In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, #ICEPelvic faculty member April Dominick discusses when and how the tailbone/coccyx may be a contributor to a patient’s symptom behavior, as well as how to begin to assess & treat the region if appropriate. Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes.
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What’s up everybody? We are back with another episode of the PT on Ice Daily Show. Before we jump in, let’s chat about Jane for a moment as they are our sure sponsor and they make this thing possible. The team at Jane understands that payment processing can be complex, so they built in an integrated payment solution called Jane Payments to help make things as simple as possible so you can get paid. If you’re looking for an easy way to navigate payments, here’s what we recommend. Head over to jane.app slash payments, book a one-on-one demo with a member of Jane’s support team. This can give you a better sense of how Jane Payments can integrate with your practice several other popular features that Jane Payments supports, like memberships with the option to automatically invoice and process your membership payments online. If you know you’re ready to get started, you can sign up for Jane and make sure when you do, you use the code ICEPT1MO as that gives you a one-month grace period while you settle in. Once you’re in your new Jane account, you can flip the switch for Jane Payments at any time. Let the Jane team know if you need a hand with anything. They offer unlimited support and are always happy to jump in. Thanks everybody. Enjoy today’s PT on ICE Daily Show.
01:27 DR. APRIL DOMINICK, PT, DPT
What is up PT on ICE fam? Dr. April Dominic here. Today we are starting our two-part series on pain in the butt. And today you will learn how you as a clinician can screen for tailbone pain, some general assessment and treatment strategies, as well as in part two, next in two weeks we’ll cover soft tissue structures that may contribute to pain in the butt. Before we dive into tailbone pain today, let’s talk about some course offerings from the ICE Pelvic Division. So we have our eight-week online cohort that starts July 10th and we still have some spots left. So please hop on in and join us for all of that fun. And then we have our live course and this course is going to give folks the ability to learn pelvic floor basics and about the pregnancy and postpartum changes of the body. We’ll definitely dive into the internal exam in supine and standing with an option to learn another way if an internal exam is not for you. Then in day two, we are in the gym and we’re applying what we learned day one into all activity types such as impact work, rig work, barbell and more. And we learn how to coach and come alongside and offer modifications for this population and keep them in the gym during pregnancy if that’s what they desire, as well as help them feel confident returning back to the gym during postpartum. So our next course is actually going to be with myself and Dr. Alexis Morgan. It’ll be here in Denver, Colorado. That’s going to be July 29th and 30th. And then you can hop into our next course offering, which is in September 23rd and 24th, I believe, and that’s going to be in Scottsdale, Arizona. So tailbone pain. We’ve got people with pain in the butt and we’re thinking, hey, it may be coming from the tailbone. So what do we know about tailbone pain right now? Well, true to the pelvic health research world form, we are still learning and growing. We don’t know a lot about incidence rates for tailbone pain. It is under reported. It is multifactorial in nature. There are a lot of psychological and physiologic factors that are involved in tailbone pain. So with that, it is just a trickier diagnosis to treat. But I wanted to share about all of the things that you can do from a general assessment and treatment strategy today. So one study did find that comparing female to males, females tend to be affected by tailbone pain about five times more than male counterparts. We also know that typically speaking, tailbone pain can resolve within weeks or months with time. However, we do know that conservative treatment strategies are welcome and definitely help reduce that duration for some. So what is the tailbone? Or I’ll sometimes call it the coccyx. The word coccyx actually originates from the Greek word for the beak of a cuckoo bird. So like a tailbone, the beak and the tailbone have a triangular shape. The tailbone is three to five fused bones that articulate to the bottom of the sacrum. So everyone listening right now, let’s go ahead and orient ourselves to where the tailbone actually is. With your fingertips, I want you to try right now, locate the edges of your sacrum, which is going to be that bone that kind of sits inside of the center of the buttock. And I want you to head inferiorly or towards the toes and towards midline. You’re going to follow that bone until it ends. You’ll bump into a small bone and that is the coccyx. You might be like, whoa, April, I’m like right near the anus. Well, then you’re in the right spot because the coccyx is just superior to that anal opening. So the coccyx may be tiny, but it is mighty and it is not insignificant. I like to think about the coccyx as a leg of a tripod. And that tripod