The tailbone, or coccyx, is at the bottom of the spine and helps to support the pelvis. It is possible to injure or fracture the tailbone, causing inflammation and pain. Persistent tailbone pain is known as coccydynia.
The tailbone is triangular and consists of between three and five semi-fused bones. In humans, it is a non-functioning tail.
Many pelvic floor muscles insert into the tailbone, so injuries to this area may affect them too. These muscles assist in defecation, running, walking, and moving the legs. The pelvic floor also supports the vagina.
Performing specific stretches may help to relieve tension in the tailbone. In this article, we explain the tailbone stretches that people can use to relieve pain.
People will typically have coccydynia, or persistent tailbone pain, when they are sitting or when something is putting pressure on the lower spine.
Sitting in the wrong position, falling backward, childbirth, and hypermobility can all injure the bone itself or the surrounding tissue and muscles. Tailbone pain is more common in females than in males.
In addition to relieving the pain of coccydynia, treatment should reduce inflammation and ease muscle tension.
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 below may help to relieve tailbone pain:
1. Single leg knee hug
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.
- Lie down on the back and extend the feet straight out.
- Bend one knee toward the chest.
- Hold onto the bent knee and pull it gently down into the chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
2. Piriformis and glute cross leg stretch (thread the needle)
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.
- Lie down on the back.
- Raise the knees toward the ceiling, keeping the feet flat on the floor.
- Bend the left leg closer into the body and rest the left ankle across the right knee.
- Loop the hands around the right thigh and gently pull it toward the chest for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
3. Kneeling psoas stretch
The iliopsoas refers to the joined iliacus and psoas muscles. These hip muscles help the hip to flex.
Stretching them can help to relieve tailbone pain as they often become stiff with prolonged sitting.
- 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.
- 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.
- With the chest upright, rest the hands on the hips for stability.
- Tuck the pelvis under and lean forward slightly.
- Hold the stretch for 20–30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
4. Kneel and twist
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, overactive pelvic floor and hip-opening muscles will worsen these symptoms.
- 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.
- Keeping the body upright, raise the arms to shoulder height out to the side.
- Focus on tucking the shoulder blades down and back to prevent the shoulders from rising.
- 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.
- Rotate 4–5 times to each side, only turning as far as it is possible to without any pain.
5. Iliopsoas and glute stretch (Pigeon Pose)
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.
- Begin on all fours with the hands slightly in front of the shoulders and shoulder distance apart.
- Bring the left knee forward and place it slightly behind and to the left of the left hand with the ankle pointing toward the right hip bone.
- Slide the right 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.
- Lower the torso forward and rest on folded arms to increase the stretch if necessary.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
The exercises above 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.
In addition to these exercises, other treatment methods may help to prevent and manage tailbone pain. These include:
- spending less time sitting
- cushioning seats
- massaging and manipulating the area
- having local injections of steroids or anesthetics
- making postural adjustments, such as adopting a better sitting position
If tailbone pain is persistent, it is best to visit a doctor or physical therapist.
To prevent tailbone pain, people should avoid prolonged sitting and high impact exercises, such as running and jumping. High impact exercises may aggravate any inflammation and cause the pelvic and hip muscles to tighten further.
Tailbone injuries will heal over time. Until this occurs, treatments such as physical therapy, stretching, and seat cushioning should help to relieve pain and discomfort.