Pain returned after training for duathlon - now had surgery

Heather - gigglyrn@hotmail.com

Original posting 2002-03-31:

I was interested and somewhat disheartened by the countless stories on your site. I am a 30 year old nurse who is extremely active. I road and mountain bike, run, lift weights, hike, etc. Last fall I had a nasty crash on my road bike that left me with a fractured tailbone. I was told that it would take 4-6 weeks to heal and then I would be able to resume my normal activities. It was difficult at first, but I did manage to get back on the bike after 6 weeks of rest. I worked up to long training rides- 3 hours at a time on the weekends. I had a harder time running. My back almost always hurt after a run, no matter how easy it was. Most of my pain after the accident was in my lower back.

I have continued to have some minor back pain since the accident, but managed to just wave it off as 'oh, I worked out too hard, or I had a really bad shift at work'. I recently began hard training for some duathlon races coming up. Three weeks ago my back started to hurt again, consistently. It didn't let up with rest. Driving in the car was brutal. This pain in my tailbone and lower back has been very persistent with no improvement in intensity from day to day. This is very different from the fracture. Every day after the fracture I improved.

I have since had repeat x-rays, several rectal exams, an MRI, and a number of different medications including steroids. Currently I am going through physical therapy consisting of exercises to stabilize the conjoining muscles of the coccyx, and ultrasound. My doctor is not overly optimistic that this will help, but feels that we have to try this before considering surgery. He has informed me that I have coccydynia and that surgery is no guarantee either. He has had a number of patients achieve success, but tells me there is no 100% guarantee.

It blows my mind to think that I could permanently be like this. It saddens me to read the stories of you and others who have suffered with this for years. I think the therapy and steroids are helping with the inflammation around the tailbone and in the low back, but the coccyx itself burns and the pain seems to have intensified. I am trying to be optimistic. Please send me your thoughts and suggestions.

Thanks very much! Heather

Update 2002-08-25:

It has been 5 weeks since I have had my tailbone surgically removed. My tailbone was bent in the middle and freely moving in two places. The x-rays and the MRI that I had did not show anything other than a healed fracture from my initial accident. I broke my tailbone last September in a bicycle accident. It took 6 weeks to heal and I went about my life as usual. Four months later the pain returned after hard training to prepare for some bike and running races. Nothing helped. I tried PT, exercise, no exercise, heat/ice, massage, acupuncture, etc. I was pretty nervous about having the surgery, but figured if I was going to be stuck with pain I might as well give surgery a shot. As it stood I was miserable and unable to do any of the things that I really enjoyed.

I am very glad I had the surgery. It was painful. It still hurts on a daily basis, but it's surgical pain at this point. And the pain is not worse than before. My doctor tells me I will have this pain for about 3 months. My back no longer gives out on me and some of the pain I had before is definitely gone. I can't tell yet if the nerve pain when sitting/fast walking is gone. I imagine that I won't know for awhile.

I would encourage anyone who decides to have this surgery to plan to be out of work for a month and to have someone that can help you for the first 2 weeks. It's tough. But it does get better. Just remember that surgery is an option that you have and it works for many people. And be patient- it's really hard, but things will get better.

Thanks very much for the website Jon.

Heather

Update 2002-09-29:

It is almost 3 months since I have had surgery and I am almost 100%. I am so excited that I had the surgery- it's great to have my body back. My doctor told me it would take about 3 months for the pain to disappear. He was and has been right all along.

Last weekend I was a staff member on a 3-day, 270 mile bike ride from Ground Zero to the Pentagon to honor those that lost their lives last September in the World Trade Center attack. I did not ride the entire distance because of work restraints, but did ride 100 miles over 2 days without any pain either day or subsequent days.

The only trouble I have is occasionally sitting perfectly straight for longer than a few hours. I have not felt this good in over a year. I would highly recommend to folks that are still suffering from pain to stretch, stretch, stretch. When my muscles- especially my hamstrings are loose, my back feels better. I recently read an article that while it used to be said that strong abdominals will protect your back- new findings suggest that tight hamstrings can pull on the pelvic floor and rotate things enough to cause severe, constant back pain. I have found that the more I stay limber the better I feel.

Good luck and thank you Jon for the website- it's extremely helpful and informative.

Sorry to see so many people out there suffering.

Take care- Heather Hanlon

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