Patients experiencing pain in the lowest region of the spine, the tailbone, may have a condition known as coccydynia. Coccydynia is pain in the tailbone or coccyx. The coccyx generally is composed of four or five vertebral segments. Derived from the Greek word for “cuckoo,” this last area of the spine resembles the beak of an extinct bird. Coccydynia often is the result of abruptly applying pressure to the coccyx. This can be done by falling, sitting too abruptly or being hit from behind.
The coccyx is the last, but certainly not least, area of the spine. It serves many functions, including bearing weight and serving as a connection point for many muscles and ligaments. There is no one group of people more prone to experiencing coccydynia based on age or ethnicity. However, people who are overweight are more than three times more likely to experience this condition. There are three classifications for coccydynia:
- Traumatic – This can be caused by immense stress on the coccyx such as seen when giving birth, falling or riding a bicycle for an extended amount of time.
- Non-traumatic – Tumors located on or near the coccyx can cause non-traumatic pain. This pain can be either constant or occasional.
- Idiopathic – Not all coccydynia can be linked to the above two classifications, which is why there is a third classification. This is for all other unexplainable pain in the coccyx.
Most coccydynia heals over time with the use of conservative treatments and medications. Chronic coccydynia can be treated through the use of nerve block injections, which work to prevent the pain signals from reaching the brain. In very few situations, when the case is severe enough, a surgeon will opt to operate on the patient, removing some or the entire coccyx. However, the risk associated with the procedure is great, making this procedure a last resort.