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Tailbone trauma

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

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

First Aid

For tailbone trauma where 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 patient.

Do Not

Do NOT attempt to move the patient 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 patient cannot move.
  • Pain is severe.

Prevention

  • 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.

References

Choi SB, Cwinn AA. Pelvic trauma. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 52.

Vora A. Coccydynia. In: Frontera, WR, Silver JK, Rizzo TD Jr, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 103.

Updated: 8/14/2012

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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