Mystery pain was caused by a broken tail bone


Original posting, 2001-11-25:

I am a 34 year old mother of three. My problems started when I fell on the ice in December. I broke my tailbone when I fell but did not know it at the time.

I started having horrible abdominal pain a couple of months later. It was worst when I rode in the car for more than just a few miles. It also hurt more if I had gas or a bowel movement and when I had sex.

I have had ovarian cysts forever. They cause me a lot of pain but usually only a few days each month. When the abdominal pain wouldn't go away I went to the doctor. I had an ultrasound, a CT scan, a colonoscopy, X-rays, and an MRI. They couldn't find anything wrong with me. I got pain killers and anti-inflammatories and advice that I get used to the pain.

Eventually the sciatic nerve on my left side got irritated and started shooting pain down my left leg. I went to my chiropractor. This was in June 2001. He asked if I had fallen. He suspected that I might have fractured a vertebrae or broken my tailbone. I didn't remember falling. He asked if I had gotten any x-rays related to this pain. I told him that I had gone through all kinds of test. He wanted to know specifically if the x-rays and MRI had looked at my tailbone. I didn't know. A call to the other doctors confirmed that they had not looked that far down my spine.

He immediately x-rayed me again and looked at the tailbone region this time. Sure enough. My tailbone was broken and shoved forward about a half inch. He explained how the nerves in this area can affect the kidneys, bladder, uterus, and basically the entire pelvic floor. It all made sense finally. He referred me to a orthopedic surgeon and told me to get a "donut" pillow.

The first surgeon I saw was concerned that I may have fractured a vertebrae and that might be causing the sciatic nerve to be irritated. He did not feel that the broken tailbone could be causing all my pain. He ordered additional MRI's. The films confirmed the broken tailbone but no additional fractures. This doctor then told me that I needed to see a general practitioner because he did not specialize in broken tailbones and could not treat me. I felt abandoned. I sat in the parking lot and cried. I called my chiropractor and we found another orthopedic doctor for me to see.

This doctor told me my options were pain medication, anti-inflammatories (both I was already doing), corticosteroid shots, and surgical removal. I underwent two shots. The first helped for two weeks. The second for two hours. The doctor said he could only give up to four shots over a one year period. He advised me that since it had been almost a year ago that I broke my tailbone the shots probably would not work. This meant that I would have to live with the pain or try surgery. Meanwhile, I was taking pain killers and was not able to fully do my job. I had to time the medication so I could drive to and from work, church, shopping, and driving my children to their activities. I was ready for anything else that might work.

The doctor had only done one of these surgeries before and did not feel comfortable doing it. He referred me to a doctor in Oklahoma City who had done 20 of these surgeries. I met with him and he agreed to do the procedure. I am scheduled for surgery on November 27. I am excited and hopeful.

I sympathize with everyone enduring the pain associated with a broken tailbone. This is the first broken bone I have ever had. I would have preferred a broken leg, I am sure! Updates later.


Update, 2002-04-07:

It has been four months since I had my broken tailbone surgically removed. I have heard from several people who shared similar pain and wondered how I was doing. I have shared with them individually and thought my story might be helpful to others. So here it is.

I experienced immediate relief from the pain I had from the broken tailbone. Don't get me wrong. The area where I had the surgery was very painful and tender for several months. But I can honestly say it was worth it! My tailbone pain is completely gone. I feel wonderful! I just went skiing for the first time in Colorado with my family for spring break. Yes, I fell several times on my rear end, and still had a great time.

I spent nearly a year with a broken tailbone. I saw five or six doctors. I had a hysterectomy, a colonoscopy, CT scan, every test you can imagine trying to find and eliminate the pain. My chiropractor was the one to diagnose it. I had pain shooting done my leg. He X-rayed my tailbone and found it was broken off and shoved out of alignment by 1/2 inch.

My next challenge was to figure out a treatment. I saw an orthopedic doctor. He tried to push the bone back into alignment. You can use your imagination on how that was done. The bone wouldn't budge. The muscles and tendons in the area were too inflamed and tight. Next, we tried corticosteroid injections at the sight along with anti-inflammatories and pain killers. After two injections and two months of drug treatment, the pain was worse. My doctor referred me to a surgeon.

The surgeon offered to try another injection using an X-ray to put the medication right at the site of the break. We decided that if two injections hadn't helped, the third was not likely to be any different. Surgery was scheduled for the earliest open date.

I am not a big fan of hospitals or surgery. But, at the time, I was in so much pain - all the time - I was looking forward to it and counting down the days. The hospital was a very small surgical hospital in Oklahoma City. The only patients there were in for surgery. The staff was excellent. If you needed something they were there in seconds - really! I would recommend it to anyone.

My doctor and his staff were wonderful! They rescued me from a year of hell! Good luck to everyone. Don't give up, there is help out there.

Note from Jon Miles:

According to the doctors who specialise in coccyx pain, the coccyx doesn't actually get broken. It is naturally in two or three segments, linked by ligaments. An injury can weaken the connections between these segments, or between the coccyx and the sacrum. Then if you sit down, that forces the weak joint apart, causing pain.

Doctors who are not experienced in treating coccydynia think that the coccyx must be broken, because medical textbooks wrongly say that the coccyx is fused into a single bone. When the doctor sees separate pieces on the x-ray, he or she assumes there must be a fracture.

Misty's doctor does not want his name listed here. See the list of doctors and other specialists for a doctor recommended by other patients.

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