My history of tailbone pain and surgery

Trudy - king.ashhurst@clear.net.nz

I have just turned 40 (5th June 2002) - had a great party - which I shared with my husband of 15 years (we are 3 weeks apart in age). We have 2 children; Samantha aged 11 and Joshua aged 14. I live in the North Island of New Zealand. I work as a school secretary so have a very busy work day. I am also very involved in many community groups and school groups. Some in particular are the local Pool Society (we built a new community pool) and I have just taken over the chairpersonship, and I am a member of the school's "Health Promoting Schools" committee. I am also fully involved in my union NZEI. Life is full and exciting and busy.

BUTT - I have a broken / displaced coccyx. I hurt it six years ago (January 1996) whilst helping my husband remove a tree stump. I held the rope while he levered the stump out of the ground - it moved and so did I!!!! Backwards and directly onto my bum. The pain was excruciating and went all the way up to my neck. I had other problems then too ... OOS of the right hand, neck and back problems and was in a bad phase with coping (or not as the case was), along with a right foot/ankle multiple bone fracture in the healing phase causing lingering problems. Not a good time to break my coccyx!

So - that was the start of everything. Since then I have always had to be careful about what I sat on, how long I sat and what position I sat in. It has been frustrating but liveable and not particularly painful. I have, however, always noticed that something was 'not quite right'. Other problems settled with time with occasional recurrences - especially the neck. Now six years later, after a number of falls, I can't function at 100% and sitting and standing are very painful - especially sitting to standing. I can even feel the tailbone tip move when I walk and bend.

My tailbone looks like a capital L, at an acute angle - and moves sideways when I sit. Not comfortable. My GP tells me that every time I sit on it, it breaks again and that is why I am now having constant pain and trouble. He described it much like trying to rest your whole body weight on the tip of your little finger - something has to give!!!!

The last resort treatment was the cortisone injections, which were not only uncomfortable but VERY painful and did not work. I am not on any pain medication but when I do then I take paradex which is slightly stronger than pandol but seems to help dull the pain. I hate taking drugs, especially long term, so only take them when I absolutely have to.

I have done my research and know what is what and when my surgeon gave me the options I knew what he was talking about. He gave me the final choice and I have chosen to have the op as at this stage anything is better than not being able to sit and being scared to sit and then even scareder to stand. It is also not a good and comforting look at work when I have to slide out of my chair on the way to sick bay to tend to an injured or sick child!!!! It does not instil confidence. I also hate walking as though I have an orange permanently wedged between my cheeks!

I must admit, though, that I am somewhat worried about the recovery time having read some of the stories from those of you who have undergone the surgery in some form or other. My surgeon indicated I should be back at work in 2 weeks post op but I doubt that. Time will tell though and I can't say that I will be chomping at the bit to get back so hope that my employer sees the sense in ensuring that someone is properly trained to do my job in my absence or if I ever leave. Plus, as this is an injury related to an accident it is covered by ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) and they pay 80% of my pay whilst off work (after the first week). So, I can't run out of sick leave from work and still have income, albeit reduced.

I am a determined and stubborn person and won't let pain stop me pursuing my interests etc. It is good to read about your stories because this sort of condition is not common, and certainly not talked about, and it can be very isolating. Many people think I am joking when I tell them about it and think I am, as we say over here, "pulling the wool".

I am currently waiting for the funding to come through and when it does the surgeon will book my surgery into his schedule. It will take place at a private hospital so it will be a comfortable stay - not squeezed into the public hospital!!

UPDATE I had my operation on 4th November 2002. It took place, as expected, in a private hospital. I was admitted at 7:00 am, had pre-op meds at 8:30 am and wheeled into surgery at around 11:30 am. I do not remember much from that day, suffice to say I could tell that an operation had taken place but not sure what had gone on.

DAY 2 - Tuesday I awoke the second morning fuzzy headed but knowing that I had undergone surgery and that I was in hospital. I had a pain pump dispensing morphine as I needed it. I don't remember getting up at all that day and I slept quite a lot on and off. The surgeon visited and told me what he had done, but I took very little in.

DAY 3 - Wednesday I am more awake today and able to take everything in that is going on. I struggle with my drip whilst trying to have a shower! It is better than having a bed bath - eeeekkk!!!!. Today I go home and am discharged just before lunchtime. My husband comes to pick me up and I have to drape myself across the back seat so that I don't hurt my butt on the journey of 10-15 minutes. Once home I crawl into bed and fall asleep. My dog, Max, perches up on the bed with me and won't leave my side. The family leaves me alone and I sleep more than I am awake. I have bottled water by my bed and the TV on the tallboy to watch when I can. I do not feel very well and just try to stay as quiet as I can. I posted to T-Bones the following: The surgeon took the whole coccyx. he commented that it was a mess and he had to spend time getting it out. the incision is, I am told, about 3 cm long just offside to the mid line between my butt cheeks. According to my hubby the wound is barely noticeable. I have been given IV antibiotics as a precaution and now just prescribed paracetamol and an anti-inflammatory. No pain to speak of but cant lie on my back and hips getting sore.

