Among the many body pains that you may experience during pregnancy, tailbone or lower back pain is the most common one. As your fetus grows, the pressure increases in the lower extremities, leading to these aches. However, you can treat this pain with gentle stretching exercises, says Alicia M Silva in her publication, ‘Preventing and Managing Back Pain During Pregnancy’. MomJunction presents information on easing out the tailbone pain and getting rid of the condition.
What Is Tailbone Pain?
The tailbone or coccyx (1) is a small triangular bony structure situated in the lower spine region in between the upper buttocks. It stabilizes your sitting posture and most muscles, tendons, and ligaments pass through the tailbone. The tailbone pain or coccyx pain, also known as coccydynia, is a sharp or dull pain at the end of the spine. If the pain is severe, it is called ‘bruised tailbone.
[ Read: Hip Pain During Pregnancy ]
Why Does Your Tailbone Hurt During Pregnancy?
1. Pregnancy Hormones:
In the first trimester, your body releases relaxin and estrogen hormones, which relax the ligaments of the pelvic region (2). The muscles shift around the abdominal region creating a place for the baby. In this process, the tailbone also moves, leading to the pain.
2. Growing Baby:
During the second and third trimester, the developing baby requires more space. It pushes against the tailbone, which lies just behind the uterus. This pressure causes pain and worsens with the progressing pregnancy, according to the book ‘Your Best Pregnancy’ by Jill Hoefs, MP and, Denise Jagroo, DPT, MTC, WCS.
[ Read: Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy ]
3. Other Causes:
In the later stages of pregnancy when you cough or sneeze, it will put pressure on the tailbone, causing pain.
Walking, cycling, running, sitting or standing for long hours may all cause tailbone pain, especially during pregnancy.
Risk Factors For Tailbone Pain During Pregnancy:
If you suffer from tailbone pain before conception, it is sure to aggravate during pregnancy. The pre-existing conditions that intensify the pain include:
- Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD): It is a condition in which the ligaments that align pelvic bone during pregnancy become relaxed or stretchy. This causes pain in the pubic bone and aggravates tailbone pain that radiates down the legs, but not beyond the knees (3).
- Lower back injury
- Cancer in the pelvic region
- Herniated disc in the lower back: In this case, tailbone pain occurs in the sacral region, or in the right or left buttock. It will radiate down to the leg and cause a prickling sensation in the feet.
[ Read: Back Pain During Pregnancy ]
You should check with your physician if the pain is severe or lasts for several days. He will examine if there is any unwanted growth in the tailbone region. Radiology tests like CT scans and X-rays are avoided while you are pregnant since the radiations are harmful to your baby (embryo or fetus).
Prenatal Yoga Stretches To Ease Tailbone Pain:
Gentle exercises and stretches will help treat the pain, but it is advisable to consult your physician before taking up any exercise during pregnancy. A physiotherapist may help you perform the exercises to support your tailbone.
1. Torso Twist:
- Sit on the floor with crossed legs.
- Now hold your left foot using your right hand.
- Place your left palm behind you on the ground and twist your upper body to your right gradually.
- Remain for a few seconds, return to the starting position, and then repeat on the other side.
- Repeat ten times.
[ Read: Yoga Asanas To Try During Pregnancy ]
2. Cat-Cow Pose:
This pose strengthens your pelvis and lower back. It takes the pressure off from the tailbone and increases your spine mobility. This form of pelvic tilt exercise works on your arms, back, and abdominal muscles.
- Bend on your hands and knees by keeping your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- As you inhale, raise your head gently, drop your belly, lift your chin and chest, and draw your shoulder away from your ears. This is a cow pose.
- As you exhale, release your head gently, press into your hands, round your back, and bring your chin towards your chest. This is a cat pose.
- Inhale while you come into cow pose and exhale while you come into cat pose.
- Repeat these inhales and exhales for ten times.
3. Standing Cat-Cow Pose:
It is just like the above stretch, but is performed standing. It offers mobility to the spine and relieves you from tailbone pain. It works on all the muscles as above, and also leg muscles and glutes.
- Stand with your legs hip-width apart with bent knees, and hands placed on thighs.
- As you inhale, arch your back, drop your belly, and raise your head upwards.
- As you exhale, round your back, tuck your pelvis by releasing your head gently.
- Alternate the positions while repeating them for about ten times.
[ Read: Ashtanga Yoga During Pregnancy ]
This gentle stretch strengthens your hip flexor muscles. It works on your abdominal muscles, lower back muscles, and glutes. It also relieves you of lower back and hip pains.
- Lie on your back with feet flat and knees bent. Keep your hands beneath your back with palms facing downward.
- Move your feet so that they are a hip width apart from each other. Lift up your pelvis by pressing your lower back against the floor. Hold the pose for a minute and breathe in.
- Now release the pose by exhaling. Roll your spine back to the ground slowly.
- Repeat ten times.
5. Downward-Facing Dog Pose:
This stretching pose strengthens your lower back and back of your legs, and lengthens your spine. It works on foot muscles, quads, triceps, and lats.
