A comedic pratfall invariably elicits audience laughter, but a bruised tailbone is no laughing matter. Falling backward onto your bottom or a blow to the tailbone incurred during sports activities can leave you with a painful bruised tailbone, or coccyx. In most cases, simple treatments and lifestyle adjustments offer pain relief until the injury heals.
Cold and Warm Packs
Applying an ice or cold pack to your bruised tailbone for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury can help relieve your pain and limit swelling in the area. Ice packs can be used for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and applied as often as needed as long as you allow the skin to rewarm between applications.
After the first 48 hours, most people find use of a warm compress, hot pack or heating pad more soothing. Running warm water over your tailbone with a handheld shower head or floating in a hot tub can also provide temporary pain relief.
Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers
Over-the-counter pain relievers can be useful in the first few days after bruising your tailbone, if you don't have a medical condition that precludes use of these medicines. Options include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). If you're not sure whether these medications are safe for you, call your doctor. Prescription pain medications are rarely necessary for a bruised tailbone.
When you have a bruised tailbone, you might need to modify your activities for a few weeks to avoid putting pressure on the area. Examples of activities you'll likely want to avoid include cycling, spinning classes, horseback riding, and riding on a motorcycle. As a rule of thumb, if it hurts, don't do it.
When you have a bruised tailbone, it's best to avoid sitting as much as possible -- especially on hard surfaces -- until the soreness subsides. But avoiding sitting entirely is impossible for most people. Using a tailbone cushion can make sitting more comfortable and prevent further irritation of the bruised area. These cushions keep pressure off your tailbone while sitting. Tailbone cushions, also known as donut or coccyx pillows, are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at most pharmacies and online. If your work requires you to sit, frequent standing or walking breaks can help keep you comfortable.
Next Steps and Cautionary Notes
A bruised tailbone typically heals in a couple of weeks. If your pain is severe, persists or gets worse, see your doctor. Also seek medical care if your tailbone pain is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a rash on the buttocks, leg pain or a change in bowel habits. This is important because coccyx pain occurs with conditions other than a bruised tailbone.
Review and revised by: Tina M. St. John, M.D.