My recent surgery

Nancy -

Original posting, 2004-11-28:

I had a coccygectomy two weeks ago on November 10, 2004. The surgery was a great success!

I first felt tailbone pain after a 5-hour airplane ride in October 2001. I thought it would go away after a few days, but it only got worse. I went to my doctor and was prescribed ibuprofen. When that didn't work he referred me to an orthopedic specialist. He took x-rays and saw nothing wrong. He prescribed prednisone pills. That didn't work. So in January 2002 I had my first cortisone injection. That got rid of the pain for about 6-8 months. I then had a second cortisone injection. That worked until April 2003. I then went to another specialist and had an MRI of my tailbone which showed nothing wrong. I also had my third cortisone injection. I then had physical therapy and chiropractic treatments. I tried everything except acupuncture. None of it helped. I had my fourth cortisone injection in August 2003. Each injection lasted a shorter time than the previous one. In June 2004 I had my fifth and last cortisone injection and it did nothing at all.

By then I could not sit on soft chairs or sofas as that put pressure on my tailbone and caused pain. Do-nut cushions caused me pain. It felt best to sit on hard surfaces. At home and in my car I sat on slightly padded boards. The board kept my tailbone from sinking into the seat. Getting up from a seated position was excruciating, causing a sharp burning pain. At times it felt like my tailbone was moving around. It also began to hurt when I would lie down on my back. In general, my tailbone began to hurt doing things that hadn't hurt before. I knew then it was time for surgery.

I was referred to a top spine surgeon. He had me get a CT scan of my tailbone. Again, it didn't show any problems. But when he poked my tailbone with his finger I screamed and nearly went through the ceiling! He agreed to do my surgery. He had done about ten coccygectomies previously.

My surgery went smoothly and the doctors discovered that my tailbone was loose and floating around. They removed my entire tailbone. I spent one night in the hospital and was home the next day. They gave me dilaudid in the hospital for pain. The intravenous dilaudid was great and I had no adverse side-effects, but when I got to my hospital room they gave me an injection of dilaudid and it made me nauseous and gave me a horrible headache. At home I took Norco twice for pain, but it also caused bad headaches. So I quit taking any painkillers the third day. The incision pain is no worse than my tailbone pain was, except for being more constant. Each day it is better and at times I even forget about it.

The doctors used steri-strips on the outside of the incision and dissolvable stitches inside. I returned to the surgeon after twelve days to check my incision. It is healing perfectly and I have had no problems. I think I have done so well following the surgery because of the great advice I received from three wonderful ladies I met through this website. I had read their stories and contacted them asking for any suggestions they could offer. They were very generous with their advice and gave me encouragement. The following is a list of their advice and also some information I obtained from other people who had posted their stories on this website:

  1. Take laxatives and stool softeners every day after surgery. I did and have had no problems.
  2. Sleep on the sofa so your movement is restricted and you won't accidentally cause the incision to open by turning over in bed.
  3. For women, take a robe and either a dress or night shirt to wear home from the hospital as pants will be very uncomfortable and difficult to put on. I bought some long-sleeved cotton night shirts and a light-weight robe. That is all I have worn since my surgery, until I went back to see my doctor.
  4. Inspect the incision daily to make sure there are no problems. It is easiest to have your spouse look at it since it is very difficult to see yourself.
  5. Walk as much as possible as soon as possible. I began walking the day after surgery and it felt great. I also went up the stairs and now can go up and down stairs normally, although not yet two at a time.
  6. Get a grabber device that helps you pick up things you drop. I could not pick up anything less than 10 inches off the floor.

I cannot yet sit upright, but after less than two weeks I can almost sit normally. I rest on one hip, which keeps the pressure off the incision. The only discomfort has come from lying on my side as I cannot lie on my back yet. It makes my hips sore. The least pain is when I lie on my stomach, but that gets uncomfortable rather quickly. I stand a lot and walk frequently as there is no pain at all while standing. I can do anything as long as I am standing, such as cooking, washing dishes, and doing laundry. I cannot bend over or stoop.

