The tailbone, a small triangular bone at the end of the spine, rarely crosses our mind. But this bone, officially referred to as the coccyx, can be the site of pain so excruciating that simple motions like walking and sitting feel impossible. If you are experiencing coccydynia, here are ten tailbone pain exercises that can help.
What Causes Tailbone Pain?
The coccyx consists of up to five fused vertebrae located just underneath the sacrum. The sacrum is a triangular bone near the end of the spine. There are muscles, tendons, and ligaments connected to the sacrum. In most adults, the tailbone curves slightly underneath you, but some people have a tailbone that curves either too much or not at all. Because the coccyx and the ischial tuberosities (bones at the bottom of the pelvis) bear the body’s seated weight, this anatomical difference alone can cause pain.
Other common causes of tailbone pain include:
- Injury: Injury caused by sports are a common cause of tailbone pain. This can include bruises, fractures, or trauma due to a fall.
- Repetitive strain: This is common in sports like rowing and cycling where the ligament is exercised too much, too often.
- Prolonged sitting: Sitting for prolonged periods of time can increase sensitivity in the tailbone.
- Pregnancy: A growing baby puts a considerable amount of stress on the entire body, and the tailbone bears the brunt of this extra pressure. Adding to the weight, the ligaments around the sacrum loosen in preparation for childbirth. This can cause pain, too.
- Childbirth: Stretching and tears of the ligaments around the sacrum during vaginal childbirth can also cause pain in the coccyx.
- Deterioration over time: As joints age they become more susceptible to inflammation and pain.
- Abscesses or tumors: This is not a common cause but can occur.
Symptoms of Tailbone Pain
Tailbone pain symptoms can come on suddenly, or they can slowly advance to an unbearable level. Pain might last just a few days, or you may be feeling symptoms for weeks or even months.
Symptoms to look for include:
- A dull ache or shooting pain in the coccyx
- Pain that increases when moving from seated to standing
- Pain that increases with prolonged periods of sitting
- Pain during bowel movements
- Pain with sexual intercourse
This pain can lead to other related symptoms such as depression, poor sleep, and referred pain as your body tries to relieve tailbone pain by compensating with other muscles.
The good news is that with treatment tailbone pain is not usually chronic.
How To Relieve Tailbone Pain
For short-term tailbone pain (i.e., coccyx pain due to pregnancy or childbirth), there are a few ways to relieve tailbone pain.
- Donut cushions: These are helpful to relieve pain and pressure that occurs during vaginal childbirth. They can also be used as a nursing pillow when pain recedes. Some people prefer a v-shaped cushion.
- Sitz bath: A sitz bath helps heal any tears that occur during childbirth, but it can also provide warmth that relieves tailbone pain.
- Cold therapy: Ice packs placed in ten minutes on/ten minutes off intervals can help ease pain.
- Sleep position: Sleeping on your back can make pain worse (and lack of sleep can also make pain worse). Try sleeping on your side, using body pillows to maintain that position if needed.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These help relieve both pain and inflammation. Talk to your doctor about when to take these if you are breastfeeding or having trouble with excessive bleeding.
These are also helpful to relieve tailbone pain not caused by childbirth, but for injuries and other tailbone pain causes, you’ll need to add other treatments, too.
10 Tailbone Pain Exercises To Try At Home
Exercises for tailbone pain stretch and strengthen the muscles and fascia in and around the glutes, lower back, and pelvis. They also strengthen the pelvic floor muscles for better support of the entire pelvic bowl.
These tailbone pain exercises should be practiced several times a week (daily if possible). Go slowly, and listen to your body. And always work with your doctor to make sure it’s safe to perform these exercises. The goal is to relieve tailbone pain, not increase it. Use props to ease into these, and back off if you feel discomfort that is not relieved by slow and steady breathing.
#1. Single-knee hug
This exercise safely and gently stretches the piriformis and iliopsoas muscles in and around the glutes. The piriformis muscle starts at the tailbone and can cause pain that resembles sciatica.
Lie on your back with both legs extended. Take a deep breath in, and on an exhale slowly bring one knee into your chest. Relax and breathe for three to five breaths before releasing and switching to the other side.
#2. Figure 4
This deepens the stretch of the piriformis and also lengthens the glutes.
Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet about a hand’s width from your buttocks. Place your right ankle on your left knee. Thread your right hand through your legs and reach for your left hand around the back of your left thigh. This might be stretch enough. If you’d like to go deeper, take a deep breath in and on an exhale bring the whole shape towards your face.
To go even deeper than that, press your left thigh into your hands as you pull with your hands towards you. This changes the location of the stretch.
Hold for ten breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.
#3. Hip flexor lunge
Tight hip flexors can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, hamstrings, and hips. This stretch helps open and relax the whole area.
Start on all fours (you can pad your knees with a towel if needed). Bring the right foot in front to a lunge position. The knee should be directly above the ankle. Untuck the toes of your left foot. Bring your hands to the top of the right knee. You should feel a stretch in the front of the left leg, in the hip flexor itself. If you need more stretch, move the left knee back, making sure to keep the front knee over the front ankle.
