The tailbone, or coccyx, is at the base of the spine. Various stretches, lifestyle, and medical remedies may help address pain that can arise as a result of an injury, pregnancy or prolonged sitting.

The tailbone is triangular and consists of between three and five semi-fused bones. In humans, it helps support the pelvis.

Many pelvic floor muscles insert into the tailbone, so injuries to this area may affect them too. These muscles assist in maintaining healthy bowel and bladder movements and supporting the function of sexual organs.

Injury to the pelvic floor can prevent muscles from relaxing and contracting correctly, which may cause an obstruction in the bladder neck, bladder, or urethra. This makes it more difficult to pass urine and leads to urine retention.

Persistent tailbone pain is known as coccydynia. If the tailbone is sore and inflamed, overactivity of the pelvic floor and hip-opening muscles can worsen pain symptoms.

Performing specific stretches may help to relieve tension in the tailbone. This article will cover stretches that people can use to relieve pain.

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People typically experience coccydynia, or persistent tailbone pain, when they are sitting or when something is putting pressure on the lower spine.

Sitting in an awkward position, falling backward, childbirth, and hypermobility can all injure the bone itself or the surrounding tissue and muscles. Although anyone can experience coccydynia, it is more common in women.

In addition to relieving the pain of coccydynia, treatment should reduce inflammation and ease muscle tension.

A 2016 study found that physical therapy that targets the pelvic floor muscles is a safe and effective treatment for tailbone pain. Therapists often recommend several types of conservative interventions, including:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • hot baths
  • ring-shaped cushions
  • intrarectal massage and manipulation
  • ganglion impar blocks
  • radiofrequency thermocoagulation
  • psychotherapy

Physical therapists recommend practicing deep breathing from the diaphragm to release pelvic floor tension by calming the nervous system. Pelvic floor rehabilitation programs often use techniques such as down training to promote muscle relaxation.

A recent study found that people with coccydynia benefited from performing exercises to increase thoracic spine mobility and to stretch the piriformis and iliopsoas muscles in the buttocks and hips.

These exercises reduced the participants’ pain when sitting and increased the amount of pressure that they could withstand on the lower back before feeling pain.

The exercises listed below may help relieve tailbone pain.

1. Single-leg knee hug

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Single-leg knee hug stretch demonstrated.

This stretches the piriformis and the iliopsoas muscles, both of which can become tight and limit mobility in the pelvis. The piriformis originates from the tailbone and can irritate the sciatic nerve if it becomes inflamed.

Gently increasing the stretch over time will allow the range of movement to expand.

  1. Lie down on the back.
  2. Bend one knee toward the chest.
  3. Extend the feet straight out, if tolerable.
  4. Hold onto the bent knee and pull it gently down into the chest.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

2. Figure 4 stretch (piriformis and glute cross leg stretch)

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Figure 4 stretch demonstrated.

This stretches the piriformis as well as the glutes. The glutes are attached to the tailbone, and walking or running can cause them to pull on it.

  1. Lie down on the back.
  2. Raise the knees toward the ceiling, keeping the feet flat on the floor.
  3. Bend the left leg closer into the body and rest the left ankle across the right knee.
  4. Loop the hands around the right thigh and gently pull it toward the chest for 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

3. Kneeling hip flexor stretch

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Kneeling hip flexor stretch demonstrated.

The iliopsoas comprises the joined iliacus and psoas muscles. These hip muscles are the main muscles that help the hip to flex.

A person can stretch these muscles to relieve tailbone pain as they often become stiff with prolonged sitting.

  1. Kneeling upright on the floor, move one leg in front and place the foot flat on the floor. The thigh should be at a 90-degree angle to the shin.
  2. Rest the shin and knee of the back leg on the ground with the toes pointing backward. Placing a towel under the back knee may be necessary for comfort.
  3. With the chest upright, rest the hands on the hips for stability.
  4. Tuck the pelvis under and lean forward slightly.
    • Note: It is easy to overlean into this stretch. It is safer to maintain a pelvic tilt instead.
  5. Hold the stretch for 20–30 seconds.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

4. Kneel and twist

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Kneel and twist exercise demonstrated.

The kneel-and-twist exercise stretches the iliopsoas while also improving mobility through the lower back.

A tight, immobile lower back can lead to lower back pain. This can result in other muscles, such as the pelvic floor and hip-opening muscles, becoming tight to compensate.

If the tailbone is sore and inflamed, overactivity of the pelvic floor and hip-opening muscles will worsen these symptoms.

