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MS and Tailbone Pain: Management Tips

Posted on May 25, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Joseph V. Campellone, M.D.
Article written by
Emily Brown

Tailbone pain is a troublesome problem for many members of MyMSTeam. Members wonder how their tailbone pain is related to multiple sclerosis (MS), but there is limited information about this symptom. Although damage to the myelin sheaths of nerve fibers (called demyelination) in the central nervous system, including the spinal cord, is associated with some MS pain, it is less clear if and how MS directly causes tailbone pain. However, there are some indirect links between MS and tailbone pain, such as mobility issues that lead to a lot of sitting, which can cause tailbone pain.

Although tailbone pain is extremely unpleasant, it can often be managed by using special cushions or performing tailbone-friendly stretches and exercises. Finding what works may take some trial and error.

What Does Tailbone Pain Feel Like?

Tailbone pain arises in or around the bone at the base of the spine. It is also called coccydynia, after the scientific name of the tailbone, the coccyx. Tailbone pain can be difficult to deal with because it affects everyday life. For example, sitting normally on a hard chair — or any chair, for that matter — can be intolerable.

Symptoms of tailbone pain include:

  • Aching or a shooting pain in the tailbone area
  • Pain that worsens when standing up from sitting
  • Pain from sitting, especially for long periods
  • Other back pain
  • Constipation pain

It is unclear how long tailbone pain lasts. Some MyMSTeam members say that it goes away, whereas others report having it for years.

What Are the Causes of Tailbone Pain?

Tailbone pain may be related to symptoms of multiple sclerosis, such as limited mobility. Lack of movement, such as when sitting for a long time, can cause tailbone pain.

People with MS who use a wheelchair may be at greater risk of tailbone pain due to decubitus ulcers, sores that develop from pressure and staying in the same position for long periods. It is common for decubitus ulcers to form over the coccyx.

Muscle spasms are another MS symptom that may be associated with tailbone pain. Muscle spasms can result from limited mobility and may be felt in the lower back and leg muscles. Spasticity or muscle tightness, one of the most common symptoms of MS, may also cause lower back pain. Tightness and spasms around the lower back might be felt in the tailbone area.

Falls also can lead to tailbone pain. As many as 70 percent of people with MS experience falling.

Tailbone pain may also be unrelated to MS. People experience this kind of pain for all sorts of reasons, including sports injuries, pregnancy and childbirth, and sitting on a hard chair.

Tailbone and Back Pain in MS

Research is limited on MS and tailbone pain. Most studies focus only on back pain and muscle spasms as symptoms of MS. For example, a 2019 study on how pain affects quality of life for people with MS found that 50 percent of the 144 participants experienced back pain, and 39 percent had muscle spasms.

There is shared frustration among MyMSTeam members that some doctors do not attribute tailbone pain to MS. For example, one member wrote, “My first neuro said [tailbone pain] is not MS related. I plan on asking my new neuro at my next visit. It has to be MS related.”

MyMSTeam members offer a variety of descriptions of their tailbone pain:

  • “I started with neck pain in the beginning. Then moved to severe tailbone pain that I still have and cannot sit. I have to sit on my sides.”
  • “This is the first time I’ve read of someone else who has severe tailbone pain. This is in addition to nerve pain running through the butt, entire crotch, down legs into my feet (soles/toes), especially on the side.”
  • “I have had this problem for over 30 years. But last night was the worst episode ever. For over an hour my tailbone hurt so bad that I ended up crying through it. It seemed as though there was nothing I could do to get relief.”
  • “I have that problem sometimes where my tailbone hurts real bad. It takes a while to get up off the chair and I have to stand for a bit before moving.”
  • “I was riding my bike and my tailbone started hurting very soon into the ride. I had that pain for a few months and then it went away. It does come back if I sit on a hard chair or my desk chair has a bump and if I sit too far up, it starts to hurt.”

Managing Tailbone Pain With MS

Tailbone pain can often be managed with at-home interventions. However, it’s important to tell your neurologist or another health care professional if you’re having ongoing pain. Your doctor can help you find a pain management approach that relieves your discomfort.

Cushions

Special cushions, including doughnut and wedge-shaped pillows, may help relieve tailbone pain. You can find cushions designed for tailbone pain online. Inflatable doughnut pillows are also commonly available at pharmacies.

MyMSTeam members have had mixed results with using a U-shaped pillow. It works for some, but another wrote, “I do have those with the U opening for the tailbone and to promote circulation. I still have the pain.”

Heat and Cold

Taking a hot bath or applying heat or ice packs can sometimes relieve tailbone pain. A MyMSTeam member shared, “I sit on a heating pad. That seems to soothe it.”

Physical Movement

Slow movement, such as yoga, may be a good option for people with MS who have tailbone pain. Chair yoga offers an option for those who have limited lower body mobility or use a wheelchair. Exercise that gets you up on your feet or moving in your chair, or stretches performed while lying on your back, such as the figure four, could be just the ticket.

Chiropractic Therapy and Physical Therapy

Chiropractic therapy could be worth exploring for managing tailbone pain because it can both increase mobility and reduce pain, such as that caused by stiff muscles. However, chiropractic therapy doesn’t always bring long-term relief.

Physical therapy may be an option for relieving pain in the back and the muscles around the tailbone. A physical therapist can provide exercises tailored to the specific pain.

Some people with tailbone pain find relief from acupuncture or massage therapy.

Other Treatment Options

An over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen (sold as Advil or Motrin) can be taken to reduce tailbone pain. Ibuprofen is recommended for certain types of MS pain, but it’s best to check with your doctor about adding medications to your regimen.

If you’re experiencing terrible chronic pain, your doctor may recommend more serious interventions, including surgery. However, surgery for tailbone pain is extremely unusual.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyMSTeam is the social network for people with MS and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 186,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.

Do you have tailbone pain? Have you found any strategies to help you ease the discomfort? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Joseph V. Campellone, M.D. is board-certified in neurology, neuromuscular disease, and electrodiagnostic medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Emily Brown is a freelance writer and editor, specializing in health communication and public health. Learn more about her here.

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