The tailbone, or coccyx, is a small group of bones with a big role. Most people are blissfully unaware of its function, or even its presence, until tailbone pain sets in. Thankfully, there are several routes we can take when this happens.
What is the coccyx?
The coccyx is the tiny triangular bone arrangement situated at the bottom of the spine. It is all that is left of our species’ tail, hence the name tailbone. It consists of three to five rudimentary vertebrae, all of which can move slightly against each other. Forming the central joining point for several muscles, ligaments, and tendons, the coccyx is one leg of a tripod, which, along with the two hip bones, affords support to a seated person.
WHAT IS TAILBONE PAIN, AND WHY DOES MY TAILBONE HURT WHEN I SIT?
Coccydynia, or pain in the region of the tailbone, is a condition that afflicts people when pressure is put on the coccyx, most commonly in the seated position. Additionally, those with coccydynia can experience tailbone pain when sitting down and getting up. Researchers have also reported an association with obesity and a slight female skew.
The condition can result from a prior injury and can progress over time, making it increasingly difficult for the sufferer to achieve seated or transitional comfort. Resorting to techniques such as slumping in a bid to combat the discomfort is common, which can then lead to further difficulty.
Medical interventions: The good news is that most tailbone pain while sitting eases by itself over time. However, should it prove necessary to adopt some remedial action, there are techniques you can use to tackle it with reasonable confidence of success.
Visit your GP: The first step in this case is to see your GP, who will be able to decide on the best course of action based on the cause and severity of the pain. Actions that the GP might advocate could include:
-simple pain medication
-pelvic floor rehabilitation
-transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
Correct sitting posture: If the tailbone hurts when you are sitting, the condition may respond to far more conservative interventions. In fact, ensuring that you are sitting correctly is a good first step. Perching on the edge of a seat can exacerbate tailbone pain, as can leaning back. It is important to use seating that will facilitate good posture, so let’s consider how that should look, as well as the overall workstation design.
Optimising your seating: Seating should provide lower back support and be adjustable; ideally, your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. If you feel pain, the feet should rest flat on the floor. Attention should be given to the position of the keyboard, the mouse, and objects that you need to access regularly, like the phone. Finally, the importance of regular breaks cannot be overstated: The process of leaving the seat, standing, and walking around is invaluable.
Coccygeal cushions: It is worth investigating cushions that are specifically aimed at sufferers of coccydynia. These are modified, wedge-shaped cushions that are designed to give support on the bottoms of the thighs whilst reducing pressure on the coccyx. They are sometimes preferred over donut cushions, which can actually put more pressure on the coccyx and can result in a worsening of tailbone pain. Coccygeal cushions are, happily, available over the counter.
Seat tilts and coccyx cut-outs: Some ergonomic chair manufacturers offer more advanced features such as fully adjustable seat angles and coccyx zone cut-outs. Fully adjustable seat angles allow you to vary the amount of weight you put on your feet, which can help reduce the pressure on the coccyx area.
Coccyx cut-outs refer to an area of upholstery and foam that has been removed from a seat below the coccyx area in order to reduce pressure on the tailbone region. Examples of chair models that can offer this feature include the Adapt 500 and Adapt 600, which are available with coccyx cut-outs of approximately 140mm x 100mm. The Adapt range can also offer supplementary softer padding in the coccyx zone if this is preferable.
For those with other symptoms, such as pain in the back of the thighs when sitting, Adapt chairs offer enhanced thigh support. For free advice on the models that offer these options, please contact us directly.
Reverse sitting stools: We can also advise on chairs with an altogether different approach to easing coccyx and lower back discomfort, such as the HÅG Capisco. The Capisco allows an array of sitting positions, including reversing the chair so that the user is sitting with the backrest facing their chest. By leaning forward and laying your arms on the crosspiece, you feel supported while taking pressure off the coccyx region.
Sit-stand solutions: Another solution worth considering when your tailbone hurts when sitting is a sit-stand desk. This is a workstation designed to allow you to work in a seated, standing, or perched position. The height can be varied to accommodate the ideal position for the user. We are not suggesting standing all day, as this in itself can contribute to other issues, but you may get benefit from transitioning between sitting and standing every 30 mins
So, for those who ask, “Why does my tailbone hurt when I sit?” the answer may be that they are not sitting in the most beneficial position. Thankfully, there are simple things you can do and products you can use that can help with this.