Polly - email@example.com
In September 2000 I slipped on an icy plank in the Tasmanian wilderness, my camera in one hand and a tripod in another. To save my camera I didn't put my hands down to save the fall, and me, plus a 30 kg backpack ended up putting an enormous weight on the side of my butt, on the freezing ice. I was close by to the hut where I was to stay the night, but it was at least 30 km walk over rough terrain and through rainforest to get back to any form of civilization. I made it to the hut, and knew that the pain I was experiencing meant I had done some major damage to my tailbone. The next day I climbed a nearby mountain, determined not to let the pain get in my way of taking the photos I had hiked so far to get. Somehow the analgesic mechanism in my body enabled me to hike back to my car, 30 km away over the next two days. The drive to the nearest hospital, 2 hours from there, was excruciating. I waited about 3 hours in an emergency room waiting to be seen by a doctor. When I finally told her what had happened, she said there was nothing they could do. Even if an x-ray showed up that I had broken my coccyx, "there's nothing they could do about it anyway". She didn't even examine the site of the injury. Unfortunately this misinformation stayed with me for the next two years.
Trying to find treatment
I did see two chiropractors for a few months afterwards who tried to put the tailbone 'back into place' - one of them did this by inserting his finger in my rectum and manually moving the two bottom bones. I had slight pain relief for about 4 days and then the pain just came back twice as bad. I couldn't sit at work and had to kneel at my desk and when I sat it would be on the very side of my buttocks, so my tailbone wasn't touching the seat at all. Getting out of my car was the most excruciating pain, and it took me sometimes a minute to move slowly out the door. One person who I worked with was encouraging me to see a specialist. But the words of the Tasmanian doctor stuck with me - there wasn't much that could be done.
Two years later I found this website. I had been in pain all day, everyday since the accident. X-rays I eventually had after the accident didn't turn up anything conclusive. There was slight movement of the end bone to one side. Realising I didn't want to live the rest of my life with the pain I was in, and the incapacitation it caused me, as well as realizing I'd never be able to give birth, made me look harder for other options. I read this website from top to bottom. I decided to get seated and standing x-rays as suggested in some of the articles to see if there was movement that was causing the pain. I went to get the x-ray and the woman had no idea what I was talking about when I asked to have a seated x-ray as well as a standing one. I had to explain to her the situation, but the seated x-ray was on top of a pile of phone directories, which prevented my tailbone from touching anything. Eventually I asked my G.P. about surgery. She referred me to a specialist who had a done a couple coccygectomies.
The specialist saw my x-rays and then examined my coccyx. His first touch of the bone that was protruding from the region prompted him to suggest removal asap. I was so scared that he would just send me home saying it wasn't that bad. It was a relief to hear that I had snapped the bottom bone of the coccyx backwards, upwards and to the side. This now meant I had physical evidence of the last two years of intense pain.
Reading some of the surgery stories here, I became quite anxious about the operation. In essence the surgery can be seen as an amputation. Luckily I had a partner who was very supportive and encouraging. A few spiritual healers I went to suggested not having the surgery. Saying that the break happened for a reason, and I had to work through (psychologically) what had caused me to have the accident in the first place. Even if I got the surgery, my problems would still continue unless I faced them. This threw me into some doubt. There was truth in what was said, however, the physical pain was too much and I knew that it wouldn't heal itself - or through manipulation which I had tried.
Healing through nature (pre and post-operative natural healing)
In order to minimize the pain and enhance the healing after the surgery I went through the following preparation processes. They involve natural healing methods which I encourage and swear by in making things a lot more comfortable and bearable:
Before the surgery
A few days before the surgery I went through a lot of emotional turmoil. I was preparing myself for a 'death' - not necessarily a physical death, but more a transformation that was to happen as a result of the surgery and the removal of bones from the base of my spine. Although the operation is relatively simple, metaphysically I felt it was important to face the consequences of having this 'amputation'. When it came time to have the surgery, I was at peace with it and left it up to the doctors. I felt all the worries, anxieties and doubts flow away and surrounded myself with a golden light that would protect me through the surgery. I felt blissful and appreciative of the life I had.
