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Coccyx Fracture

(Tailbone Fracture; Broken Tailbone)

Definition

A coccyx fracture is a broken tailbone. The coccyx is the lowest part of the backbone or spine. It is small and shaped like a triangle. The bone curves gently from the end of the spine into the pelvis.
The Coccyx
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Causes

Coccyx fracture is caused by trauma. Trauma may be caused by:
Fractures may may also occur during straining or friction, such as with rowing or bike riding.

Risk Factors

Coccyx fractures are more common in women. Other risk factors that may increase your chance of a coccyx fracture include:

Symptoms

A coccyx fracture may cause:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. A physical exam will be done. The exam may include a rectal exam. If the coccyx is fractured, your doctor may feel abnormal movement of the coccyx. You will experience pain. X-rays may or may not be needed.

Treatment

The goal is to manage pain until the bone can heal. The location of the coccyx and the number of muscles attached to it makes it difficult to prevent it from moving while it is healing. Generally, pain will go away on its own.
The area may remain painful for a long period of time, even after the fracture has healed. You may be advised to stay in bed for a day or two, or move only as comfort allows.

Medications

Medications may be given to help manage pain. These include:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • Analgesics, such as acetaminophen
  • Prescription pain medications
  • Local anesthetic injections
  • Rarely, local steroid injections
You may also need stool softeners to help prevent constipation or pain during bowel movements.

Surgery

Surgery for a painful coccyx fracture is rare and not very successful. If pain continues and causes disability, a coccygectomy might be recommended. During this procedure, the doctor removes the coccyx.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of a coccyx fracture, take these steps:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:

RESOURCES

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org

References

Acute low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 8, 2014. Accessed September 12, 2014.

Coccydynia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 28, 2010. Accessed September 12, 2014

Fractured coccyx. Cure Back Pain website. Available at: http://www.cure-back-pain.org/fractured-coccyx.html. Accessed September 12, 2014.

Low back pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00311. Updated December 2013. Accessed September 12, 2014.

Spinal cord injury—acute management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated December 10, 2013. Accessed September 12, 2014.

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