My Coccydynia (aka tailbone pain) Experience
This past Saturday I had an unfortunate slip and fall on my staircase at home. This resulted in all of my body weight landing onto my tailbone with an audible ’crack’! I knew instantly it was not good. After immediately offloading my body weight and taking an ice pack to the derriere, sharp sensations of pain started to set in. Panicked, off to emerg I went with my husband driving and me lying in the back seat of our car, unable to sit. The pelvic physiotherapist becomes a pelvic pain client…how ironic.
As I was lying there, I couldn’t help but remember my last experience with tailbone pain. It was about 5 years ago, again a slip and fall on the stairs (we really don’t get along). The previous incident did not seem as severe nor as debilitating. It left me with coccydynia (tailbone pain) for a few months that was eventually abolished with some good pelvic floor physiotherapy. After this initial fall, my pelvic floor muscles went into spasm and contributed to my persisting pain. With pelvic physiotherapy, I was able to reduce the tension in these muscles that were still holding on tight and protecting me even though my injury had healed.
So remembering this as I was cruising to the hospital, I began to take some deep breaths to help my body and mind achieve some sense of calm rather than ramp up my whole nervous system which would then set me up for the same holding pattern I previously experienced in my pelvic floor. I began to be more mindful of what was happening over my tailbone and pelvis and told myself that all would be okay in time.
After a three-hour wait in hospital, X-rays showed evidence of my old coccyx fracture and a possible re-fracture at the same site. Boo. So home I went with pain meds in hand, still of course unable to sit.
It is now four days later and all I have done is exactly what I would advise my acute pelvic pain clients to do. Practice what you preach right?! This included icing every 2-3 hours, intermittently offloading the pelvis and positioning properly when lying down (really the only position that works right now is side-lying, boy does that ever get boring after a while). Getting up and lightly loading the joints as well as some very light dynamic stretches for the legs have helped. But you cannot under-estimate the importance of proper body mechanics when moving around! No bending folks, rather squat down slowly with assistance. Weight-bearing through the sacro-iliac joints has also been helpful (thanks Cecile Rost, PT from the Netherlands, for your techniques on helping pelvic girdle pain).
Today, I have ordered my coccyx cushion and kneeling chair online. The right ergonomics can make all the difference! I have also attempted sitting with cushions beneath my sit bones to minimize pressure over the tailbone. Not bad, but only tolerable for a few minutes. That’s okay, baby steps it is.
So for now, back to the couch I go for a little more ‘side-lying pillow between my legs’ rest. In a few weeks these baby steps will be taking me to my pelvic floor treatment, so I can sit without cringing again.
Angelique Montano-Bresolin is a graduate of the University of Toronto Physical Therapy program and has been practicing as a Registered Physiotherapist for over 20 years with a specialty practice in pelvic health. Her extensive post-graduate training has included courses to assess and treat all genders and ages with concerns such as: incontinence, abdomino-pelvic pain and sexual pain in many populations including: pre and postnatal, post-surgical, post-menopausal and post-cancer. In 2012, she founded Proactive Pelvic Health Centre in Toronto, Ontario.