibuprofen) or Aleve (Naproxen) are available over-the-counter options.
  • Acetaminophen: Over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol (Acetaminophen) can provide pain relief.
  • Injections:  In some cases, a healthcare provider may inject medication into the coccyx area to provide a different type of pain relief.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can teach you some exercises that may help to alleviate your pain.

They may show you pelvic floor relaxation techniques as well as how to improve your posture.

At-Home Remedies

  • Use a coccygeal cushion: Also known as a “donut pillow,” a wedge-shaped gel cushion can help with the pain caused from sitting.
  • Hot baths: Take a hot bath to relax your muscles.
  • Warm compresses:  Apply the compresses to the area of pain to reduce swelling.
  • Ice therapy:  Wrap an ice pack in a sheath or towel and apply it to your lower back for up to 15 minutes each time to reduce swelling.
  • Walking:  If not painful, go for a short walk to reduce the pressure on the coccyx from sitting.
  • Lie on your side when sleeping: This will take the pressure off your lower back.

Chiropractic care can also help with tailbone pain.

A chiropractor may be able to help realign areas of the body that are causing pain.

Massage therapy can also provide relief. Massaging tight muscles and releasing stress in your back can be beneficial to your healing.

Preventing Tailbone Pain

The best way to prevent tailbone pain is to improve your posture and avoid injuries.

Refrain from doing activities that put a lot of pressure on the lower back your body or could lead to a fall.

When doing physical activity, take adequate rest breaks when needed and do not overexert yourself.  

If you are a cyclist, you may want to invest in a properly cushioned seat and check your posture on your bike.

Risks of Tailbone Pain

Tailbone pain can impair your ability to be active due to the pain but this should gradually improve until it is resolved. 

Ongoing tailbone or chronic pain could be a sign that you have a more serious larger medical condition.

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When to See a Doctor

With proper at-home care, your tailbone pain should get better on its own. If it has been a few weeks without improvement, you should visit your provider.

They will be able to do a physical examination, run diagnostic tests and set up the best treatment plan for you.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app? Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if tailbone pain is serious?
Concerning symptoms to report include shortness of breath, numbness, difficulty walking, and trouble urinating or having a bowel movement. You should also contact your healthcare provider if you experience severe pain, worsening, or no improvement after a couple of weeks.
What are some good exercises for tailbone pain?
Pelvic floor relaxation techniques, stretching or leaning forward, and good posture can help with tailbone pain as long as they're done with proper form.
How long does it take for tailbone pain to resolve?
It can take weeks to months for tailbone pain to completely resolve. Most often, the time it takes to heal is based on what is causing the pain. Following the treatment recommendations from your healthcare provider helps to promote healing. Additional testing and treatment may be needed if the pain does not improve or resolve within the expected timeframe.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Nena Luster DNP, MBA, FNP-BC

Nena Luster is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 14 years of experience including emergency medicine, urgent care, and family practice.