Pain in the Tailbone: The Forgotten Vertebrae

The tailbone or as it is referred to in medical circles, the coccyx, is set of rudimentary vertebrae at the base of the spine that nobody talks about—until it becomes a problem. Once someone experiences tailbone pain, it is all that they can think about until the pain is gone.

Tailbone pain, also calledcoccydynia or coccygodynia, is fairly uncommon. It usually affects adolescents and young adults and is five times more frequent in women than it is in men. This is most likely because women are at high risk for injuring the tailbone during vaginal childbirth.1 Tailbone pain may also be caused by other forms of trauma, such as a fall onto the base of the spine or prolonged sitting. The coccyx may also be the site of arthritis or degenerative spine disease.

Fortunately, most cases of tailbone pain will resolve without specialized care. Heat or ice, special pillows, and pain medications may relieve symptoms until the area can heal. However, some people will go on to have chronic tailbone pain that plagues them more or less constantly for a period of years. These individuals may be helped by spinal injections, manipulation of the coccyx, or even surgery.

Surgery to remove the coccyx is calledcoccygectomyand is usually considered a last resort after other remedies have failed. Though for people who eventually need a coccygectomy, most finally find relief after the procedure.2,3,4

Dr. Rovner and the staff at Progressive Spine and Orthopaedics have not forgotten about the coccyx! Tailbone pain is real and something that you should not have to live with on a daily basis. If you have tried conservative therapies that have not worked, you should speak with a spine specialist like Dr. Rovner to discuss your treatment options. While not everyone is a candidate for coccygectomy or tailbone removal surgery, those who are should be evaluated and treated by an expert.

  1. Fogel GR, Cunningham PY, 3rd, Esses SI. Coccygodynia: evaluation and management. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. Jan-Feb 2004;12(1):49-54.
  2. Balain B, Eisenstein SM, Alo GO, et al. Coccygectomy for coccydynia: case series and review of literature. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). Jun 1 2006;31(13):E414-420. doi:10.1097/01.brs.0000219867.07683.7a
  3. Trollegaard AM, Aarby NS, Hellberg S. Coccygectomy: an effective treatment option for chronic coccydynia: retrospective results in 41 consecutive patients. J Bone Joint Surg Br. Feb 2010;92(2):242-245. doi:10.1302/0301-620x.92b2.23030
  4. Kerr EE, Benson D, Schrot RJ. Coccygectomy for chronic refractory coccygodynia: clinical case series and literature review. J Neurosurg Spine. May 2011;14(5):654-663. doi:10.3171/2010.12.spine10262


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