Lifting weights is an effective way to increase your strength and build muscle mass, but you may not realize just how much stress it places on your body. One problem sometimes caused by this stress is pain in the coccyx, which is more commonly known as the tailbone. This pain, known as coccydynia, is a symptom of an injury or strain to the coccyx and shouldn't be ignored.
The coccyx is a bony structure at the base of the spine, made up of three to five small fused bones and held by ligaments. Injuries to the coccyx occur in a number of ways, including direct impacts, repeated stress or pressure, falls, poor posture and natural childbirth. According to the Cleveland Clinic, however, the exact cause of these injuries is often unknown. Coccyx injuries are five times more common in women than men because of the shape of the female pelvis, which leaves the coccyx more exposed than the male pelvis.
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Exercise and Coccydynia
While most exercise-related tailbone pain is the result of direct impact or pressure against the coccyx in activities such as bicycling or rowing, exercises containing sudden motions or requiring significant strain can cause coccyx injuries as well. When lifting weights, tailbone injury generally occurs in the form of strains to the ligaments that hold the coccyx in place; this is more common in lifts that require significant leg movement such as lunges or squats, or in lifts that require bracing of the core, such as dead lifts, snatches or clean-and-jerk lifts.
Preventing Tailbone Pain
The best way to take care of tailbone pain is obviously to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Proper stretching before lifting and utilizing good form during your lifts will reduce the likelihood of coccyx injury. Using all recommended safety equipment including a weight belt is also important to prevent all types of injury, not just straining of the tailbone. Should you experience any discomfort in the coccyx or pelvis during your lifts, stop lifting immediately to prevent injury.
Treating and Recovery
In most cases, all that is required to recover from lifting-related tailbone pain is rest and a few weeks without additional strain. NSAID pain relievers are often recommended by doctors to reduce inflammation and ease the pain that you're experiencing, and a doughnut-shaped pillow may help to relieve pain during recovery. If pain continues or is severe, your health care professional may suggest steroid injections to stabilize the coccyx. In severe instances surgery may be required, though this is fairly unlikely for lifting-related coccydynia.
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.