is going to consist of a sit bone on one side, a sit bone on the other, and then the tailbone in the center. It is the anchor for the posterior pelvic floor muscles. So there are all kinds of muscles that attach to the coccyx itself all around. Specifically, the coccygeus muscle is going to attach on either side of the coccyx. But wait, there are more. So what is really important and why I wanted to come on here today to talk about tailbone is that there are other structures that are not actually pelvic floor specific that are attaching directly to the tailbone. Those are the glute max. So we have hip insertions as well as the sacro tuberous and sacrospina ligaments. So if you’ve got someone coming in for tailbone pain, it is important to assess above the joint and below, of course, but assessing above the joint, like at the hip and the low back due to these attachments. Functionally speaking, the tailbone is dynamic. It’s going to move as we move throughout our day doing our activities of daily living. So when the pelvic floor contracts, the tailbone is going to draw in and come forward or come anteriorly. So let’s chat about actual functions that the coccyx is involved in. More specifically, the coccyx is involved in sitting, bowel health, so it helps to keep poop in or get out of the way to get poop out. It is involved in childbirth, sexual play, and transfers such as sit to stands. So let’s put ourselves in the subjective exam. You’ve got someone that came in and they’ve got some kind of hip pain or tailbone pain. So what are we going to hear from a traumatic mechanism of injury or a non-traumatic mechanism of injury? I’m also going to talk about aggravating factors here. So what are some things that you might hear during your subjective or things that you might want to dive deeper into in order to maybe put coccidemia or tailbone pain onto your hypothesis list? So from a traumatic mechanism of injury standpoint, we most commonly hear of tailbone injuries during labor and delivery. The tailbone should move out of the way to allow for the fetus to slide on down the birth canal as if it was that easy, right? And simple. But sometimes that birth doesn’t go according to plan and someone may need to have an instrument assisted delivery with the use of forceps or a vacuum. And that is going to put someone at a higher risk for a tailbone injury. Another traumatic mechanism of injury would be a fall. And that can be a fall during your sport, during an activity, or from a horse, which we hear often. So now I’m going to dive into eight common non-traumatic aggravating factors or contributors to tailbone pain. We have pregnancy. So during pregnancy, things are a-growing and that’s going to put a lot more force down into the sacrum, onto the tailbone. So some of those folks may start to say, hey, I’ve actually got a lot more pain when I sit during pregnancy. But you don’t have to be pregnant to have pain with sitting. So one of the biggest, biggest complaints of, or aggravating factors for tailbone pain is going to be pain with sitting. So especially for a prolonged time. The tailbone assists with weight-bearing support, especially in sitting. So let’s bring it to real life. In real life, we’re thinking truck drivers or maybe people who have jobs who you are sitting without any brakes or with minimal brakes. So just constant pressure and force down onto that tailbone. And then I also want us to take a minute and think about the social implications of someone who has pain, severe pain with sitting. So what is that going to prevent us from doing? Hey, maybe going on a dinner date, right? Or comfortably going to a movie with your grandkids or any sort of event at work or your job duties itself. So people who have tailbone pain and it is severe, just have some grace for them because we do a lot of sitting in our daily lives. Think about like even transportation, we’re sitting in a car, right? Not everybody has subways in their region of the United States. So just extend some grace to these folks because they, this is definitely interrupting their life quite a bit. Other reasons, or contributors to tailbone pain, rapid weight loss, increased stress might increase some overactivity of the pelvic floor muscles that surround the coccyx. We also have some sometimes tailbone pain after spinal injury. If someone has hypermobility, that is going to play into the mechanics of ligaments and of the tailbone, as well as oftentimes people will complain of pain in the tailbone with sexual play due to certain positions causing a little bit more force down into the tailbone. And then finally, exercise. You know, you’ve got those folks who are like, oh, it’s summertime, I’m going to get my hot girl summer on or whatever kind of summer they’re wanting. And they are recently starting some sort of exercise routine, whether that is doing a lot of orange theory or 45 where they have or CrossFit where they have a lot of biking or cycling or rowing that they didn’t used to have. And that’s a little bit more pressure on the tailbone or maybe the Pilates person who is doing like a hundred boat poses, right? So exercise can play a big role in a new onset of tailbone pain. And then from a medical perspective, bone spurs, infections and cysts can also contribute. So what are some easing factors? What are