The coccyx sits at the base of your spine — it may be small, but when it hurts, it's mighty. If your tailbone hurts when walking, then other exercises may also aggravate coccyx pain, depending on the nature of your discomfort and the type of exercise you pursue.
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Exercise may worsen coccyx pain, depending on the cause of your symptoms and the type of activity.
What Causes Coccyx Pain?
The coccyx is the insertion site for multiple muscles, tendons and ligaments. It supports your weight when you sit. Its location makes it particularly vulnerable to injury and pain. Coccyx pain is known as coccydynia.
The coccyx, or tailbone, may be injured during a fall on your back, which can cause bruising, dislocation and sometimes fractures. In certain cases, bruising occurs due to prolonged sitting on a hard surface.
Women are five times more likely to experience tailbone pain compared to men, explains a March 2014 issue of the Ochsner Journal. This is because the location of the coccyx makes it susceptible to internal injury during childbirth.
Some people experience nontraumatic pain in the coccyx due to degenerative joint or disc disease. Hypermobility (excessive flexibility) or hypomobility (limited mobility) of the sacroiliac joint, as well as infections, may also cause your coccyx to hurt, explains a July-August 2015 review in the publication Revista Brasileira de Ortopedia.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that pain in your coccyx may show up as:
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain or loss of feeling with sitting
- Bruising or swelling along the base of your spine
- Pain or tenderness on top of the buttocks area
If you're suffering coccyx pain due to trauma or another cause, it's best to see your doctor for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.
Tailbone Hurts When Walking
The Cleveland Clinic points out that coccyx pain is usually relieved by walking. So if your tailbone hurts when walking or doing other daily chores, definitely seek medical attention.
Read more: Can I Exercise With a Bruised Tailbone?
If it's determined that you have a tailbone, or coccyx, fracture, it can take between eight and 12 weeks to heal. A bruise heals a little more quickly, usually within four weeks or so, explains the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Because of the nature of the coccyx bone and its location, you may actually need to be more mobile during healing. Sitting can aggravate the pain, but standing or walking may offer relief.
If you do find yourself needing to sit, a specialized pillow shaped like a donut offers support and prevents excess pressure on the point of pain. The hole in the center means less pressure on the bruised or fractured area.
It goes without saying that if sitting for long periods is uncomfortable when you have a coccyx injury, riding a bike for exercise will aggravate your pain, notes the Cleveland Clinic. If you have tailbone pain while running, you should lay off all high-impact exercises until your symptoms subside.
Read more: 5 Exercises to Curtail Your Tailbone Pain
For the most part, use common sense. If a particular exercise aggravates coccyx pain, try to modify it or take a break.
Depending on the nature of your injury, physical therapy that includes exercises to stretch the ligaments — the tissue that connects bone to bone — may be helpful. Your doctor or a qualified physical therapist can help you learn how to integrate these movements into a treatment plan.
Generally, standing exercises are probably OK. Side bends for a smaller waist, for example, are unlikely to aggravate coccyx pain. Stretching to help relax the muscles around your tailbone can also be valuable, notes the National Health Services of Great Britain.
- Oschner Journal: "Coccydynia: An Overview of the Anatomy, Etiology, and Treatment of Coccyx Pain"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Tailbone Trauma"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Tailbone Pain"
- Revista Brasileira de Ortopedia: "Gluteal Pain in Athletes: How Should It Be Investigated and Treated?"
- NHS: "Coccydynia"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Can You Actually Break Your Tailbone?
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.