Tailbone Pain When Sitting: Understanding the Causes & Symptoms
Is your work or play causing you pain? While sitting may not seem like a strenuous activity, and might even seem like a relief at the end of a long day, it could be causing you more issues than you realize. In fact, tailbone pain when sitting and hip pain while sitting are all too common.
It is no secret that many of us sit far too much. We sit when we are driving, when we are at our job, and oftentimes once we get home to unwind from that hard day of work.
All of that sitting adds up and can become more and more of a burden. Because sitting can actually be hard on your body, especially if you aren’t sitting in proper alignment. And, if you already have tailbone pain when sitting, extra sitting will only exacerbate the issue.
There are several reasons why you may experience pain when you sit or when you stand up from sitting, but a major issue when addressing pain is that we often start by treating the symptoms.
When it comes to tailbone pain, addressing the symptoms will give you some temporary relief, but to get long-lasting comfort when sitting, you need to address the root cause of your pain.
There are so many reasons why you could be experiencing tailbone pain when sitting, from how long you are sitting and the position you are sitting in, to underlying health factors.
An all too common culprit for tailbone pain is your hip muscles - specifically, your hip flexors.
But how do you know if that is the problem? And, if your pain is generalized in your pelvic region, how can you be sure that your tailbone is the issue?
Symptoms of tailbone pain when sitting
It’s important to understand your anatomy to pinpoint the culprit of your pain when sitting, so let’s make sure you know what your tailbone is!
The tailbone is the same thing as your coccyx and is made up of 3-5 fused vertebrae. Several muscles, tendons, and ligaments connect to your tailbone, and the location at the base of your spinal column makes it a common area to experience pain from trauma or other causes.
Tailbone pain is also referred to as coccydynia. It is most easily defined as the pain that occurs in and around the bone at the bottom of your spinal column.
Part of the reason why you may be having tailbone pain when sitting is that when you are in the seated position, your coccyx and ischial tuberosities are taking the brunt of the weight and pressure. The shape of your tailbone can also influence how it feels when you sit as well.
Tailbone pain can extend beyond the pain you feel while you are seated or after sitting. Other symptoms of tailbone pain or coccydynia include:
- Tailbone pain when changing from sitting to standing up
- Severe tailbone pain when sitting for extended periods
- Aches in the tailbone
- Piercing pain in your tailbone
- Pain during bowel movements
- Pain during sex
- Tailbone pain that lasts for a long time may also cause other symptoms like anxiety, depression, back pain, and poor sleep.
The interconnected nature of the human body means that if one thing goes wrong, it can impact several other parts of your body over time. Learning other aches and pains that are connected to one another is another step towards body awareness and pain management.
But what made your tailbone start hurting in the first place? Let’s discuss the most common instigator of tailbone pain while sitting.
Why does my tailbone hurt from sitting?
If you have SI (sacroiliac) joint pain, lower back and hip pain when sitting, or tailbone pain when sitting, there is a high likelihood that your pain originates from tight hip flexor muscles.
Your hip flexors are also known as the iliopsoas muscles. This is the connection of your iliacus and psoas muscles that allow hip flexion actions such as squatting, standing from sitting, stepping up, running, walking, etc.
Your psoas muscle attaches to your spine, and the iliacus muscle attaches to your pelvis. Together they are responsible for the alignment of your lower back and the SI joint.
Because of the constant use and contraction of your iliopsoas muscles throughout the day, including when you are sitting, they can become overused and tight.
This is especially true when you stay stationary or in the same position for long periods, and why you may experience hip pain while driving as well as when you’re at the office.
When the iliopsoas is contracted in the seated position, the muscles are in a shortened position. For a short time this isn’t harmful, but the longer your muscles stay there, the more likely they are to develop knots and tension that lead to pain and potential misalignment of your pelvis.
As the irritation of your hip joint area builds over time, so does the tightness of your muscles. That’s because your muscles tighten naturally as a way to protect the irritated area.
While this is a natural and sometimes necessary defense mechanism, it can also cause more issues in the long run. And, although your tight iliopsoas muscles could be in reaction to another culprit of your pain, they are equally likely to be the culprit of your pain themselves.
As mentioned, when sitting for too long, your muscles are put in a short, contracted position that causes muscle knots. As the muscle tightness builds, it will begin to pull on the connection points and nearby joint structures.
This uncomfortable pull is what can cause your pelvis to become misaligned, leading to a bit of a domino effect within your body.
Other things that can cause tailbone pain when sitting include:
- Falling or trauma to the tailbone
- Repetitive spinal strain from activities like biking or rowing
- Pregnancy and childbirth
For any people that experience tailbone pain when sitting down and getting up, it is possible that a combination of reasons contribute to your pain.