these people are going to say that may lead you to be like, oh, maybe if this is what’s relieving their pain, maybe I should be considering tailbone pain. They are going to say, you know, if I change positions or they might report being on their belly or standing or sideline, those are the positions of comfort. And that’s because we are not weight bearing onto the tailbone. So from an objective standpoint, let’s run through what are some bony structures we should be looking at. So hip and low back. Hopefully I’ve made that clear to you that those need to be screened out. Pelvic specific structures. We’re looking at the sacroiliac joint as well as the tailbone itself. And in our live courses for our pelvic class, we dive deep into assessment and treatment and help you just dial in those skills. So hop on into our live course for that. I’ll walk us through verbally how we would palpate the tailbone itself. So first, first, first, first, make sure it is actually the tailbone. I had a patient one time who is a health care provider and they were all through other subjective exam. They’re saying, yeah, you know, tailbone this, tailbone that, blah, blah, blah. I get to the objective exam. I’m doing my P.A. mobs on the spine. I get down to L3 through five. Boom. That is their pain. Tenderness. Ah, that’s it. That’s it. And so I’m like, OK, noting for later. And then we continue on into some tailbone palpation and nothing. Any sort of tailbone pressing or mobilizations does not reproduce the pain that they came in for. So just make sure that we’re all on the same page about what the tailbone is. Now, let’s just call it what it is. Palpating the tailbone is awkward. It can be uncomfortable for the client, but to quote Finding Nemo, just touch the butt. OK, touch the tailbone. You wouldn’t avoid palpation or assessment of the hip if someone came in with hip pain. Right. So we shouldn’t think any different about externally palpating the tailbone. So let me give you some options for how to do that. When we are palpating the tailbone, we are looking for reproduction of pain. And sometimes after you get a feel for a few tailbones, you can appreciate that some positions, some tailbone positions are a little more flexed or some are a little more vertical. And that usually comes with a little time after palpating a bunch of them. But the tailbone palpation, we’ve got three recommendations. So number one is externally, you can palpate as a clinician, you can palpate the client’s tailbone in prone, side lying or sitting. And in prone or side lying, it’s going to be the same way that I just walked us through how to palpate your own tailbone, except you’ll have as a clinician, a pincers grasp on that tailbone and you’ll be able to do some mobilizations and manipulations there. So these do make it difficult for getting a solid grasp on the bone. And then in sitting, I love this because this is a little more functional for the person. So you can have your fingertips on their tailbone in sitting and ask them to sit upright and then also slump. And that’s going to give you a good appreciation of the movement of the coccyx itself. And then another way to palpate the tailbone is they may be like, uh-uh, you are not getting anywhere near my tailbone. That is my tailbone. So that is okay. You can come alongside them and you can just walk them through how to palpate their own tailbone again in sitting or side lying. And you can ask them some subjective questions about what it is that they’re feeling and make sure they’re in the right spot. And then the final way to palpate the tailbone would be internally or interactively. And those with pelvic floor specialty, especially trained in inter rectal examinations, will be able to do that. So from a general conservative treatment strategy standpoint, let’s talk through some of those things. You’ve got someone that came in, you’re like, yes, they definitely have tailbone pain. Now what do you do? We’ll talk through manual therapy, exercise and education. So from a manual therapy side of things, you can do some direct coccyx mobilizations, whether that’s externally or interactively. So you’ve got your pins or grass and you are applying some mobilizations to that structure. You can also do it indirectly where your pins or grass stays on that tailbone. And then you ask them, maybe they’re in side lying, hey, can you do some posterior pelvic tilts, anterior pelvic tilts of the hips or can you move your hips while we are stabilizing the tailbone? That is obviously a more active way to get some manual mobilizations in there. We can also supplement with dry needling, cupping, e-stim. We definitely want to hit the glute max, the lumbar spine. And if you’re trained in it, the pelvic floor as well, especially those coccidius muscles that attach nearby, that touch directly to the coccyx. And then from an exercise standpoint, I’ll talk through some stretches, strengthening and aerobic activity. So my three favorite stretches for promoting down regulation of the nervous system for the tailbone pain is going to be throwing some diaphragmatic breathing in with these three exercises. So the first, I like my clients to be on hands and knees doing some rock backs. The second is happy baby. You can be in happy baby, maybe do some lateral movement side to side, but I love a good