You know that feeling when you land on your butt wrong? It’s that shock through your lower body, like someone hit your bone with a hammer. It’s a lot like hitting your funny bone, but a lot more painful. I know I’ve felt that plenty in my time, but thankfully it’s never been something more serious than a grimace and a short walk couldn’t fix.
I can count my lucky stars that I’ve never had to deal with an actual tailbone injury. Your tailbone, otherwise known as your coccyx, is a challenge to heal properly due to its position in the body. You can’t exactly set it in a cast, and sitting down won’t be comfortable until it’s healed. A tailbone injury will generally not need a hospital visit, but using the restroom isn’t going to be pleasant, among other things.
How to Identify a Tailbone Injury
The symptoms are fairly easily identifiable for the most part. The initial pain of hitting your tailbone wears off quickly for non-offending injuries with not real damage. Time is the first indicator you’ll have when identifying an injury. If you find that your tailbone continues to have severe pain or tenderness for quite a while after the initial incident, then it may require more serious attention.
Bruising will show in the immediate area in most cases. While not a definitive indicator of a traumatic injury, severe discoloration combined with sustained pain are telling enough that something is up.
Sitting down will become an uncomfortable experience. Long periods of rest on your tailbone will result in pain and discomfort, especially with any sustained weight directly on the coccyx. In more severe cases, bowel movements and sexual intercourse will be painful experiences.
You may not experience all of these symptoms, but your own judgment is the second best tool to know if you’re injured. The first best is a qualified doctor. Depending on how painful your injury is, it may be an indicator that you have more than a bruised tailbone. As annoying as a simple bruised tailbone injury is, it’s nothing in comparison to a broken tailbone.
An x-ray will be the end-all for identifying an injury, especially distinguishing the degree to which you’re injured. Most tailbone injuries are trauma-based, but there’s a chance that your pain may be due to more serious reasons. Any concern about your symptoms deserves a doctor visit to ensure your health and well-being.
How Can You Injure Your Tailbone?
The most common accident is through impacts to your tailbone. This can occur by slipping, falling, and landing flat on your tailbone in a seated position. Hard surfaces will do the most damage, so if you land on something soft you should be alright. Direct impacts can also occur while involved in physical activities, namely sports.
Less frequently, if you’re an avid cyclist, you may end up bruising your tailbone via repetitive friction and strain.
For the most part, women are the most susceptible to tailbone injuries. Their pelvis, as opposed to men, is wider, leaving the tailbone more exposed to impact and damage. Also, on the rare occasion, there are chances of the tailbone fracturing during childbirth.
How Long Are You Stuck With Your Tailbone Injury?
Since it’s difficult to do much in the way of supporting your coccyx, the best route is rest and patience. It will heal on its own in time, but ensuring it heals properly requires tedious work. Unfortunately, the tailbone may take longer to heal than other injuries do. Chances are you may be stuck with it for a while.
If you only have a bruised tailbone injury, those heal much more quickly than a break. You’ll be looking at around four weeks of rest, care, and attention. That’s a while to lay off exercise and long sitting periods, but the more you agitate the injury, the longer it will take to heal.
Fractures are much more inconveniencing by comparison. Thankfully, they’re much rarer than bruised tailbones, but that comes with the territory of being a more serious injury. A fractured tailbone takes between eight and twelve weeks to fully heal. A broken arm, by comparison, can take between six and twelve weeks to fully heal.
While somewhat comparable in terms of how long they take to heal, a fractured coccyx will have certain comfort issues that a broken arm does not have to deal with. Bowel movements, sitting, sleeping, walking, running – a tailbone injury is a thorn in the side when it comes to daily chores.
What’s the Best Way to Treat a Tailbone Injury?
You’ll need to cognizant of what you’d doing while injured. Unfortunately, that means two or more months of inconvenience. Even though you may not be able to put your butt in a cast, there are plenty of things you can do in the meantime to make your life a little easier.
1. Ice Is Your Friend
Ice is a classic go-to when it comes to recovery. The sooner you can begin applying ice to the tailbone injury, the better. While a hurt coccyx isn’t known for its extreme swelling, ice will help inflammation and starting the healing process. Ice loses its effectiveness after around 48 hours, so you’ll want to use ice frequently within the time frame you have.
You should only ice your injury for periods of 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Once you’ve finished, let the area rest for a while until it regains its warmth. You should only need to go through this process around four times a day.
Don’t apply ice directly to the skin for long periods of time. That results in damage, pain, and won’t do the injury any good. Always have a layer of protection between the ice and skin, such as a bag or towel.
2. Keep the Weight Off
For the next four to twelve weeks, you’ll need to keep as much stress off your hindquarters as possible. If you need to sit, try not to stay seated for too long. If you start feeling pain or excessive discomfort, stand up and give it a rest.
While sitting, position yourself to remove as much pressure from your tailbone injury as possible. Leaning forward while sitting shifts the focus of your weight away from your coccyx. You may also want to alternate shifting your weight between your cheeks. This involves sitting entirely on one side for a while, then switching over to the other when that gets tiring.
These techniques will help you if you do find you need to stay seated for an event or meeting, but the best thing you can do is avoid sitting at all. If you’re able to, lay down on your stomach while resting as much as possible. Yes, that includes when you’re sleeping.
3. Rest Is the Key to Success
Avoiding sitting isn’t the only thing you should be doing. We know you want to get back out there, exercising and whatnot, but making sure you’re healing properly first should be your priority. In the early weeks, avoid exercise and rest up as much as possible.
Later on, in the healing process, you can begin wading back into practice and exercise, but do so slowly. Start off with walks, light weightlifting, and other easy, non-strenuous tasks. As you continue to heal, and as long as it doesn’t cause pain or discomfort, you can increase your workload steadily. Make sure to consult your doctor or trainer first to ensure you aren’t moving too quickly, though.
4. Get Some Equipment for the Job
If you find that you’ll need to be sitting frequently, you may also want to look into buying a donut pillow. They provide the comfortable support you’re looking for while recovering. The hole in the middle ensures you won’t be applying any pressure to your tailbone.
Pain relievers will provide some comfort for your daily life. Most over-the-counter medications, like Tylenol or Advil, will work fine, but if you have a history of medical allergies, consulting your doctor on what best suits you is the safest route.
5. Fix Your Diet and Posture
Over the upcoming weeks, you want to avoid straining your tailbone injury as much as possible. This includes trips to the bathroom. Bowel movements, especially those that you need to push to work through, will cause pain and discomfort with every trip. Start eating foods with high fiber to make your movements easier and less painful to deal with.
You’ll also want to focus on fixing your posture. A poor stance applies undue pressure to your coccyx. The better you sit, the less you’ll be agitating your injury.
Always Try and Do What’s Best For You
By and large, your average tailbone injury won’t require immediate severe medical attention. Time and care will be enough to heal it. However, if you become concerned for your health, such as extended periods of pain, discomfort, and lack of noticeable healing progress, then your doctor should be the first person you contact.