DAY 4 - Thursday This day I am still much the same; sleeping, watching some TV, having a couple of visitors. But I am feeling very nauseous and dizzy. I do not feel like eating but nibble at food left for me by my husband. I have not yet had a bowel movement and can't be bothered getting up to have a shower. The wound appears to be fine; in fact hubby says you can hardly even tell where the operation site was. The surgeon has used an inside running, dissolving stitch. I have no real pain but do take the anti-inflammatory meds prescribed call Tramadal-Ratard along with paracetamol. I posted to T-Bones the following: Lying in bed has become unbearable. I am sure many of you know what I am talking about with the painful hips. My whole lower body feels heavy and sore. It hurts to turn in bed. I have just taken some med to help calm the pain. I hope that in a week's time I will be feeling much better. I am pleased to have had to op and the doctor was clear when he said it was good to have it removed. I am glad I wasn't awake when they placed me in the surgery cos I was flung over 4 large pillows - no doubt to expose the coccyx area well. The hospital was nice and comfortable and the meals lovely although I didn't feel much like eating - and still don't. I just want to drink.

DAY 5 - Friday I feel much worse today. I am very dizzy and nauseous and constipated. It is excruciating. I have opened my wound by the pushing created by the need to empty my bowels but that only makes things 1000 times worse. ARRRRGGGGHHHH! I perserve but am just so miserable. Finally, hubby manages to convince me to call the surgeon. I talk to his nurse and she says to stop the anti-inflammatory med because I am having an extreme allergic reaction to it. Stopping it means I won't have any anti-inflammatory meds until I see my surgeon on Tuesday of Week Two. Damn. I go to sleep. Hubby has driven into town and bought me some Metamucil to help soften the constipation. Oh it is agony. I posted to T-Bones the following: Today (and yesterday) I have been feeling very nauseous and dizzy (upon standing) possibly related to the low blood pressure monitored whilst in hospital. I am severely constipated and have taken a triple dose of metamucil to help soften things. But oh the pain. I can sit without the pain of sitting to standing that I had before the op but to sit too long is not a good idea. I prefer to lie down and then the nausea and dizziness subsides and butt pain is not too bad. I have had to take my anti-inflammatory tabs today due to the pain (Tramal Retard 100 mg SR). It seems to have eased my constipation and my butt pain but not the other. I have not slept properly in days and my whole body aches - especially my hips and top of my arms. I am still depressed but that should pass once I am feeling better. I am okay walking around but not too much. I have not eaten properly in days as eating also makes my nauseous but I am keeping my fluids up. I feel bloated and I think that my face is awfully bloated looking too. I have a short temper and can't stand too many people around at once - not too much of a problem as I haven't had that many visitors. My dog, Max - a bishon frieze - won't let me out of his sight and when he can get away with it sleeps next to me on my bed. He knows that I am not myself. He is just lovely.

DAY 6 - Saturday I posted to T-Bones the following: Today I am feeling really down. My severe constipation is no better and has caused a rupture of the op site - not too big but enough for my hubby to notice and there is some seepage so will have to be extra careful. The bowel motion I had this morning was very painful and there was some blood in it. A bit of a worry really. The ACC visitor came over this morning. She went over how I was feeling and what I was experiencing. She was rather horrified that I haven't been prescribed an alternative to the Tremadal and am just on paracetamol. She seems to understand my position well. She is organising home help for me from next week as hubby is back to work on Monday. That will help.

DAY 7 - Sunday I posted in T-Bones the following: Today has been somewhat better for me. I still get very tired and sleep a lot during the day. I can sit but only if I sit forward (like I used to pre-op) and it hurts to stand up (but not the same sort of pain I had before the op). I have pain when I walk, sit, lie etc etc so I am not yet free of that. The metamucil has started to do its job and my severe constipation has eased. I have started to eat again. But I feel bloated and nauseous after eating. As I write this I am feeling hot and flushed so hope that is not an early sign of an infection looming. Tomorrow will be my first day at home alone as hubby is back to work tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how I do. The paracetamol keeps the worst of the pain at bay but not all of it, what pain I do have is sharp and scary.

