Surgery 22 years after the injury

Paige -

Posted 2007-03-11

My name is Paige and I fell down a flight of stairs when I was fourteen and broke my tailbone. Of course it really hurt at the time, but I don't even remember telling my Dad - I just went on with life. In my twenties I would notice pain if I sat for long movies or plane trips, etc. I had an x-ray taken at age 26 which showed that my coccyx had been broken and grew back in a funny shape. The doctor at the time told me there were not many options - basically live with the pain.

Fast forward about 10 years and now I am a sales representative and I drive long distances in my car. The pain continued to get worse because of all of the sitting I do for my job. It got to the point where it felt like someone had a torch holding it back there and I was on fire!! I was constantly trying to shift in my seat, even trying to sit on my left leg to get my weight off of the coccyx area. I went to a spine doctor who had me get a series of shots - they offered only minimal relief. He told me about the surgical option, but he had only done two in his career and said the infection rate is high. That is when I started my own research and found Jon's awesome website. This gave me the courage and information I needed to make the decision to do something about the pain.

I had to go to Richmond, Virginia which is about 2 hours from where I live to see Dr. John Cardea at Virginia Commonwealth University (see Doctors and specialists in the USA). He has done over 130 coccyx surgeries. As soon as I met him I felt better about my situation. He was very thorough in his explanation and patient while answering my many questions. His secretary June is wonderful as she takes all of his phone calls and does the disability paperwork in a timely manner- this is so important. The whole office staff made me feel comfortable.

February 28, 2007- I had my surgery at 7:30 AM. Dr. Cardea removed my tailbone as well as S5. He said he could understand why I was in so much pain because the bones in that area should be fused, mine were mobile and had no cartilage left - they were full of arthritis. I had an epidural to control the pain which was very helpful, but since I have a history of blood clots he had it removed at 4:00 PM so I could get up and move around. Then they gave me IV morphine which I had to ask for because I knew from previous experience that percocet would not be strong enough for me. The hardest thing was getting up to go to the bathroom as they did not have one of the raised toilet seats and it did hurt to sit down low on the toilet. I was able to leave the next morning by 10:00AM.

March 7, 2007- One week post op. Today was the first day I was able to remove the dressing on the surgery area. For the past week I had to take "sponge baths" as I was not able to get that area wet. I took my first official shower and removed the dressing. My friend Lisa came over to look at the area to make sure there is no swelling. Great news - it looks great!

I am taking codeine during the day for some pain, but I have to say it is not as bad as I thought it would be. The feeling I have most is like a burning sensation and I called Dr. Cardea and he told me it is the marcaine slowly wearing off, because you cannot really elevate the pelvic area it takes longer to wear off in that area. My hips hurt a lot from lying on my sides. The most difficult thing has been to go from a sitting position to a standing position.

I know it is early yet but right now I can say I am glad I had the surgery. At only 36 years old that pain was interfering with too many things in my life- no water slides, no sled riding, can't sit in the dentists' chair, constantly shifting in my seat to get comfortable. While I know that surgery isn't the answer for everyone I was getting too depressed to NOT try and do something about it.

Some helpful tips that I have read on this site that were also helpful to me:

For anyone considering surgery in the Virginia area I have only positive things to say about Dr. Cardea and the nurses and staff at VCU. Everyone there was so good to me and made me feel as comfortable as one can in a hospital situation. If you have specific questions feel free to e-mail me at

Update 2007-03-25

3 Weeks Post-Op Today

I went to Richmond yesterday for my first post-op appointment with Dr. Cardea. He examined my incision and said it looks great. He asked how my pain was and I told him that the original pain is gone; it just feels like a burning or pulling sensation if I try to sit flat. He explained that this is normal - it is the scar tissue healing. Because of the position of my coccyx pre-op he said he had to "cut as though he were coring an apple" and he had to go through muscle to get to all of the sections. Everyone is different but he said it will take anywhere from three months to a year for the scar tissue to completely heal. He said the best thing right now is an anti-inflammatory (I am taking Celebrex) twice a day and heat such as getting in a hot tub (not a regular bath tub as this would require sitting flat). He asked me to call him in three weeks to see how I am doing and to discuss my returning to work. Since I am a sales rep. and drive in my car all day he wants to make sure I can sit without pain. He said I can exercise and that my body will let me know how much I can do.

Today I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill (@ 2 mph) for 30 minutes and then I got in the hot tub for 10 minutes. I am amazed that I had this surgery only three weeks ago!! The hardest thing is driving- I can only go very short distances like to the grocery store and I usually sit on one foot just like before the surgery. Dr. Cardea recommended a memory foam pillow (not a donut pillow) for my car to help with the pain.

After reading some of the other posts here are a few things that I want to highlight for others:

*Go to an experienced surgeon!! I am so glad I decided to make the trip out of town to go to Dr. Cardea who had done over 100 coccyxectomies.

* Never let a doctor tell you nothing can be done for you. Do your own research. It has been my experience that if a doctor does not know how to help you they will sometimes say there is nothing that can be done, or they may tell you something along the lines of just take this medication and live with it, etc. Life is way too short to live with chronic pain. What I am saying is just be PROACTIVE- ask questions and remember that you may have to travel to find someone good. It is worth it!!

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