After the surgery
Immediately after the surgery I was asked if I needed any painkillers. Still being under the influence of the anaesthetic I said yes and received a shot of pethadine. I had made the decision not to take any painkillers at all after the surgery. After reading about the adverse effects of codeine etc (as well as having a bad reaction to such drugs in the past), the most important of which was constipation, I realised I had to find other ways to minimize the pain in order for my body to adequately heal.
My will power to refuse painkillers overrode the pain I felt. I started taking a high dose of Arnica a couple of hours after the operation on a regular basis. The anaesthetic started wearing off and the worst part for me was the effects of this. It took me more than 24 hours to put any food into my body and I found it almost impossible to urinate or even stand up without feeling like I was going to throw up or faint. I spent a night in hospital and went home the next afternoon, lying in the back of the car.
The first week after surgery was the hardest. Keeping the site of the surgery clean was one of the most important things in my mind. Avoiding infection, as well as avoiding constipation. When I showered I didn't wet the site at all, until the dressing and stitches were finally removed. Even then I minimized how often I wet the scar. When it came for the stitches to be removed, the surgeon was amazed at how quickly and neatly I had healed. Again, I put this down to the zinc, vitamin E, arnica and Chinese herbs. In addition to a wholefoods diet which kept my bowels functioning regularly- I would go to the toilet about 3 times a day (lots of brown rice and lentils and Chinese herbs will do that). This also helped reduce the pain in the area.
I lay in bed for about a month, with the pressure on my hips causing quite a bit of pain - a sheep skin underlay helped a bit with this. Walking became easier after this point, but it would be a while before I could walk up and down stairs. I was totally prepared for this healing stage - not to push my body or become frustrated with my incapacitation. I took 3 months off work, read a lot of books and went through an amazing process of realizing how my negative thinking patterns would cause my pain to become worse. Psychologically, through meditation and awareness, this had to be one of the most enlightening and growing periods I have been through.
Where I'm at now (1.5 years after the surgery)
I continued to have pain in the area for about 6 months - but it was a different pain to when my broken coccyx was in my body. One thing which I didn't anticipate was the muscle wastage in my buttocks and legs resulting from lying in bed for such a long period. Had I known the effects of this I would have done more physical rehabilitation sooner. Instead, after a wonderful healing process, where I thought I could finally begin to run again and walk without pain, my right knee was badly sprained, by stepping on my leg the wrong way. This gradually affected my left knee. My right toe and my right knuckle also became sprained soon after. I felt like my body was falling apart.
What I didn't know at the time was that I had a hereditary condition - joint hypermobility - caused by a deficient production of collagen in my body. I had always been flexible as a child, being a competitive gymnast and entertaining people with my double jointedness.
Unfortunately this condition along with lack of physical strength after the surgery led to my body going into a depleted state - extreme fatigue and joint pain. Although no research has been done, I am hypothesizing that the removal of connective tissue and ligaments around my tailbone during the surgery, led to a depletion of collagen in my body, as it tried to 'knit' back together the area. This meant that less was available for the rest of my body. Also, in females, collagen starts breaking down after 25. I am now 31, so this factor has also contributed to my subsequent injuries.
For 9 months after my first knee sprain, my knees and other sprained joints have not healed. I can not squat nor run. The good news is that I can sit without any pain at all on my tailbone region. If I sit on a rough surface and something is pressing up against the area, I sometimes feel slight discomfort. But I'd say it is 95% better!
I am so glad that I had the surgery. It has definitely changed my life. And what the spiritual healers said was true as well - my problems are still manifesting themselves in my body, however, they are nothing compared to the chronic sharp pain I suffered for two years. It has now been a year and a half since the surgery. Through doing pilates and swimming, my body is now getting stronger. It will be long process for my body to fully recover, however I believe this is due to my genetic condition, and the fact that I didn't strengthen my body soon enough after the surgery.
I encourage all who are having a coccygectomy to take pre and post-operative measures as I did. See a Chinese herbalist, homeopath and naturopath beforehand. Prepare yourself that you will be healing for a least three months post-surgery and think of things you can do that will entertain and keep you peaceful during this time. It is important to find a surgeon that has done the procedure before, that you can voice your concerns to and that has a good reputation. Most importantly, be positive - the rest will come naturally. My respect goes out to all of you living with coccyx pain. Never give up. There are many avenues of healing.
Photos of my Tasmanian tailbone breaking trip can be seen at www.earthphotography.net
- it was almost worth it