• Overview


Back pain

Back pain is the largest cause of absence from work in the UK. Philip Sell, consultant orthopaedic and spinal surgeon, discusses the causes of and treatments for back pain.

Media last reviewed: 18/09/2011

Next review due: 18/09/2013

Back pain

Tips to keep your back healthy and avoid pain, including exercises and advice on good posture

Coccydynia is a type of lower back pain felt around the last bone at the base of the spine (known as the coccyx or tailbone).

The pain of coccydynia can range from mild to severe and is usually worse when sitting down. Some people can only tolerate sitting in the same position for a few minutes before having to move to relieve the pain.

Read more about the symptoms of coccydynia.

The coccyx

The coccyx is referred to as the "tail bone". It's located just above the cleft in the buttocks, and curves forward so that it points towards the front of the body.

The coccyx is made up of three small bones, loosely fused together. They become more flexible in pregnant women to help them give birth more easily.

The coccyx has two main functions:

  • It bears weight when somebody is sitting down.
  • Various muscles, tendons and ligaments are attached to it.

Coccydynia can occur when something damages the coccyx or surrounding area, such as:

  • the muscles and ligaments supporting the coccyx stretching out of place during childbirth.
  • trauma to the coccyx, resulting from an accident
  • pulling the coccyx out of its normal position, either through poor posture or repeated activity, such as cycling or rowing

In around a third of cases of coccydynia, no obvious cause can be found, although age-related "wear and tear" may play a part.

Read more about the causes of coccydynia.

Treating coccydynia

Painkillers, such as ibuprofen, are the first step in trying to treat coccydynia. 

If this fails, stronger treatment, such as steroid injections (corticosteroids) will be recommended.

There are a number of things you can do yourself to help with the pain, including using specially designed cushions to support the coccyx.

Spinal manipulation techniques such as physiotherapyosteopathy and chiropractic can also provide short-term relief from pain.

In a small number of cases surgery may be required to remove the coccyx (coccygectomy).

Read more about the treatment of coccydynia.

Who is affected

Coccydynia is uncommon. It is estimated around 1 in 100 cases of lower back pain are the result of coccydynia. Women are five times more likely to develop coccydynia than men due to the association with childbirth.

Older adults are more prone to coccydynia, but the condition can affect people of all ages, including children.


The outlook for most cases of coccydynia is good. The condition usually responds well to conventional treatment such as ibuprofen and the pain will usually resolve within a few weeks.

In a minority of cases the pain can persist for more than three months, which is known as chronic coccydynia. Chronic coccydynia is unlikely to clear up by itself and will probably require a combination of treatments.

Page last reviewed: 17/05/2012

Next review due: 17/05/2014


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ericaarae said on 07 December 2013

A picture/diagram of the tailbone area of the spine would be helpful here. I know what this looks like & can therefore envisage the coccyx & how it can be affected in the ways described, but for those with no knowledge if anatomy it could be hard to understand

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