Hold this posture for 30 seconds, then switch to the other side.
#4. Child’s pose
Child’s pose provides an excellent stretch in the lower, middle, and upper back. It is a good way to lower blood pressure and calm a racing mind.
Start on all fours. Untuck your big toes, bring them to touch, and open your knees wide. Take a deep breath in, then slowly lower your torso to the ground, sinking your hips back to rest on your heels. Extend your arms forward and rest your forehead on the ground. You can also rest on your forearms or place a block or bolster under your chest and forehead.
Another variation is to keep your knees together and fold forward, stretching your arms back along your sides. Breathe and relax here for at least 30 seconds and as long as you like.
#5. Crossed knees stretch
This gently targets tender tissues and muscles that attach to the tailbone.
Lie on your back. Cross your right knee over your left. Inhale deeply, and on an exhale bring your knees towards your chest. If you cannot wrap your hands around your knees, use a belt or a towel. Relax and breathe in this stretch for 30 seconds. Release on an exhale and switch the cross of your legs to repeat.
#6. Hamstring stretch
Tight hamstrings can cause additional pressure on the muscles and tendons around the tailbone. This helps to loosen them up. A strap or belt is helpful for this stretch.
Lie on your back with both legs extended. Bend your right knee and bring it into your chest. Loop your strap or belt around the ball of your foot, and slowly extend your leg towards the ceiling. Flex your foot (like you’re standing on the ceiling), and bend your knee as needed to feel the stretch in the belly of your hamstring. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the other leg.
This yoga for tailbone pain increases the flexibility of your spine and gradually loosens all of the muscles in the front and the back of your body. For best results, synchronize your breath with your movement.
Start on all fours with your knees directly below your hips and wrists below your shoulders. As you inhale, drop your belly towards the ground and imagine your heart shining forward through your arms as your gaze moves towards the ceiling (cow). Exhale, pressing your hands into the mat, dropping your tailbone and pressing your navel towards the sky as your shoulder blades slide away from each other like the back of a scared cat. Repeat this movement slowly, following your breath for at least five breath cycles (and as many as feel good).
#8. Bridge pose
Bridge pose is a full-body pose that adds strength to your abdominal wall. A strong core means a healthy back, which translates into a healthy tailbone.
Lie on your back. Bend your knees and bring your heels a hand’s width away from your buttocks, knees pointing towards the sky and hip-width distance apart. Bend your arms and hug them to the side of your body, palms facing each other across your chest. Inhale, then on an exhale press into your feet, the backs of your arms, and the back of your head to lift your hips towards the sky.
Relax your buttocks, allowing the strength of your legs and the pressure into the backs of the arms and head to support the stretch. Lift your chin to the sky, creating space between your chin and your chest. Breathe here for five breaths then lower slowly on an exhale.
Cobra pose targets and strengthens the muscles of the lower back. It’s also great for relieving middle back pain. The key to this posture is relaxing the glutes and stretching the toes towards the back of your mat or the wall behind you as you lift up through the chest.
Come to lie on your belly with your hands beneath your shoulders. Inhaling deeply, use the strength of your middle back and press into your hands to lift your torso off the mat like a cobra about to strike. Reach the crown of your head towards the sky as you relax your shoulder blades down your back. Breathe deeply, pressing your belly into the floor as you inhale.
This posture can be intense. Stay here as long as you can maintain the correct alignment.
#10. Pigeon pose
Pigeon pose is an advanced yoga posture that can be physically and mentally challenging. Work to modify this pose using yoga blankets, bolsters, or blocks as needed to allow your body to slowly release into the posture.
Start on all fours. On an exhale bring your right knee to the outside of your right wrist, laying it down so that your shin is parallel with the top of your yoga mat. If it is too intense with the shin parallel, you can angle your shin so that the toes of the right foot are pointing towards your left hip (keep the right knee to the outside of the right wrist).
Keeping your hips square, begin to walk the left knee back until you feel a stretch in the outside right hip and the left hip flexor. Stay lifted up on your hands, or lower your torso down to the floor (or rest on your forearms). If your right hip is off the ground, place a blanket or a block underneath it for support.
Breathe deeply and slowly, holding this pose for up to three minutes. Take your time coming out of it, then switch to the other side.
Yoga For Tailbone Pain
Yoga has many benefits for both the body and mind. These poses work the whole body, lengthening and strengthening muscles in a more gradual way.
In addition to the poses mentioned above (pigeon, cat-cow, child’s pose, bridge pose, and cobra pose), try the following yoga poses for tailbone pain:
If you have never tried yoga before, it can be helpful to explore yoga for tailbone pain in a beginner’s class.
Find The Relief You Need
While physical therapy, yoga, and regular exercise can go a long way towards relieving tailbone pain, sometimes it’s just not enough. There are other treatment options that include:
- Nerve blocks
- Peripheral nerve stimulation
The pain specialists at Arizona Pain believe that successful treatment begins with a proper diagnosis and evaluation of the whole person experiencing pain. We then offer tailored, comprehensive treatment plans that can help you get your life back. When you are ready to experience a life with less pain, get in touch to schedule an appointment.