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Tailbone Injury

What is a tailbone injury?

The tailbone (or coccyx) is the small bone at the lower end of the spine. It is usually injured in a fall onto a hard surface, such as ice or stairs. The pain usually is due to bruising of the bone or stretching of the ligaments. Tailbone injuries can be diagnosed by finding tenderness of the bone located in the upper part of the groove between the buttocks.

Fractures (breaks) of the tailbone are rare and they heal fine, so an X-ray is unnecessary for this injury. Dislocations of the tailbone are also rare but they need to be put back in place by a doctor.

How can I take care of my child?

A bruised tailbone will usually hurt for 3 to 4 weeks. Apply a cold pack or ice bag for 20 minutes right after the injury. Repeat every hour if it helps. Give your child ibuprofen (Advil) for 2 or 3 days. Ibuprofen usually gives more relief for muscle and bone pain than acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Sitting down for long periods of time will be painful. Sitting on a large rubber ring or a cushion placed forward on the chair will take pressure off the tailbone. A heating pad may also help after the first 48 hours.

Sometimes stools will cause some discomfort. Temporarily give 1 or 2 tablespoons of mineral oil twice a day. Call your healthcare provider if the pain is severe.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2009-06-21
Last reviewed: 2018-07-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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