Tailbone trauma

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Definition

Tailbone trauma is an injury to the small bone at the lower tip of the spine.

Alternative Names

Coccyx injury

Considerations

Actual fractures of the tailbone (coccyx) are not common. Tailbone trauma usually involves bruising of the bone or pulling of the ligaments.

Causes

Backward falls onto a hard surface, such as a slippery floor or ice, are the most common cause of this injury.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Bruising on the lower part of the spine
  • Pain when sitting or putting pressure on the tailbone

First Aid

For tailbone trauma when no spinal cord injury is suspected:

  • Relieve pressure on the tailbone by sitting on an inflatable rubber ring or cushions.
  • Take acetaminophen for pain.
  • Take a stool softener to avoid constipation.

If you suspect injury to the neck or spine, DO NOT attempt to move the person.

Do Not

DO NOT attempt to move the person if you think there may be injury to the spinal cord.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for immediate medical help if:

  • Spinal cord injury is suspected
  • The person can't move
  • Pain is severe

Prevention

Keys to preventing tailbone trauma include:

  • DO NOT run on slippery surfaces, such as around a swimming pool.
  • Dress in shoes with good tread or slip-resistant soles, especially in snow or on ice.

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Tailbone (coccyx)

References

Bond MC, Abraham MK. Pelvic trauma. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 48.

Vora A, Yin AX. Coccydynia. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 98.

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