modified happy baby where the feet are actually on the wall that frees the client’s hands to actually spread the cheeks. It is okay to touch your butt. It’s your own butt, right? So spreading those cheeks is actually going to put a stretch onto the tailbone itself and for some people relieve some of that pain. And then a deep supported squat against the wall is going to be wonderful for those pelvic floor muscles that may be, again, a little overactive and pulling on that coccyx bone. Of course, in the long term, we’ll want to do some general loading, whatever that patient can tolerate and especially if hyper mobility is on board, loading of the hips and back and pelvic floor can be wonderful for these humans. And then finally, let’s blast them with some high intensity interval training of whatever they can tolerate. So bike and rower are probably going to be out the window, but they may be able to do some standing, arm bike intervals, brisk walking, treadmill incline, pull walking, anything to really hit the system to address that increased inflammatory state and promote some blood flow and healing. And then finally, education. Education is huge for these humans. So we’re going to talk about positioning, positioning in sitting. Let’s encourage a neutral or anterior pelvic tilt because that’s going to put a lot less pressure down onto the sacrum and the tailbone. Let’s identify the threshold that the patient is able to tolerate in sitting. So if they’re like during the subjective, they say, yeah, you know, around 30 minutes is when I start to feel my tailbone pain. Great. We’ve identified a threshold. below that and say, if you wouldn’t mind, let’s do some, some standing breaks or movement snacks around 20, 25 minutes of sitting just so that we don’t keep hitting that threshold of pain and continuing that ripping the bandaid off cycle of I sit for hours and hours and I have pain and then it starts all over again. So let’s do something about it. And then cushions. I love recommending a lumbar support cushion like a half McKinsey slimline roll. They can tuck that below the low back and that’s going to give them a little more anterior pelvic tilt and then also tailbone for the cushions for the tailbone itself. So some of my favorite models are the cushion your assets, tailbone support, the kabootie or a donut. And then during intimacy. So using pillows for support or maybe opting for positions with decreased tailbone compression like hands and knees or legs up or side laying. Those may feel better for that human. And then it wouldn’t be an ice podcast without talking about lifestyle factors. We want you to be talking with them about nutrition, reducing processed sugar intake, and especially for this population, stress management, increased stress with job, family, whatever can be a huge factor for keeping this tailbone pain around. So we want to make sure that we get them hooked up with someone or using some sort of stress management techniques to address that part of this diagnosis. And then finally, remind these people that it takes time. Tailbone bruises, tailbone pain, all of that. It just takes a really long time. And so it will get better, especially if they can implement some of these strategies. But unfortunately, they are going to have to be a little patient. So let’s review what it is that we talked about. Tailbone pain is tricky. It’s tricky to treat. It’s understudied and it’s underreported. But it is involved in so many life functions, including weight bearing support, especially pain sitting, bowel sexual function, labor and delivery. Due to the attachment sites to the tailbone, it should be part of your hypothesis list for folks coming in with back and hip pain. Actually touch the butt, but really touch the tailbone. Make sure that it is the tailbone that is possibly a structure that is involved. If you feel that the tailbone is involved, give it some manual therapy with some mobilizations, soft tissue love, and then supplement that with whatever kind of modalities you prefer. Cupping, dry needling, some supportive stretches like happy baby, quadruped rocking, getting some gentle loading in, and then offering some cushions for solutions for positioning. And finally, refer to a pelvic floor PT in your area or get yourself to one of our live courses because we dive deep into pelvic pain assessment and dialing in those skills so that you feel confident when you have someone like this in front of you. So happy Monday, everyone. Happy Fourth of July. And I will see you all in two weeks to discuss the soft tissue structures that may contribute
24:37 SPEAKER_02 to some pains in the butt. Hey, thanks for tuning in to the PT on Ice Daily Show. If you enjoyed this content, head on over to iTunes and leave us a review and be sure to check us out on Facebook and Instagram at the Institute of Clinical Excellence. If you’re interested in getting plugged into more ice content on a weekly basis while earning CUs from home, check out our virtual ice online mentorship program at PT on ice.com. While you’re there, sign up for our hump day hustling newsletter for a free email every Wednesday morning with our top five research articles and social media posts that we think are worth reading. Head over to PT on Ice dot com and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.