Awaiting surgery after long delays

Ruth -

Posted 2007-09-30

I have had pain in my coccyx for about 4 years now. It began a few weeks after a car crash where my car ended up skidding off the road in very bad weather and coming to rest in a very large fence! At the time, I was in so much pain elsewhere I didn't notice any discomfort in my coccyx. However, as the other aches and pains healed I noticed that it was hurting me to sit still, and getting out of a chair was becoming a challenge. As I had known someone at school who hurt their coccyx I knew what was hurting straight away. I thought that it was bruised and would heal by itself so didn't go to see a doctor for a few months.

When I eventually saw my GP he told me that I probably had bruised my coccyx, that there wasn't a lot that could be done and I should leave it for a year or two to see if it healed by itself. After a few more months when the pain was getting worse and worse, rather than better I went to see a different GP. They were much more understanding, but again said that there wasn't a lot that could be done until I had left it to see if it would heal by itself for a few years. I now know that I should have insisted that an x-ray be done at that point! However, not wanting to cause too much of a fuss I waited to let my tail-bone work wonders and heal itself. It didn't.

Finally, two years after the accident and many pain-killers later, my GP referred me to a specialist at the main hospital in Wolverhampton. By this time, I was finding it very hard to sit still for more than 30 minutes, found driving extremely uncomfortable and getting out of the car very painful.

I waited a few months to see the orthopaedic consultant (wonderful NHS!), and then waited 6 months for him to perform a manipulation under general anaesthetic and inject steroids into the joints. For the first few weeks after this operation I felt better. Unfortunately, things soon got back to how they were before the procedure and my pain again began to increase. On a 3 month check-up after the procedure my consultant told me that I would just have to live with the pain and he didn't think it was worth doing anything else. As I was only 28 at the time I refused to accept this as my long-term diagnosis and insisted on being transferred to another consultant. Naturally, I don't recommend going to that consultant or that hospital. Not only was he unhelpful and rude after the initial procedure failed, but I had been discharged from hospital after the procedure with no pain medication, no sick note for work (despite being told I would need a few weeks to recover), and no instructions on what I should or shouldn't be doing to help the healing process.

In the meantime, I have moved to a different county and been referred to another consultant (Mr Craig at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital). My pain is worse than ever but I finally have a consultant who explains each procedure option, and its value in my case, and has recommended that I have a coccygectomy. I am awaiting my surgery date, but am told it should be in November this year. I actually can't wait! I know that the recovery process will be long, but I am motivated by getting to the point where I can ride a bike again, and look at a chair without thinking how painful it might be to sit on!

In the past four years I have found lots of information on the internet that has been really invaluable in learning how to manage the pain of a coccyx injury. I have coccyx wedge that has travelled the world with me. I never go anywhere without it (even posh restaurants!) and no longer care what people assume it is for! It doesn't remove all the pain, but it certainly makes sitting down at work, and driving, a bit easier. I have also got a memory foam lumbar desk chair with a coccyx cut-out in the seat. I have only had this a few weeks (a long time coming!) but I love it. For anyone in the UK, this chair cost over 1000 but was paid for by the 'Access to Work' scheme in the Department of Work and Pensions (ask at job centre plus). I am a council manager and made the application for this when I moved jobs, explaining that this was a tool I needed to enable me to work comfortably (I believe that anyone with a long-term injury - over two years - can apply). They also bought me another wedge for when I have to go to meetings without my special chair!

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