Coccydynia is pain that emanates from the area of the tailbone, or coccyx. The coccyx is located at the very bottom of the spine, and usually consists of four or five vertebral segments. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for “cuckoo,” because of its resemblance to the beak of that extinct bird. Pain that occurs within the coccyx can be relatively severe and persistent, and often is a result of sitting down too abruptly.
The coccyx, while often overlooked relative to the other regions of the spine, serves several important functions. Many important muscles and ligaments are attached to the coccyx, which also serves a weight-bearing function while a person is seated. No one age group, gender, or ethnic group is more susceptible to this condition, but people who are overweight are three times more likely to suffer from coccygeal pain. Coccydynia is classified in one of three ways:
- Traumatic – Falling on the tailbone, giving birth, or riding a bicycle or a horse can place stress on the coccyx.
- Non-traumatic – A benign or malignant tumor on or near the coccyx can generate constant or occasional pain.
- Idiopathic – This occurs when the cause of the coccydynia is not discernible.
Most cases of coccydynia will heal over time, and the pain can be mitigated using over-the-counter or prescription medication. Chronic coccygeal pain might require the use of “nerve block” injections to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. In rare cases, surgical removal of some or all of the coccyx might become an option, although the potential risk to delicate adjacent tissue makes this a treatment of last resort.