Coccydynia is a medical term meaning pain in the coccyx or tailbone area, usually brought on by sitting too abruptly.
We humans have evolved biologically so much that we tend to forget that we were once animals and had a tail. That is, till we suddenly develop a pain deep down in the cleft between the buttocks, making it difficult to abruptly shift positions, from sitting to standing or getting up after lying down. This pain is called coccydynia.
That last bone in the vertebral column is called a coccyx. It actually is a vestigial tail, which has shrunk over generations. About 2.7 per cent of patients who see a doctor for “backache” actually had pain in the tailbone. It is more likely to occur in physically active youngsters and adults over the age of 40. Women, with their wide pelvis, are more prone to coccodynia.
Coccydynia occurs in the lowest part of the spine, the coccyx, which represents a vestigial tail, or in other words the “tail bone”. The name coccyx is derived from the Greek word for cuckoo due to its beak like appearance. The coccyx itself is made up of 3 to 5 vertebrae, some of which may be fused together. The ventral side of the coccyx is slightly concave whereas the dorsal aspect is slightly convex. Both of these sides have transverse grooves that show where the vestigial coccygeal units had previously fused. The coccyx attaches the sacrum, from the dorsal grooves with the attachment being either a symphysis or as a true synovial joint, and also to the gluteus maximus muscle, the coccygeal muscle, and the anococcygeal ligament.
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Pain and local tenderness at the tailbone are the major symptoms of coccydynia. This can lead to difficulty sitting or leaning against the buttocks. Along with the pain with sitting, there is typically exquisite tenderness at the tailbone area. Coccydynia is also known as coccygodynia, coccygeal pain, coccyx pain, or coccalgia.
One way of classifying coccydynia is whether the onset was traumatic versus non-traumatic. In many cases the exact cause is unknown and is referred to as idiopathic coccydynia.
The coccyx is prone to injury. Acute dislocations, sprains and fractures can occur. Usually there is a history of having fallen abruptly, on a staircase, the side of the swimming pool or some other hard surface. It can also occur while cycling or rowing. Chronic injury can occur if work or academics involves sitting for prolonged periods on hard surfaces like a wooden bench or a chair without cushions. In women, the coccyx can be injured during childbirth, especially if labour is prolonged. Overweight and obese men and women are more likely to develop problems with the coccyx.
There are common pathophysiological ways that a person may develop coccydynia. The two main causes for this condition are sudden impact due to fall, and coccydynia caused by childbirth pressure in women. Other ways that coccydynia develops are partial dislocation of the sacrococcygeal synchondrosis that can possibly result in abnormal movement of the coccyx from excessive sitting, and repetitive trauma of the surrounding ligaments and muscles, resulting in inflammation of tissues and pain.
Coccydynia is a fairly common injury which can often result from falls, particularly in leisure activities such as cycling and skateboarding. Coccydynia is often reported following a fall or after childbirth. In some cases, persistent pressure from activities like bicycling may cause the onset of coccyx pain. Coccydynia due to these causes usually is not permanent, but it may become very persistent and chronic if not controlled. Coccydynia may also be caused by sitting improperly thereby straining the coccyx.
Rarely, coccydynia is due to the undiagnosed presence of a sacrococcygeal teratoma or other tumor in the vicinity of the coccyx. In these cases, appropriate treatment usually involves surgery and/or chemotherapy.
A number of different conditions can cause pain in the general area of the coccyx, but not all involve the coccyx and the muscles attached to it. The first task of diagnosis is to determine whether the pain is related to the coccyx. Physical rectal examination, high resolution x-rays and MRI scans can rule out various causes unrelated to the coccyx, such as Tarlov cysts and pain referred from higher up the spine. Note that, contrary to most anatomical textbooks, most coccyxes consist of several segments: ‘fractured coccyx’ is often diagnosed when the coccyx is in fact normal or just dislocated at an intercoccygeal joint.
A simple test to determine whether the coccyx is involved is injection of local anesthetic into the area. If the pain relates to the coccyx, this should produce immediate relief.
If the anesthetic test proves positive, then a dynamic (sit/stand) x-ray or MRI scan may show whether the coccyx dislocates when the patient sits.
Use of dynamic x-rays on 208 patients who gave positive results with the anesthetic test showed:
* 31% Not possible to identify the cause of pain
* 27% Hypermobility (excessive flexing of the coccyx forwards and upwards when sitting)
* 22% Posterior luxation (partial dislocation of the coccyx backwards when sitting)
* 14% Spicule (bony spur) on the coccyx
* 5% Anterior luxation (partial dislocation of the coccyx forwards when sitting)
This study found that the pattern of lesions was different depending on the obesity of the patients: obese patients were most likely to have posterior luxation of the coccyx, while thin patients were most likely to have coccygeal spicules.