I believe that my surgery has cured my pain because when I get up from a seated position, I don't have the pain I had before. I am so glad I had the surgery and I am looking forward to a pain-free future!

Note - Nancy's surgeon did not want to have his name posted up.

Update, 2004-12-12:

It has now been four weeks since my coccygectomy on November 10, 2004, and I am doing great, even better than I hoped! I returned to my doctor for a follow-up 12 days after my surgery. He said everything is great and to come back in two months.

I returned to work on Monday, two days ago. Since I have a desk job I was worried about sitting. I can sit for almost half an hour at a time, but I get a little sore. So I get up and walked around a lot. I decided to leave work a couple of hours early every day this week so as not to over-do it. That was a good decision.

I began driving last week and now I can drive the 6-1/2 miles to work. I was able to ride in a car after 12 days when my husband drove me to my doctor's appointment.

When I am standing or walking I am pain-free. Walking is great. The best advice I can give everyone is to walk beginning the day after your surgery. It will be baby steps at first, but by the third week I was walking normally. I then began walking in my neighborhood, 1-1/2 miles at a time, sometimes twice a day. I didn't like lying down because it hurt my hips and I couldn't lie on my back. So walking was wonderful. I stood a lot the first week. I stood at the kitchen counter to read and to eat. I was able to sit, leaning to one side on one hip, after 5 or 6 days.

I slept on the sofa for 10 nights, then returned to my bed. I put a pillow against by backside which prevented me from turning over in bed and prevented accidental bumps to the incision area by my husband, which happened after I removed the pillow one night last weekend. I put the pillow back and will continue to use it for awhile longer. The only thing I still have some problem with is bending over. I can pick things up off the floor now if I stoop (bending my knees), but not bending over at the waist.

I was able to cook and do anything from waist level and up, like washing the dishes, from the second day after surgery. I did not take any pain-killers after the second day home since they made me groggy and gave me a horrible headache. The pain wasn't too bad and I enjoyed feeling clear-headed. Instead, I put an ice bag against the incision area 2 or 3 times a day, which they had done in the hospital. At night I'd lie with my back to the sofa back, using the sofa to hold the ice bag against my backside. I quit using the ice bag after about 10 days, maybe less. I began driving at 3-1/2 weeks. Short distances are fine. I am driving 6-1/2 miles to work with only a little discomfort. That is because it's hard to change position while driving.

I feel as though the pain will be gone very soon. It is better every day. The best thing is that I know the surgery worked. Before the surgery, it felt like a hot knife stabbing me when I got up from a chair. That pain is gone! The incision pain is slightly higher than my old tailbone pain and is now not as severe as the old tailbone pain.

This experience has been much less stressful than I had originally anticipated since I was able to prepare for it with help from Jon's website and some wonderful women who have shared their stories with me and given me such wonderful advice and heart-felt support. Knowing that there are other people who have gone through this surgery and who were thinking of me helped me more than I can say. Thanks so much to all of you!


Update, 2005-08-21:

It has been nine months since my coccyx was removed and I am 100% pain free! The surgery was wonderful and my recovery was steady. The doctor had found that my coccyx was loose and floating around. I can barely remember the pain now, even though it was on my mind every minute of the day for the months before my surgery. I had no problems with the surgery or recovery.

Prior to the surgery, it was extremely painful to sit while driving or to sit on soft chairs and sofas. Driving over speed bumps was excruciating. I had to brace myself and lift my tailbone off the seat. Now I drive over those same speed bumps every day with absolutely no pain at all. I have even taken long airplane flights (5 hours) with no discomfort. Have thrown away my coccyx seat cushions.

For those of you who have chosen to have surgery in the future, I wish you the best of luck and that your surgery may be as successful as mine. I have offered some suggestions in my earlier postings to make the recovery easier. I hope they help you, too.

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