ONE WEEK POST-OP - Monday I posted to T-Bones the following: Today it is one week post-op. The PITA has increased and the 4 hourly paracetamol doesn't even touch the pain now. At least up until now it was taking the edge off of it. My bowels have decided to behave - more or less - and I have no worries in that area now. I go to the surgeon tomorrow so will be looking for some better and more effective pain relief and since I am more with it I will ask about possible side effects so I don't get in the same situation as last week. Sleeping during the day has equalised and I am now not so tired and sleepy but night time sleeping is not wonderful as I am in a lot of pain and can't find a comfortable position. I tend to wake every couple of hours. It was my first day at home by myself today and it was just so boring. Even though I wasn't interacting with the family over the past few days at least I could hear them - today I just had my dog for company (he follows me everywhere and sleeps on my bed with me until it is time for him to go to his kennel at night). I had a bedside meeting with a woman today to discuss the management of the local pool and that was a welcome diversion for an hour. I can't even imagine returning to work next week as my doctor wants me to. I will insist on a further month tomorrow when I see him. I am sure that this will give me the time I need. If I return to work on 16th December then it will be only 3 1/2 days until the end of the school year and I have 5 weeks holiday so that will make things much easier for me to contemplate.

Day 9 - Tuesday I posted to T-bones the following: Well, after meeting with the surgeon today I am feeling so much better about everything. I discussed the reaction I had to the meds last week and he apologised saying I was unfortunate to experience such an adverse reaction. Today he has prescribed for me VIOXX which I had whilst in hospital and didn't appear to react to so should be able to carry on with better pain management and perhaps sleep better. He has given me until 16th December off work and that suits me fine. I will return to work, whether I am totally ready or not, on 17th December so that I don't stuff up my pay over the summer holidays (if I don't return to work by then I won't get paid at all until February 2003 and I can't afford that :-( ). Anyhow, he is pleased with the wound and today cut the knots off the end of the suture (a running, dissolvable under the skin suture) and it should disappear completely in a short time. The wound had closed back up and was looking healthy (not that I could see it of course). He told me to continue doing what I have been doing, I.e. resting on my side and going for walks as can be tolerated. If I have any problems I can phone him or his nurse. Wow, it was such a weight off my mind today. I am pleased that things are going as he had expected and that I am not pushed to return to work too soon. I am also now not falling asleep at the drop of a hat anymore. He told me that he had doped me up with not only pain killers, anti inflams etc but of course opiates and that was why I was so sleepy (duh! I should have known that). It now feels like a curtain has risen and I can see clearly. I can get through the day without having several naps of a couple of hours each. But, I also know that I can't do too much as even with showering and getting dressed today to get to this appointment I was totally stuffed. It took me an hour and a half to get ready - and I didn't even put makeup on!!! LOL. My concentration span is not great and I am constantly up and down trying to orientate myself - but that is not a big burden. Home help kicks in tomorrow so I have someone coming in an hour each day (Monday to Friday) to do housework and preparing the evening meal and once a week I get the home help back for whatever extra is needed for an hour and a half. Over the next four weeks that amount of time will decrease but that is okay as by then I should be able to manage the basic household routine without getting too tired.

DAY 11 - Thursday Hi everyone, today has been a really bad day for me. I spent an extra long time on the computer last night and woke this morning with severe pain - almost like I had broken some ribs. I have been feeling really horrible all day and forced myself to get up and have a shower about an hour ago. Now I feel more alive. I spent all morning sleeping fitfully and this afternoon just trying to get comfortable in bed. My wound is feeling strange too - almost a pulling sensation with some numbness but it is not painful, per se. That is all from me for now - I have to cut down my computer time for the time being.

DAY 13 - Saturday I have just come home from my first proper walk outside since my op. It was slow, and painful, but I did it. It was nice to see the kids from school greet me as I walked up the street, "Hi Mrs King, how are you doing?", etc. I will try and do a walk everyday as this walk made me realise how lazy my muscles have gotten from lying around so much. I did find out that walking up and down even small inclines hurt like hell so the walking will be confined to even stretches of pathway. I can't even walk up steps as this creates a pulling sensation on my butt and is quite unpleasant.

2 WEEK POST-OP UPDATE HI all, here I am 2 weeks post-op update. I feel so much better than this time last week, even heaps better than Friday of last week. I still can't sit normally on a chair but I can sit for longer on my computer chair - sitting forward and not putting pressure on my butt. It has meant that I can go into my favourite site (www.tradme.co.nz) and into the cafe for a chat with my friends there. I have had some wonderful chats with people from all over NZ, Australia and some world-wide.