For instance, if you have gone through a pregnancy and birth, you may also have some issues with tight iliopsoas muscles in combination with the pelvic trauma associated with giving birth.
So now that you know some reasons why your tailbone or hips are hurting while sitting, let's take a look at what you can do about it.
4 ways to find relief from tailbone pain when sitting
Finding the cause of your pain is so important because depending on the root of your pain, how you treat it will vary.
If you have a bruised tailbone after sitting versus tailbone pain when sitting down and standing up, there may be different causes at play. It can also change if you’ve experienced a traumatic fall and injured your tailbone versus simply sitting on a hard surface for too long.
Once you’ve narrowed down the potential causes of your tailbone pain, then you can start to address it at the root while also managing symptoms along the way.
Here are my favorite remedies for soothing your tailbone pain while sitting.
1. Stretch and strengthen your lower back and pelvis muscles
While this may not be necessary for everyone that experiences tailbone pain when sitting, adding some stretching and strength training to your routine can help reduce some pain.
Taking breaks during the day to stretch your muscles lightly for a few minutes helps to break up the contraction in your hip muscles and give some new movement to the area.
Your posture can also be influenced by your lower back and abdominal strength. Some imbalances in muscle strength can lead to imbalances in how you sit - which become pain in certain areas of your body.
These exercises are best decided with the guidance of a medical professional like a physical therapist, and should target your lower back, hips, and pelvis.
Working towards muscle strength and muscle balance, along with light stretching, can lead to less severe tailbone pain when sitting - but only when it is done consistently and intentionally.
2. Sit on a donut pillow
How you are sitting can impact the level of pain you experience. With tailbone pain when sitting, oftentimes a medical professional will recommend a wedge or donut pillow to take some pressure off of the tailbone area.
Since lower back and tailbone pain when sitting can often be caused by tight hip flexor muscles, employing home office ergonomics to improve your sitting position can also help take some pressure off of the tailbone.
There are pros and cons to different ergonomic home office accessories, so find the desk and chair that work best for you and your body.
While a pillow may work for you to alleviate pressure and pain for some time, remember not to neglect addressing the root causes of the tailbone pain, not just the symptoms.
3. Decrease your time spent sitting
Since one of the most common causes for lower back pain and tailbone pain when sitting is the length of time you spend sitting, decreasing how much you sit can make a big difference. Investing in a certain home office ergonomics like an adjustable desk that can move from standing to sitting is one way to do this.
You can also try to take more breaks and go on short walks throughout your day.
Walking and standing take the pressure off of your tailbone and changes the length and position of your iliopsoas muscles. Even though this is a simple change in position, it can be a big shift for your body and can drastically reduce the amount of pain you feel in your tailbone.
4. Release tight muscles
If the cause of your tailbone pain when sitting is from tight iliopsoas muscles, then one of the most effective things you can do to eliminate and reduce pain is to release those tight muscles.
The issue with releasing muscle tightness within the iliacus and psoas is accessibility. The iliacus in particular is difficult to reach without the assistance of another person because it is somewhat hidden on the inside of your pelvic bone.
There is a way that you can release and relax your iliacus muscle at home though, and that is by using the Hip Hook daily. The Hip Hook is designed to target the problem at the source by using muscle pressure release to relax your hip flexor muscles.
Whether you have tailbone pain or hip pain when standing up from the sitting position, one thing remains the same between the two: the pain originates in your muscles. Without targeting the muscle tightness and muscle knots head on, it is likely that your tailbone pain will continue.
In under 10 minutes each day, you can use the Hip Hook to relieve your pain at the very source. As you begin to release the psoas and iliacus muscles, over time, you will start to feel the positive effects and experience relief from your tailbone pain when sitting.
Live life free from tailbone pain
Tailbone pain isn’t something you simply have to grit your teeth and bear. In fact, with the simple solutions of stretching and strengthening exercises, a muscle release tool like the Hip Hook, and the proper home office ergonomics, tailbone pain could swiftly become a thing of the past.
Frequently asked questions about tailbone pain when sitting
Is tailbone pain a serious problem?
Unless you’ve recently experienced some type of trauma to your tailbone, your tailbone pain probably isn’t associated with a serious issue. Sometimes, tailbone pain can be a sign of something worse than muscle tightness but those cases tend to be quite rare.
If you suspect that you may have a tailbone injury of some kind, then you can get an x-ray or MRI to determine if you have a fracture or tumor of some kind.
Can a pinched nerve cause tailbone pain?
Nerves can influence sensations all around your body. A pinched nerve in your lower back, tailbone area, or even the sciatic nerve can cause some pain, tingling, or numbness around your tailbone.
Can you have arthritis in your tailbone?
If you have tailbone pain, arthritis in the sacrococcygeal joint is a possibility. This is usually only an issue with older individuals, but should be treated if noticed.