The pain is excruciating, causing persistent discomfort. Is it because the tailbone was bruised or sprained in a fall? No, the pain is lingering because the coccyx was dislocated. Diagnosing a coccyx dislocation clarifies the severity of the injury and affords the patient options in treatment to provide relief from the pain.
Located just under the sacrum, the coccyx is the small extension of the end of the spinal column. The coccyx bone, in other vertebrate animals, extends out into a tail. In humans, it ends at the base of the spinal column and provides vertical support during sitting and walking. Ligaments connect the coccyx to the sacrum--and it is when this connection is severed that the coccyx becomes dislocated. In whichever direction the coccyx bone becomes dislocated, it involves damage to the supporting ligaments.
Coccyx displacement occurs from a significant degree of trauma to the coccyx. It is most often seen in victims of a fall that forces the coccyx out of place. It is also experienced by expectant mothers during labour, because of the foetus' pressure on the coccyx, coupled with the hormone-induced relaxation of the body's ligaments for the delivery process.
At the base of the spine, where nerves branch out to extend into the lower extremities, the severing of the coccyx from the sacrum induces much localised pain. This pain intensifies when further pressure is put on that area, as in the sitting position. Another symptom is inflammation as a result of the dislocation.
Coccyx dislocation is a very serious injury that takes a long time to heal. The coccyx is joined to the sacrum through a delicate structure of only ligaments that are not supported by muscle, as other joints are. With the ligaments that both support and join the coccyx to the sacrum compromised, the coccyx becomes vulnerable to further injury.
Upon examination of the patient, the doctor can decipher a coccyx dislocation from a coccyx sprain. The medical history of the patient is very important, as the orientation of the coccyx bone varies from one person to another.
Common treatments for a coccyx dislocation include medication for the pain and inflammation. Support devices, such as a doughnut-shaped pillow, also take pressure off the tailbone. The more severe instances of a dislocation may require manipulation of the coccyx to place it back into position. Surgery is sometimes necessary in those cases where healing is not naturally occurring.