I have been taking it easy in and around home and went for another small walk yesterday. Even though the weather was very winter-like it was refreshing to get out of the house for a while! Needless to say that I am bored silly (as I have such a busy work and community life) that I am finding it hard being more or less confined to home. I still spend the greater part of the day lying in my bed and hubby bought me a tri-pillow last week and that helps with the other aches and pains I get from lying on my side. I just wish I could sit up in bed instead of lying on my side all of the time. I have another 4 weeks before I go back to work so will slowly build up my strength over this time.

3 WEEK POST-OP UPDATE Hi all, well here I am at 3 weeks post op and I can feel an improvement every day. I even went into town Saturday (to watch Christmas Parade) and Sunday (to do grocery shopping) but of course lying across back seat of car - not the most comfortable lol. I cleaned the fridge out today and have decided to force myself to get dressed everyday and try and be a bit more active. Bending etc is still painful and proper sitting is out of the question. I have 3 more weeks before I go back to work so am looking forward to further improvement. I experience a pulling sensation when moving and sharp pain when I have overdone it. Even though I look 'normal' people now expect me to do all the usual things that I have done in the past and don't understand that I can't do it all yet. This coming weekend is the weekend I put together the local paper so it will be interesting to see how I cope with that perched on the edge of the chair.

I still retreat to my bed straight after tea at night as it is the only place where I am most comfortable. I tried to go without the Vioxx the other day cos I didn't think the pain was too bad and very copable BUTT I found out differently - now I make sure I take it even though it doesn't last the full 24 hours. Damn. This weekend is also our local (and very first ever) Christmas parade and we will be in it for our local paper so will be spending some time this week painting the banner. I have to borrow an Overhead Projector from school to do this. I will also be taking digicam photos for the paper so it will be busy and no doubt I will be quite exhausted but it will be something entirely different to do.

4 1/2 WEEKS POST-OP UPDATE I am now 4 1/2 weeks post-op. The first week was fairly horrendous. I spent 2 1/2 days in hospital and then home where I slept for most of the next five days. Unfortunately I had a severe allergic reaction to the anti-infamms prescribed and so had to stop them and had 4 days or so without any pain meds until my postop appointment with the surgeon. Yeouch!! I was then prescribed Vioxx which although helps does not last a full 24 hours and as I only have enough for one month I cannot increase the dosage so persevere. This week has been a much better week for me. I am able to sit for periods of time in the leaning forward on the back of the legs position but normal sitting is definitely out. I find that lying on my side in bed is now becoming painful as it appears to cause pressure on the now non-existent tailbone area but I can lie for short periods of time on my back. Being on my feet all day is tiring also. Nowhere is comfortable but at least I can get up and about and do things instead of staring at the four walls in my bedroom. Today, after having 5 full-on days of doing stuff, I was just mentally and physically exhausted and had to spend the day in bed. I got very little sleep but did rest and managed to read some of a book too. That is something I have noticed is that since my op my concentration span has been not there at all but is now slowly making an appearance and I can concentrate on watching TV or reading a chapter at a time of my book (Faye Kellerman's newest novel). I still experience pressure when bending forwards and I try not to wear trousers etc as that creates pressure when bending or sitting and even when lying down. It is not really pain but is very uncomfortable. If I have sat for too long or done too much I do get shooting pains from my tail up my spine and it can be rather immobilising. However, those episodes are becoming much fewer but do serve to remind me of my current limitations. I am still convinced that this operation was the best thing I could have done for myself and the way my healing is going I am sure that it will be a 95-100% success so long as this 'pressure' feeling goes away. I am expecting to return to work on 16th December and as it is only 3 1/2 days until the end of the school year should not be too much of a burden. The Principal said she was keeping the 2 people employed to fill in for me on upon my return so that I didn't over do things. That was just so nice of her. I do get very tired and am inclined to ignore what my body is saying but I have to remember that I am still healing and to take things easy!

5 WEEKS POST-OP UPDATE I had my final visit with my surgeon this afternoon and he is very pleased with my result. He explained that during the op he removed as much of the inflamed tissue as he could and that the rest will clear up over the next few months. He said that within about 2 months or so I should be almost back to my old self (without the PITA, of course) and that I should be able to do all the activities I used to do without getting as tired as I still do now. I told him that it was a big change from before the op and that I was really pleased with how it was all going. I am back to work on Monday for the final 3 1/2 days of the school year and then have 5 weeks holiday and begin my new working year on 21st January.

6 WEEK POST-OP UPDATE To all, my first day back at work was tiring, to say the least, but I got through and left early at 2 pm. I experienced some shooting pains in my sacral area but not enough to floor me! Today was better and managed to stay until my normal finish time of 3:15 pm but I am oh so tired of standing all day! However, it is only 1 1/2 more days then the summer holidays start and I don't have to worry about work until 22nd January.

From Trudy in New Zealand

Updated 2002-12-22

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