Coccyx overview

The coccyx, or tailbone, is the final segment of the vertebral column. It is composed of three to five bones attached to the base of the sacrum by ligaments and muscles.

The coccyx is the last of five segments in the spinal column, which extends from the base of the skull to the pelvis, supporting the upper body and protecting the spinal cord. Here are the names of the first four regions:

  • Cervical spine — Upper spine, running from the skull to the rib cage
  • Thoracic spine — Middle spine, attached to the ribs
  • Lumbar spine — Lower spine, running from the bottom of the rib cage to the top of the pelvis
  • Sacrum — Fused vertebrae at the base of the spine

While the spinal cord has already branched off to the lower body before reaching the coccyx, it does serve an important role as an attachment point for muscles and ligaments in the pelvis. It also contributes to balancing and supporting us when we’re sitting.

Sources of coccyx pain

The coccyx is subject to injury during childbirth, from a direct blow to the tailbone, during a seated fall, or through friction and repetitive straining from activities such as bicycling and rowing. Many coccyx injuries occur in women because the female pelvis is broader so more pressure is put on it while sitting than the male pelvis.

Coccyx pain is referred to as coccydynia. Its symptoms include pain and tenderness at the base of the spine, especially after prolonged sitting. Your physician can diagnose tailbone pain using a series of tests. First, he or she will likely conduct a physical examination and review your medical history. In order to rule out other conditions, like a pinched nerve or herniated disc in another area of the spine, an X-ray, CT scan or MRI can be used as well.

Treatment options

Most physicians will begin a coccyx pain treatment plan with a round of conservative therapy, such as the application of ice and heat, over-the-counter medications, avoiding long periods of sitting and using a well-padded seat. Local cortisone injections may benefit patients who experience severe coccyx pain. Surgery becomes an option when conservative treatments are exhausted, usually after a period of weeks or months.

Laser Spine Institute does not currently perform surgical treatment on the coccyx. However, we do offer minimally invasive spine surgery which treats spine conditions that are common sources of lower back pain. Our state-of-the-art outpatient procedures are an alternative to traditional open spine surgery, leading to a shorter recovery time^ and less scarring for our patients.

For a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact us today.