You have probably read that the spine includes 24 vertebrae. And this is true. Between your skull and your hips, you have seven vertebrae in your neck, 12 vertebrae in your chest, and five vertebrae in your lower back. These bones cooperate to support your weight and protect your spinal cord.

But you have an additional eight to ten vertebrae below your hips. These get ignored because they are not part of your back. Instead, they are vestiges of a tail — hence the name “tailbone” for these structures.

Where Is the Tailbone?

The sacrum sits below the bottom lumbar vertebra. The sacrum attaches to the pelvis. The tailbone, also called the coccyx, makes up the end of your spine below the sacrum.

Structurally, the sacrum consists of five fused vertebrae below the lumbar vertebrae. The coccyx consists of the last three to five vertebrae, which extend from your spine below your hips like a tail. But it sits entirely inside your body, so it leaves no visible tail.

In the past, the term “fused” meant that the three to five bones of the coccyx had grown into a single bone. But doctors now know that the connections between these bones are formed not by solid bone but by fibrous connective tissues.

What Is in the Tailbone?

The spinal cord consists of 31 pairs of spinal nerves. Of these nerve pairs, 25 exit the spine above and below the 24 spinal vertebrae. Five of the nerve pairs exit the spine in the sacrum. The sacral nerves innervate the lower back, hips, and genital areas. Sciatica happens when an injury or malformation compresses the sacral nerves.

The last nerve pair exits the spine in the coccyx. This coccygeal nerve pair innervates the areas over and surrounding the coccyx, like the area between the gluteal muscles that form your buttocks.

What Are the Symptoms of a Broken Tailbone?

When you land hard on your lower back or buttocks, you can fracture the bones making up the coccyx. You can also tear the fibrous connective tissues between the bones. In either case, the bones of the coccyx can dislocate, producing pain and swelling over the tailbone.

More serious symptoms can happen if the dislocated coccyx presses on the sacral or coccygeal nerve roots. The compression causes nerves to inflame, and inflammation causes nerves to misfire.

As a result, the nerves may misfire or lose nerve signals, resulting in symptoms such as:

  • Pain radiating into the lower back, hips, buttocks, or legs
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Muscle weakness

Since the pressure on the coccyx increases when you sit, the symptoms may worsen while sitting. They may also worsen when you stress the sacral region by bending at the waist.

In some cases, you can relieve the pain by sitting on a cushion that shifts pressure from your tailbone to your legs. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also reduce the inflammation caused by nerve compression and relieve your symptoms.

In extreme cases, doctors can surgically remove your coccyx. Your doctor will reserve this option as a last resort.

What Can Cause a Broken Tailbone?

Falls are a common cause of a broken tailbone. During a slip and fall accident, your feet slip forward, and you fall backward. If you bend at the waist during your fall, you might land directly on your tailbone, fracturing the bones or tearing the connective tissue.

Other causes of a broken tailbone can include an impact from a vehicle in a pedestrian accident or a strike from a heavy object in a construction accident.

Paying for Treatment After Breaking Your Tailbone

The symptoms of a broken tailbone can cause discomfort and pain. They can even prevent you from doing certain activities like sitting or bending. If your broken tailbone resulted from someone else’s intentional or negligent actions, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer about a claim for compensation.

Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer to Help You With Your Claim

For more information, contact the Houston personal injury law firm of Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers by calling (713) 500-5000

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