About a year ago, I began to notice pain around my coccyx while sitting down. At 52, I’m no stranger to back pain. I’ve suffered from it for years – including in my lower back just above the waist and my upper back around the shoulder blades. However, this new tailbone pain alarmed me. I learned of my new diagnosis: coccydynia.
What is the coccyx?
The coccyx, otherwise known as the tailbone, is the bone located right at the bottom of your spine. Although the bone itself no longer serves a purpose, many muscles, tendons, and ligaments are attached to it, including part of the pelvic floor.
Early stages of the pain
I attribute much of my pain to working for over twenty years in early childhood education. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the job, I often spent long periods of sitting in chairs made for 3, 4 and 5-year-old children. Oftentimes, I had to crouch down to their height or sit awkwardly on the floor. Even though I tried to maintain the best posture possible, remaining in this body position for a prolonged period of time had profound effects on my back.
Because I regularly dealt with back pain, I tried my usual remedies, including warm baths, Epsom salts, hot water bottles, therapeutic massages, heat rubs, pain relieving gels, NSAIDs and pain killers such as paracetamol.
I checked the National Health Service website for medical advice and to make sure I was doing everything that I should be – I was! All the medical websites I consulted indicated that coccyx pain usually subsided in a few weeks to three months.
At this early stage, I knew a medical practitioner couldn’t do anything that I wasn’t already doing, except maybe prescribe stronger painkillers. And because I only had pain when I sat down, going to a doctor seemed pointless.
As time wore on, the dull and achy coccyx pain got no better. In fact, after three or four months, the pain had worsened! That’s when I made an appointment to see my doctor. She confirmed that coccyx pain usually goes away on its own but because mine hadn’t, she diagnosed coccydynia and referred me to a physical therapist.
What is Coccydynia?
Prolonged coccyx pain is known as coccydynia.
It may result from a backward fall, a knock to the tailbone, childbirth, infection, inflammation, weight, posture, and even from sports. In my case, the chronic pain stemmed from my prolonged sitting and poor posture from those unsuitable kiddie chairs.
Treating my Coccydynia
At my first physical therapy session, the specialist looked at my posture when sitting, standing and bending. He confirmed my coccydynia diagnosis. Although little else could be done, the doctor suggested I get back in touch with my general practitioner and request stronger anti-inflammatory medications (Naproxen 250mg).
He also suggested I buy a coccyx cushion to use for sitting and report my results in a month. A coccyx cushion is a wedge-shaped piece of foam that slopes forward with a cutout section at the back. This encourages your pelvis to tilt forward, reducing pressure on the coccyx. The cut out ensures that no cushion or hard surface is situated beneath the bone.