- Begin on all your fours with knees under your hips and wrists below your shoulders.
- With the support of arms and legs, as you inhale, gently lift your hip as you stretch the back of your legs and extend your arms.
- Exhale by relaxing your heels and head. If you feel tight in the calf region, you can pedal your feet (like press one heel down followed by the other).
- Once you are done with the pose, slowly move your knees downwards and rest for some time in child’s pose.
Caution: It is an inversion pose, and you should avoid doing it in your third trimester i.e., after 33 weeks of pregnancy. Do not practice this pose without talking to your physician.
6. Child’s Pose:
It is another stretching exercise for your back and hip. It effectively eases the lower back, pelvic and tailbone pain.
- Kneel on both your knees with a slight distance in between them. Then sit on your heels and bend forward by lowering your forehead to the floor. You can widen your toes if you feel that touching toes put any pressure on the knees or not providing enough space for the stomach. You can also offer support to your abdomen by placing a pillow between your knees.
- Keep your arms along the body with palms facing upward.
- Gently bring your chest towards the thighs and hold for at least 5 deep breaths.
- Now, while exhaling, slowly release your butt on your heels uncurling the spine
Some other exercises that would be of help are:
Swimming on the back with minimal thigh movements relieves the back strain. It is a good exercise to fight the tailbone pain during pregnancy.
Walking takes off the pressure from the tailbone and also prevents weight gain. Regular walking for at least 30 minutes will relieve strained muscles of the pelvic region as well.
Effective Tips To Relieve Tailbone Pain During Pregnancy:
1. Good Posture:
Poor posture is one of the contributing factors for coccyx pain. Sit upright with your core engaged, feet flat on the ground, neck straight, and back slightly curved. If you feel any discomfort, try changing the position by crossing one ankle over the knee or leaning forward at the waist. It helps in clearing the pelvic discomfort and therefore alleviating the pain (4).
2. Sleeping Position:
Sleeping on the sides will be more comfortable than sleeping on the back if you are suffering from tailbone pain. The best position is to sleep towards the left side. It will not only relieve the pain but also improve circulation to the placenta. You may also use a cushion or a pillow in between your knees.
3. Right Clothing:
Tight clothing, especially tight pants, will aggravate the pain worse. Instead, try loose-fitting clothes that do not put any pressure around the tailbone.
[ Read: Right Clothes To Wear During Pregnancy ]
4. Cushions For Sitting:
Do not sit on hard surfaces. Use a U-pillow or a donut pillow for sitting (5). You can also sit on an exercise ball to avoid pressure on the coccyx. Ergonomic chairs are a good option if you sit for long hours at work.
5. Maternity Belt During Later Stages:
A maternity belt will support your belly. It will relieve fatigue by reducing pressure on the lower back exerted by work that you engage in. You can start wearing it from the end of the second trimester and continue all through the third trimester.
6. Keep Changing Positions:
Do not stand or sit for long hours. You can change positions and indulge in short walks. Also, do not bend down to pick any objects from the floor.
7. Heat Pads:
You may sit on a heating pad or apply a warm compress to the tailbone region to lower the pain. Using the hot compress for about 20 minutes for four times a day will help.
8. Comfortable Shoes:
Wear flat and comfortable shoes or flats instead of high heels. You can also prefer wearing shoes with cushy soles.
9. Empty Bowels Regularly:
Irregular bowel movements can aggravate the pain as a full rectum builds pressure on the coccyx. Consuming fiber-rich food, brisk walking, and gentle stretches can promote smooth bowel movements.
10. Avoid Jerky Movements:
Switch your positions from standing to sitting or vice versa in a gentle manner. Sit and stand slowly, and do not rush. Avoid sudden movements that could jerk your lower back
11. Tailbone Massage:
You can go to a physiotherapist or a pregnancy chiropractor to get a massage for your tailbone area. It helps to a great extent.
Possible Medications For Tailbone Pain:
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) could be an effective pain reliever (6) but do check with your doctor before you take it.
If severe pain persists, your doctor might inject a local anesthetic, a steroid, a combination of an anesthetic and steroid, or a nerve block in this area. An oral antidepressant can ease the pain. But seek your doctor’s advice for the treatment options.
Consider C-section In Case Of Coccygea:
A C-section might remove the fear of intense pain on the tailbone, say Stephanie A. Prendergast and Elizabeth H. Rummer in their book, Pelvic Pain Explained. You should talk to your gynecologist or obstetrician about it.
Can Tailbone Pain Be Cured?
Tailbone pain is very disturbing, and there is no cure for it. It wades away by itself in a few weeks to months after delivery. If the pain lasts long or is severe, see your doctor for any unusual symptoms.
While most medications, pain-relieving exercises, and techniques help you get over it, with recurring pain your doctor might advise you to undergo coccyx surgical removal (coccygectomy) (7).
He may also suggest coccygeal manipulation (8), a technique where a gloved finger is inserted into the rectum to move the tailbone back into its position.
Have you also suffered from tailbone pain during pregnancy? Share your experiences with us.
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