  1. Start in the same position as the kneeling psoas stretch with the front leg bent at a 90-degree angle in front of the body and the knee and shin of the back leg on the ground.
  2. Keeping the body upright, raise the arms to shoulder height out to the side.
  3. Focus on tucking the shoulder blades down and back to prevent the shoulders from rising.
  4. From the torso, rotate slowly toward the left side of the body until the arms are almost in line with the legs. Then slowly return to the center and rotate toward the right side.
  5. Rotate four to five times to each side, only turning as far as possible without any pain.

5. Pigeon’s Pose (iliopsoas and glute stretch)

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Pigeon’s pose demonstrated.

This stretch is a yoga pose that helps to open the hips. It stretches the iliopsoas as well as the glute muscles on the bent leg.

This pose is not suitable for people with knee problems. It is recommended to instead perform the Figure 4 stretch mentioned above as a modification.

  1. Begin on all fours with the hands slightly in front of the shoulders and shoulder distance apart.
  2. Bring the right knee forward and place it slightly behind and to the left of the right hand with the ankle pointing toward the left hip bone.
  3. Slide the left leg back and keep it straight so that the thigh faces down toward the floor. If the hips are not square, tuck the back toe under to correct this.
  4. Lower the torso forward and rest on folded arms to increase the stretch if necessary.
  5. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

6. Child’s Pose

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Child’s pose demonstrated.

Child’s Pose is another yoga pose. This stretch lengthens the spine, therefore easing lower back pain and targeting hip muscles in addition to muscles in the pelvic floor. A person usually does this stretch on their knees. To avoid discomfort, a person can use a mat or towel to kneel on.

  1. Begin in a kneeling position with the knees spread, sitting back on the heels.
  2. Place both hands flat on the floor and slowly slide the arms and body forward, keeping the head facing down.
  3. Continue slowly shifting forward to fully extend the arms. If possible, bring the forehead to the floor.
    • Note: Crawl arms to each side and hold for a lateral stretch.
  4. Rest in this position for 20–30 seconds.

The exercises outlined above intend to address some of the causes of tailbone pain. As with all stretches and exercises, it is crucial to remain within a range of motion that does not cause pain or injury.

Tailbone pain has several causes, and in some cases, the cause is unknown. Injury to the tailbone can include a fracture, bruising, or dislocation.

Trauma to the tailbone may occur because of:

  • Falling: A person may fall and land on a hard surface in a seated position.
  • Pregnancy and childbirth: During pregnancy, ligaments in the pelvis loosen and shift, which can cause tailbone pain. A person may experience injuries to the tailbone or surrounding ligaments and muscles during childbirth, especially during deliveries requiring the use of instruments.
  • Spinal and rectal surgeries: A person may have tailbone pain following a spinal or rectal surgery.
  • Sitting: A person may experience tailbone pain after sitting for long periods of time.
  • Repetitive movements: Activities such as cycling, riding, and rowing can put stress on the tailbone, as well as the surrounding muscles and ligaments, and can cause injury.

Other causes of tailbone pain include:

  • Arthritis: A disorder associated with joint inflammation.
  • Chordoma: A rare bone cancer that occurs in the tailbone.
  • Osteomyelitis: This occurs when the bone or bone marrow becomes infected. It may occur in any bone in the body.

If a person is experiencing tailbone pain and stretching does not relieve the pain, there are other treatment options they may wish to consider.

Prolonged sitting can exacerbate tailbone pain. A person can take regular breaks from sitting or try sitting on a U-shaped or wedge-shaped cushion instead. These cushions allow a person to sit comfortably by taking pressure off the tailbone.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can help a person manage the pain symptoms. Such medications may include aspirin and ibuprofen.

If a person is experiencing severe pain or is struggling to find relief from at-home management, they may wish to contact a doctor about their tailbone pain. A doctor can perform a physical exam of the area and request further tests, if necessary, to identify and treat the cause and rule out any other conditions.

A person should contact a doctor immediately if they experience:

  • a sudden increase in pain and swelling
  • loss of control of their bowels or bladder
  • ongoing constipation
  • weakness, numbness, or tingling in their legs

Tailbone pain can occur for many reasons, and an older study found that conservative management at home is often enough to allow recovery. Gentle stretching can loosen muscles surrounding the tailbone that may be causing discomfort. If a person cannot manage their tailbone pain on their own, they may wish to contact a doctor for tests and further treatment.