Does Arthritis Cause Pain in the Tailbone Area?
Arthritis is the general term for several conditions that cause pain and inflammation in various joints throughout the human body. Common forms of the disease include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis, which affects the bones of the spine (vertebrae). Although arthritic changes might cause pain throughout most of the spine and down into the pelvis, arthritis does not typically cause pain in the area of the tailbone, or coccyx.
Unlike the independently mobile bones of the main spinal column, your tailbone is composed of four vertebrae that are fused together and do not normally move in relation to one another. If you have coccydynia, which is pain in your tailbone area, in most cases your doctor will not be able to pinpoint a specific source of your problems, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This type of ailment is called idiopathic coccydynia, or coccydynia without a known cause.
When a source of pain is found, it is usually trauma in the form of a fall or childbirth, or an unusual degree of mobility either between your tailbone vertebrae or between your tailbone and the fused bones of your sacrum, located just above your tailbone. Rarer causes include fractures, tailbone dislocation, the growth of bony spurs on the surface of your coccyx, infection and tumors. Arthritis is not typically mentioned as a source of coccyx pain.
If you suffer from coccydynia, your symptoms might include pain when you sit down, severe pain when you stand, an aching sensation in the area surrounding your tailbone, pain during sex, and pain during bowel movements.
Bruised Tailbone From Cycling
Typically, your doctor will begin treating your coccydynia with the most conservative method that provides adequate relief. Sometimes symptoms can be eased with a therapeutic cushion that decreases pressure on the tailbone while sitting. Your doctor also might recommend that you avoid prolonged sitting, as during extended travel or concerts. If your pain persists, your doctor might recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen. You might need to follow these conservative treatment guidelines for months or weeks before your pain begins to ease. If so, ask your doctor how long you can safely take your pain medications.
If your pain remains, your doctor might choose to treat you with cortisone injections in the area surrounding your tailbone. Alternatively, he might perform a procedure called a nerve block, which uses chemical injection to diminish the pain signals sent to your brain from your tailbone area. In some cases, nerve block brings long-term or even permanent relief of symptoms. Your doctor also might recommend that you visit a physical therapist, who can help diminish your pain by teaching you how to stretch the ligaments associated with your coccyx, or how to strengthen associated muscles.
Consult your doctor for proper diagnosis of your tailbone pain, and to learn more about the differences between arthritis and coccydynia.
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M. Gideon Hoyle is a writer living outside of Houston. Previously, he produced brochures and a wide variety of other materials for a nonprofit educational foundation. He now specializes in topics related to health, exercise and nutrition, publishing for various websites.