Angle of incidence:
Sagittal coccygeal movement is measured using the angle of incidence—or the angle at which the coccyx strikes the seat when an individual sits down. A smaller angle indicates the coccyx being more parallel to the seat, resulting in flexion (or “normal” movement) of the coccyx. A larger angle indicates the coccyx being more perpendicular to the seat, causing posterior subluxation (or “backward” movement) of the coccyx. CLICK & SEE THE PICTURE : Stand to Sit Coccyx
Once coccydynia has been diagnosed, conservative treatment can make the pain disappear in 8-12 weeks. This involves sitting in a basin of hot water (sitz bath) for 10-15 minutes at least twice a day. A donut shaped cushion makes sitting during work easier. Inflatable rubber cushions are available which can be carried around. When seated on chairs or in the toilet, try to lean slightly forwards.
Stretches can be done for that area. The two common ones are the kneeling stretch, when you kneel on one leg keeping the other bent at a right angle. After 30 seconds switch sides. The other stretch involves lying down, bending the knees, crossing the legs at the ankle and then pulling the legs towards you with your arms.
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Since sitting on the affected area may aggravate the condition, a cushion with a cutout at the back under the coccyx is recommended. If there is tailbone pain with bowel movements, then stool softeners and increased fiber in the diet may help. For prolonged cases, anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDS(non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs) or pain-relieving drugs may be prescribed. The use of anti-depressants such as Elavil (amitriptyline) may help alleviate constant pain. Tailbone pain physicians specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at New Jersey Medical School have published that sometimes even just a single local nerve block injection at the ganglion impar can give 100% relief of coccydynia when performed under fluoroscopic guidance.
Additionally if the pain is caused by a malignment of the coccyx, manipulation by a chiropractor, osteopathic physician (D.O.) or physical therapist can offer relief.
In rare cases, surgery to remove the coccyx (coccygectomy) may be required. Typically, surgery is reserved for patients with cancer (malignancy) or those whose tailbone pain has failed to respond to non-surgical treatment (such as medications by mouth, use of seat cushions, and medications given by local injections done under fluoroscopic guidance, as noted above.
Body positioning and alignment is significant for producing less stress in the coccyx region. Bad posture can influence coccyx pain. People may not realize that they are over stressing their coccyx while doing daily activities. Pain in the coccyx can be caused from many incidents like falling, horseback riding, or even sitting on hard surfaces for a long period of time. The main focus is to prevent coccyx pain from occurring, by correcting everyday activities that contribute to tailbone pain.
Proper equipment used to preventing coccyx pain:
There is no definite way to fully prevent coccyx pain because an accident can occur at any given time. However, people who are obese are at a higher risk for developing coccyx pain. Carrying excessive weight contributes to more stress on the coccyx while sitting down causing increased chances of pain. Prevention of carrying excessive weight gain can help reduce the tension and pressure on the coccyx. In other words the coccyx for obese people may be more posteriorly outward when they are sitting down. Avoidance of contact sports like basketball, football, and or hockey can decrease the risks of coccyx pain, because it can help reduce the chances of falling. Another method is proper safety equipment for sports is to prevent coccyx pain. For example, there are hockey pants that provide extra cushion that protect the thigh, coccyx, and buttocks. These results will lead to less falls that can cause trauma to the coccyx.
Stretches & strengthening exercises for prevention:
A kneeling groin stretch can help prevent coccyx pain from occurring after long periods of sitting. The adductor magnus is involved in the kneeling groin stretch, and when it is tight it can contribute to tailbone pain, so stretching can help prevent tailbone pain. Other stretches like piriformis stretch, and hands to feet stretch, can relieve stress off the muscles around the coccyx, after sitting for a long time. These release tension built up around the muscles in the coccyx.
Every part of our body (even the coccyx) needs looking after.
*While cycling on a stationery bike or on the road, make sure the cycle seat is soft and comfortable. Special “cycling innerwear” is available with padding and should be used.
*Do not run on slippery surfaces like the edges of the swimming pool.
*Wear footwear that is rubber soled or has a “grip”, not smooth leather.
*Maintain ideal body weight. This can be calculated as height in metre squared X 23.
*Walk and sit with the correct posture. If you feel you are slouching, stand with both shoulders touching the wall and balance a book on your head.
*Do not sit on hard surfaces for prolonged periods of time.
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.