The following article contains tips on how to tell if you have a broken tailbone or fractured coccyx. Do you have chronic pain in your tailbone or coccyx area that simply won’t go away? Are you unable to stand or sit for any length of time at all without going crazy from the pain in your tailbone? Does it feel like you have a metal pole sticking up your tailbone?
A tailbone fracture or broken coccyx can be one cause of tailbone pain. If you are having tailbone pain or coccyx pain (coccydynia), you may want to know whether or not you actually have a tailbone fracture (a coccyx that is broken, chipped, cracked, or shattered). Some people may incorrectly believe that it is pointless to determine if the tailbone is fractured because they incorrectly believe that there is no treatment available. In actuality, making a correct diagnosis can help everyone (such as the patient, physician, family, employer, insurance companies and others) to understand why the patient is having so much pain. Identifying the fracture can also help everyone understand why the tailbone pain may persist for longer than it might if the tailbone had only been bruised or sprained.
Documenting the tailbone fracture can also have legal implications if the patient needs to prove that their coccyx was significantly injured during an accident at work or elsewhere. My wife went through a fractured coccyx while delivering our fist child. So, as you can see, there are a variety of ways to injure your coccyx. Documenting the fractured tailbone can also help reassure the patient and others that the tailbone pain is due to a “real” and substantial injury (and that these symptoms are not just “all in the patient’s head”). Also, there are treatments available for tailbone pain and tailbone fractures. The steps below can help you and your doctor tell whether or not a fracture is the cause of your sore or aching tailbone (painful coccyx, coccyx bone pain, etc.) and how to tell if you have a broken tailbone or fractured coccyx:
- Clarify if there was any trauma to the tailbone region. Tailbone fractures sometimes occur due to blunt force causing injury at that location. Common examples include falling on the tailbone from a fall (landing on the coccyx) and similar injuries. Make a note of when the tailbone injury occurred and how it happened.
- See a physician. Tell the doctor about your tailbone symptoms. Ask the doctor to perform a careful physical examination that should specifically include checking to see if the pain is really coming from the tailbone are not. The doctor should know where the tailbone is and ideally should be able to tell you if that is your most tender spot or not.
- Understand that relying solely on the symptoms and physical exam will rarely ever be able to confirm whether the tailbone is fractured. Some injuries cause lots of tailbone pain and the coccyx region clearly shows that the overlying skin is bruised, but there may be no fracture at all. Other tailbone injuries may hurt less and have less visible bruising, but may indeed have a tailbone fracture. Thus, medical imaging studies are almost always needed to make a confident diagnosis of tailbone fracture.
- Ask the doctor what medical imaging studies could confirm whether the tailbone is fractured or not. Ask the doctor if they will give you a prescription (radiology orders) to have the tests done. Usually, the tests would be tailbone x-rays or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), but CT scans (CAT scans, or computerized tomography scans) may also occasionally be needed. In our experience we asked for a dynamic x-ray of the tailbone area.
- If your doctor is not experienced at evaluating tailbone pain, or is not compassionate about your tailbone symptoms, or is not aware of non-surgical treatments to offer you, then seek a second opinion from a physician with more expertise in this area. Sometimes you may need to travel to reach such a specialist, but it may be worthwhile if you can get the answers, treatment and relief that you deserve. I really can’t stress this point enough – don’t take no for an answer.
A few tips and warnings:
- This information is intended to be educational and is NOT to be considered as medical advice. This information is NOT a substitute for direct medical care from a physician who evaluates you in person. Please be wise and consult your doctor.
- Coccyx pain can sometimes be due to very serious underlying medical conditions, so it is important to seek in-person evaluation by a medical professional. Again, before you jump to conclusions, have things checked out by your doctor first.
- Many physicians and other health providers have little or no experience in evaluating or treating tailbone pain or coccyx injuries. If you are not satisfied with the first physician you see, then seek medical attention from a specialist with experience in treating tailbone pain. In our experience, do not take no for an answer. If you don’t get and answer you like from the first doctor, get a second opinion. Remember, you are the one feeling the pain, not the doctor.
The above tips are how to tell if you have a broken tailbone or coccyx. Do you have any other ideas, tips or tailbone surgeons and physicians that you could recommend? Leave your comments below.