The tailbone, also known as the coccyx, is a small, triangle-shaped bone at the base of the spine. It serves as one leg of the tripod structure responsible for bearing your weight while sitting. It’s also the insertion point for numerous ligaments, tendons, and muscles. As the name implies, it starts as a tail that develops during the first 4-6 weeks of fetal development. It begins as 10-12 individual vertebrae before fusing together at eight weeks of gestation. The final completed tailbone consists of three to five segments depending on the individual.
Some individuals have longer tailbones than others. However, injuries and significant weight loss can also cause the tailbone to appear as if it’s sticking out. Symptoms of a protruding tailbone include:
- A noticeable, hard bump above the buttocks
- Swelling around the tailbone
- Tailbone pain when sitting or lying down
- Lower back pain
Common Reasons for Tailbone Pain After Bariatric Surgery
You may experience a protruding tailbone or tailbone pain after bariatric surgery for several reasons. Rapid weight loss can cause a sudden reduction in the padding around your tailbone. Less cushion may result in discomfort while sitting in awkward positions or on hard surfaces. The way you sit may change as you lose weight and may put more pressure on the tailbone than it’s used to supporting. Sudden changes in body composition may cause alignment issues between the spine and tailbone, which can also cause pain.
When to Receive Treatment for Tailbone Pain After Bariatric Surgery
Most tailbone pain resolves on its own within a few weeks or months. Many patients find relief by leaning forward while sitting or sitting on a special V-shaped wedge known as a coccygeal cushion. Using hot or cold therapy and taking pain relievers are other common at-home remedies. However, discuss any new medications with your surgeon before taking them. You may need medical treatment for your tailbone pain if you experience the following:
- Pain that doesn’t resolve after a few months or worsens
- Pain that doesn’t resolve with at-home treatments
- Pain that makes it difficult to sit or lie down
- Pain that makes it difficult to perform daily activities
- Pain that occurs following a fall or injury
- Severe swelling
- Numbness that affects one or both legs
- Difficulty passing bowel movements
How to Treat Tailbone Pain After Bariatric Surgery
Your surgeon will likely order an x-ray or MRI to exclude any fractures, breaks, or degenerative bone conditions affecting the tailbone. Some conservative treatment options for tailbone pain after bariatric surgery include:
- Correcting sitting posture to relieve tailbone pressure
- Chiropractic adjustments to bring the spine and tailbone into alignment
- Massage or manipulation of the muscles that attach to the tailbone
- Physical therapy to learn stretches and exercises that support spinal alignment and reduce tailbone pain
- Heat and cold therapy
Most individuals experience pain relief by employing several treatment options. The combination of ergonomic adjustments, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers, and injections tend to produce the best and fastest results. If conservative options fail to provide pain relief, some surgeons may recommend steroid injections or a surgery to remove the coccyx, known as coccygectomy. However, a coccygectomy is usually a last-resort treatment when all other options have failed.
Still have questions about bariatric surgery? Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your concerns and learn how bariatric surgery can help you achieve your weight loss goals.