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Overview - Coccydynia (tailbone pain)

Coccydynia is a pain felt in your coccyx (tailbone). This is the last bone at the bottom of the spine (tailbone). You can get it if you injure or strain your coccyx or the surrounding muscles and ligaments.

In most cases, the pain will improve over a few weeks or months, but occasionally it can last much longer and severely affect your ability to carry out everyday activities.

Symptoms of coccydynia

The main symptom is pain and tenderness in the area just above the buttocks.

The pain may:

  • be dull and achy most of the time, with occasional sharp pains
  • be worse when sitting down, moving from sitting to standing, standing for long periods, having sex and going for a poo
  • make it very difficult to sleep and carry out everyday activities, such as driving or bending over

Some people also have back pain, shooting leg pains (sciatica) and painful buttocks and hips.

When to get medical advice

Coccydynia will often improve on its own after a few weeks and there are some simple treatments you can try at home.

See your GP if:

  • the pain does not start to improve within a few weeks
  • simple home treatments do not relieve the pain
  • your pain is very severe
  • you also have bleeding, a high temperature or pain away from your coccyx

Your GP will carry out an examination to check for more serious causes of your pain, such as infection or a fracture.

In some cases, they may also refer you for tests such as X-rays or an MRI scan.

Causes of coccydynia

Common causes of coccydynia include:

  • childbirth
  • an injury or accident, such as a fall
  • repeated or prolonged strain on the coccyx
  • poor posture
  • being overweight or underweight

Less common causes can include a bony growth on the coccyx, the coccyx being too flexible or too rigid, and arthritis. Rare but serious causes include infection and cancer.

In many cases, no obvious cause can be found. Age-related "wear and tear" may play a part.

Read more about the causes of coccydynia.

Treatments for coccydynia

There are a number of treatments for coccydynia.

Simple measures you can try at home are usually recommended first and other treatments may be used if these do not help.

The main treatments are:

  • self-care measures, such as avoiding prolonged sitting, using a specially-designed coccyx cushion (doughnut cushions), applying hot or cold packs to your lower back and wearing loose clothing 
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) painkillers that you can buy from shops and pharmacies, such as ibuprofen

Persistent symptoms lasting longer than 8 weeks may benefit from:

  • physiotherapy exercises, massage and stretching
  • injections of anti-inflammatories (corticosteroids) and painkillers into the coccyx or surrounding area

In a small number of cases where other treatments have not helped, surgery may be needed to manipulate the coccyx. Very rarely the coccyx may need to be removed (coccygectomy).

Read more about how coccydynia is treated.

Page last reviewed: 11 July 2019
Next review due: 11 July 2022