How can a bone smaller than your thumb cause so much pain? Keep reading to discover the true impact of tailbone injuries.

Measuring less than one-inch long, one wouldn't expect that the tailbone could cause so much pain when it's injured. However, this itty bitty bone has a big job as part of the spine. And, when it's injured, you can feel the effect throughout your entire body.

For those who have suffered a tailbone injury before or are currently handling one, they know that it can turn everyday life into a nightmare. The simplest activities, such as sitting, standing, and sleeping can feel impossible. But, that's not all. Continue reading to discover the true impact of a tailbone injury.

What is the Tailbone?

The tailbone is a small, triangular-shaped bone located at the very bottom of your spinal column. In fact, the tailbone is both the smallest and the most inferior bone in the spinal column. It measures 2.5 centimeters - less than one whole inch - and is slightly curved like the beak of a hawk.

The medical name for this bone is the coccyx. However, it’s most commonly referred to as the tailbone. It attaches at its widest point to the sacrum, which is situated between the two hipbones.

Though it is small, the coccyx is a fully functioning component of the musculoskeletal system. In simpler terms, this means that it plays a major role in helping your network of bones, joints, cartilage, tissue, and nerves operate successfully. It works in tandem with the muscles, ligaments, and bones of the pelvis, which support our ability to walk upright and carry ourselves. It also helps to protect and support the pelvic organs.

Bet you didn't expect such a tiny bone to handle so much, did you? Well, due to its large role in keeping us structurally upright, even a bruise to this small bone makes us feel extreme amounts of pain.

Causes of a Tailbone Injury

Surprisingly, it's relatively easy to injure the tailbone. While even sitting on a hard surface for a long period of time can cause pain in the coccyx, the most common reason for injury is direct trauma to the bone. This tends to be the cases for slips and falls, especially on staircases, when one loses balance and falls directly onto the bone itself as opposed to landing flat on the buttocks.

However, other causes for tailbone injuries include:

High impact sports, such as football
Activities in which an athlete is at great risk of falling, such as gymnastics or figure skating
Repetitive activities, such as cycling or rowing
Women can fracture the coccyx during childbirth
The tailbone can be bruised, fractured, or dislocated. When these injuries occur, a surprising amount of impacts can result.

Impact of a Tailbone Injury

When the tailbone is injured the muscles that surround it become stiff. As these are also the muscles that support your upright position, walking, sitting, standing, and finding a sleeping position will become uncomfortable. Due to this, the area often becomes inflamed, resulting in the coccyx shifting from its respective place in the spine. A variety of issues can stem from this misalignment.

Compressed Nerves

When misalignment occurs, the nerves in the lower spine become compressed. If you've never experienced this with a herniated disc or other spinal condition, essentially when a nerve becomes compressed it causes the following reactions:

Inflammation and irritation
Pain and tenderness
Difficulty in the Bathroom

When considering the placement of the coccyx and the pain it causes when seated, you can imagine that having to use the toilet isn't always the easiest experience. An impact of a tailbone injury is often pain or strain during bowel movements.

Pain During Intercourse

While this might not be the first place your mind wanders after a tailbone injury, it is a fact. Pain at the point of the coccyx, as well as bruising and tenderness in the lower back, can make intercourse incredibly painful.


The aching and numbness in the lower back can make it extremely difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. Even as a stomach sleeper, if your weight is not properly supported, the resulting pain can make it very difficult to fall asleep. As a consequence, many suffering from a tailbone injury also face insomnia.

Finding Relief from a Tailbone Injury

While the impacts of a tailbone injury can be far-reaching, that doesn't mean they need to dominate your lifestyle. To begin, ice the coccyx for 20 minutes every hour for the first 48 hours after injury, then two to three times a day while symptoms persist.

Avoid physical activity that causes pain, and get plenty of rest. During this time, use a cushion or donut pillow to take pressure off the tailbone while seated.

Most importantly, be sure to have your injuries assessed by a qualified professional. Oftentimes, a visit to a chiropractor will aid in many of the impacts resulting from a tailbone injury, including inflammation and the coccyx shifting from its respective place in the spine. A chiropractor can perform gentle and effective manipulations to alleviate pain and promote healing.

Did you expect that such a small bone could cause so much damage? Before you second guess tailbone injuries, be sure to have any damage looked at by your doctor.

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Author's Bio: 

ChiroCare of Florida is a chiropractor's office with 11 convenient locations throughout South Florida. ChiroCare of Florida's chiropractic physicians offer a variety of treatments for whole wellness, from cryotherapy and chiropractic, to nutritional counseling and physical therapy.