A fracture of the coccyx involves a break of the lowest portion of the spine also named tailbone, which curves into the pelvic ring.
The coccyx is a small triangular bony structure formed by 3 to 5 bones held together by ligaments and joints. There are differences in its structure from person to person. The bones of the coccyx are not fused but kept together by ligaments and joints allowing minimal movement. The coccyx is connected to the sacrum by a fibrocartilaginous joint (sacro-coccygeal symphysis). A traumatic fracture to the coccyx results into a pathological condition defined coccydynia (pain, discomfort) that is also common to coccyx dislocation and bruising. Coccyx injuries are more frequent in women as the broader conformation of pelvis exposes the tailbone outwards.
Coccygeal fractures most commonly ensue in various forms of trauma including:
Fall into a seating position
Direct blow (contact sports)
High pressure on the lower spine when sitting during sport (rowing, cycling, horse riding)
Growth of bone spurs
The risk factors for a fracture to the coccyx are:
Reduced muscle mass in the buttocks
The symptoms resulting from a fracture of the coccyx include:
Pain in the buttock area becoming stronger when sitting, during defecation and intercourse (women)
The history of the traumatic injury or other events possibly leading to the fracture of the coccyx is usually sufficient to form a diagnosis during medical examination. However, X-ray taken in seated and standing position confirm the presence of a fracture and the occurrence of associated injuries to other levels of the spine. Occasionally a diagnosed fracture of the coccyx is confused with a coccyx dislocation. Rectal and neurologic examination may be carried out if a coccygeal fracture, dislocation and nerve damage are suspected.
A fracture to the coccyx is rarely treated with surgery unless there are severe complications involving the local nerves. Conservative management is standard care for this pathology and is mostly focused on one or two days of bed rest and pharmacological pain control. The prognosis is of approximately 4 to 6 weeks. Additional treatments include:
Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Analgesics (oral administration or local injection)
Laxatives (reduce pain during defecation)
Steroid injection locally (seldom)
Single local nerve block injection
It is very rare to treat the coccyx fracture with surgery. This is only recommended in a severe traumatic destruction of the coccyx or in case of prolonged pain. The procedure involves the removal of the coccyx or coccygectomy.
A fracture to the coccyx may require a couple of days of bed rest. There are no specific exercises for the rehabilitation. General recommendations for recovery include:
Antiinflammatory therapy (NSAIDs)
Use of inflated ring or cushion when sitting to alleviate pressure to the coccyx
Calcium and vitamin D administration
Walking – general fitness
The main prevention is to avoid falls with the use of supporting devices and reduce falling hazards at home and in the work place. Delaying rather than preventing osteoporosis with the administration of the bisphosphonate group of drugs, calcium and vitamin D may also help vulnerable patients.