Manual treatment, shoe lift and acupuncture


Posted 2009-02-22

My background: 28, male, athletic. My story: The first time I felt the pain was a couple years ago. It happened gradually and it seemed like the harder I exercised, the more pain I felt. Eventually I couldn't do much without an intense pain concentrated on very tip of the coccyx.

My GP prescribed some anti-inflammatories/painkillers and told to rest for a few days. It worked. I went back to my active life soon after that. For the next year, I carried on, virtually pain-free. There were a couple movements that caused a twinge -- namely lunges, or if I were playing basketball, running full speed and going for a big one-legged jump. But mostly the pain was manageable.

Somehow, probably due to another intense exercise session, the intense pain returned.

I went back to my GP who prescribed the same pills. It worked again. Until I went for a run. It was back.

I wasn't convinced my GP knew what to do so I went to a chiropractor. He seemed to have dealt with this problem before, and he meant well, but I just don't think he was the sharpest knife in the drawer. I didn't feel any improvement after a month, so I called up a physiotherapist.

I have had a bunch of injuries in my time (mostly knee and ankle, due to the crazy amounts of basketball and volleyball I used to play). Physio always seemed to help, so I tried that. It sort of worked. But I was moving (from Toronto to London, England) and had to stop. Before I left, I got another prescription for painkiller/anti-inflamms. I took those for about a month with virtually no improvement.

I spent the next few months living with big limits. At work, I was sitting on a cushion. At the end of every single day, the area around the coccyx would feel like a tight, tender ball of uncomfortable pain. I'd spend most of my weekends resting so that I could start work on Monday without too much pain. I tried to keep active by swimming, but even that would hurt a little when I kicked too vigorously. I used to run 3 times/week, I'd take the stairs 2 at a time. Now I couldn't even run to catch the bus, the pain would stay with me for days afterward if I did!

So when I went back to Canada for the holidays, I saw my GP again. I got stronger pills. They worked for a couple days. But I was frustrated with all these supposedly intelligent people ignoring finding the cause of the problem. Surely that's the only way to cure it.

Back in London, I decided to take swift action. I needed my active life back. I found Dr. Durtnall of the Sayer Clinic on this site (see Doctors and specialists in the UK, London) and have been getting his help for about a month and a half now.

Part of my problem is related to being 6"5, so there were some posture issues. He's doing some chiropractic work on that and I'm constantly aware of the way I stand/sit now. But the big finding, for me, was only found through taking STANDING x-rays.

They revealed that my right leg was a bit longer than my left. This was magnified at the top of the pelvis, where the right side was almost 2 cm higher. To compensate, the pelvis was raised, turned and pushed forward. The rest of the spine was trying to make up for this with a side curve. All of this was putting the coccyx through trauma, pinching nerves, etc. We also found a bit of calcification in the top joint of the coccyx.

To correct this, I've now got a shoe insert for my left side which fixes the discrepancy of leg lengths. There's also a bit of manipulation and massage that we've been doing. In addition, we've done a bit of acupuncture -- which I was skeptical about initially. Dr. Durtnall explained it by saying that I had been taking painkillers for a bit so my brain has learned to ignore the pain from that area instead of healing it. Sticking needles near that area, causing it a different kind of pain, will tell the brain that there's something to fix in that area.

Like I said, it's been about 6 or 7 weeks now. Here's the progress:

Week 1 and 2: I started wearing the shoe insert and after just two sessions with the good Doc, I felt about 90% better. So I thought I'd go for a slow and cautious jog, then a quick swim. I did, and the next day, I felt even better than the day before!

So the next day, feeling confident, I went on the elliptical machine and did some weights. Big mistake. I knew from previous experience that elliptical machines and bicycles were the worst for my pain. I should have remembered that.

That mistake cost me dearly. I was back to the same pain I'd been dealing with for months.

Weeks 3-7: I've been going in twice/week and making slow but steady progress. I'd say right now I'm about 65-75%. I'm wary to start exercising heavily again, but I'm finding that yoga, strengthening my lower abs and concentrating on posture during exercise is a huge help.

I now don't have to spend my weekends resting, which is great and does a world of difference for my general outlook. I also have less pain in my knees, which I'm sure were also under stress due to the length discrepancy. I've dealt with that pain for 12 years now, so it's a great surprise to have improvement there.

I will update in a few more weeks.

What is coccydynia? | Investigation and diagnosis | Treatment | Coping with coccyx pain | Find a doctor or specialist

Medical papers | Personal experiences | Links to other sites | Support groups | Site map