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The tailbone, or coccyx, is a small bony structure located at the end of the spine, at the bottom of the vertebral column. In animals, the coccyx will correspond to the tail, which is why it is commonly referred to as the tailbone. It consists of three to five bony parts and remains in place within the body through a joint and ligaments.
This bone has a triangular shape and forms the back of the pelvis. The shape and size of the tailbone bone varies from person to person. It is composed of three to five vertebrae. These vertebrae are often fused together to create a segment. A segment is usually evident in the coccyx of adult humans.
Most injuries to the tailbone are caused by direct trauma around the surrounding area. Women are more prone to injury to their tailbone because they have a bigger pelvis then their male counterparts and because they are able to give birth, which can also pose risk to the area. Activities such as a riding a bike or rowing can cause injuries to the coccyx area.
Injury symptoms to the area often include localized pain and tenderness in the area or a visible bruise as well as chronic discomfort. Pain during bowel movements also can occur. Some women experience pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse. The severity of pain can vary depending on how much pressure is applied to the area when trauma and injury has already occurred.
To determine whether injury to the coccyx area has occurred, it is recommended that the patient seek professional help by going to a medical professional. Usually an X-ray of the entire spinal column is taken to examine the severity of the injury. The X-ray also helps in determining whether a fracture or dislocation has occurred. A rectal exam, in which the doctor inserts a finger into the rectum to determine whether dislocation has occurred, can also be done.
Injury to the tailbone area is called coccydynia. For medical treatment, the patient might be given stool softeners to combat constipation. To counteract the pain in the area, the patient might be injected with local anesthetics to the area, and pain medications also might be given. Removing the tailbone is another option, but this will not affect mobility, and the patient typically is able to run, jump or walk with ease even after the ligaments have been cut in order to remove the tailbone.