Hurting your tailbone can be a huge pain! Not being able to sit comfortably can affect your work, childcare, social life, and ability to exercise. While every case of acute tailbone pain is different, we’d like to share some general principles to help you navigate this pain. This information is geared towards tailbone pain that is “acute” – meaning that it started within the last few weeks. For information about tailbone pain that has lasted for more than a couple of months, see this page!
ACUTE TAILBONE PAIN WITH OR WITHOUT A DIRECT INJURY (<4 WEEKS)
When there is a direct tailbone injury, bones, muscles, and other tissues are actively healing during the first month. Unfortunately, acute tailbone pain is a normal side effect of this natural inflammation and healing process.
When there is no direct injury, your tailbone may still be painful. However, the sensitivity should resolve on its own!
Do I need an x-ray for an acute injury?
If you have extreme tailbone pain and bruising from a trauma, we recommend an x-ray to rule out a fracture.
Without a specific injury, there is no need for an x-ray. However, if your pain is associated with changes in your bowel and bladder function, changes in sensation or strength in your legs, or you have a history of cancer in yourself, seek medical care.
How can I reduce acute tailbone pain?
A coccyx cutout wedge cushion like this one is the best accessory you can buy! It is a wedge shape that has a cutout at the back edge where your tailbone would be. Do NOT use a donut cushion – this actually puts more pressure on the tailbone.
Taking pain medication (as advised by your doctor) can be very helpful for coping during this acute phase. If you take narcotic pain medication, we recommend taking laxatives at the same time to prevent constipation. Constipation can make acute tailbone pain worse.
If you find it helpful, you can use an ice or hot pack for about 10 minutes for your acute tailbone pain. Make sure there is a layer of protection between your skin and the ice or heat, to prevent skin injury.
If you are a new parent, try feeding your baby while laying on your side or on your back.
Is there anything I should avoid? Can I exercise with acute tailbone pain?
The goal is to make yourself comfortable, but change as little as possible about your life.
If you can do normal activities, including exercising, with minimal to no pain increases, it is safe to do so!
What happens next for acute tailbone pain?
As the injured tailbone heals, your pain should also subside. When it becomes tolerable to do so, we want to gradually get your tailbone used to sitting again.
Gradually start spending more time sitting on soft surfaces and with your coccyx cutout cushion on harder surfaces. As you can tolerate more, start to try more different surfaces.
Many people are afraid to sit again after experiencing this acute pain. It’s normal to be nervous! However, if you avoid sitting on normal surfaces for the long term, the tailbone may actually stay sensitive to pressure and feel painful for longer!