Because you can't see it, you probably haven't thought much about your coccyx, commonly called the tailbone. The name coccyx comes from a Greek word cuckoo because it resembles the curved beak of a bird.
In the past, it was thought to have no function in humans. But now it's understood that the coccyx provides a base of support for sitting and a place of attachment for various muscles, tendons and ligaments, including the large buttock muscle, and muscles that support the pelvic floor and anus.
That can bruise, dislocate or break the coccyx, causing it to be tipped forward toward the front of the body. Sometimes childbirth causes it.
According to doctors at the University of California, Berkeley, injuries can cause inflammation, misalignment of its joints, spasms of the pelvic floor and possibly infections.
The pain can interfere with daily activities, especially for those who sit for long periods and often lean back. It causes pain when getting up, leaning back or having a bowel movement.
A study in the European Spine Journal found that the tailbone tends to be shorter and straighter in women.
Because women are smaller, tailbone injuries are more common in them.
Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol). Or use of a "doughnut" pillow.
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Temporary use of a laxative might be necessary. Chiropractors say treatment of tailbone misalignment can involve manipulating the coccyx by hand into a more normal position.
Chiropractor Daniel Batchelor, DC, of Roswell, Georgia, says a clunking sound can be heard and felt during the manipulation. The patient may experience immediate pressure and pain relief. Batchelor writes for athletic magazines and appears on television.
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