Pain is caused by muscle tension

Mike -

Posted 2010-05-09

My tailbone pain began with what appeared to be a muscle knot (just below and to the left of my tailbone), that appeared out of the blue about three years ago. The pain was there only when I sat, and on a scale of 1-10 it was about a 6. At the time I was sure there was a structural abnormality with my tailbone. What else could be causing all of this pain? An MRI and an X-ray showed nothing. I tried muscles relaxers (valium) which helped reduce the size of the initial muscle knot, but beyond that did nothing. Three GP's, two chiropractors, and an orthopedic surgeon later, still no help. I was put on a 12 week course of Advil (800mg 3X daily) by my orthopedic surgeon. No help. After about two years of little to no progress, I decided to try some physical therapy. After 3 months of physical (massage) therapy, the pain was reduced by about 30%. Yay! I was getting somewhere! And then it dawned on me. This problem was definitely muscle related........possibly, even 100% caused by muscle tension.

Over the past year I have discovered a few things (other than physical therapy) that helped me. I'd like to say I am 50%-60% better now. Most of this progress was made in the past 12 months.

First and foremost, Kirin's story has helped me a lot. Adding "belly breathing" to my daily routine has definitely decreased the pain. It's become glaringly obvious to me that the more I focus on reducing the tension in my pelvic floor, the better I feel. Once I began to concentrate on releasing this tension (thank you Kirin) my healing began to accelerate. There are a few things that Kirin did not mention in her story, however. I wanted to add these insights, in case they could help someone reading this:

1) Get the Book "Healing Pelvic Pain" by Amy Stein. It's available on Amazon, and it's an easy read. Amy helps you set up a routine of stretching, exercise, massage, and diet to help you soften and lengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor. This has helped me a great deal (keep in mind I had no obvious tailbone injuries, my pain just came on mysteriously). This will be the best $15 you will spend in dealing with your tailbone pain. Go by the book. Don't skip any steps. Each exercise/stretch/massage is in there for a reason.

2) Get rid of the stress in your life. Yes, I know this is easier said than done for some folks. My marriage was causing me a substantial amount of stress right before the knot first appeared. I vowed to fix it, or get out of it (I fixed it). The other source of "stress" on my body was my 6+ hour a day computer gaming habit (World of Warcraft). My gaming habit along with a desk job put me on my butt for 14+ hours a day, seven days a week. When I stopped the gaming, I saw a marked improvement/reduction in my pain. What causes you stress? My advice: Fix it, or eliminate it.

3) Breath - Amy goes over this in her book. Many of us breath too shallowly throughout the day. I can't tell you how much breathing deeply has helped me re-oxygenate the muscles in my pelvic area, in turn, reducing the tension and pain.

4) Drop - This is a technique that Kirin mentioned, and one that Amy goes over in her book. It has helped me probably more than anything else I've listed here. Here's how you do it. Sit on the toilet, and pee. Notice the feeling you get as you drop your pelvic muscles to pee? Now learn to do that while standing (without peeing....LOL). It's not easy, and will take a while to master it such that you can drop your muscles whenever you think about it. Next, learn to "drop" while walking, sitting, etc. Drop your pelvic muscles throughout the day, all day long. Drop while you are reading, driving your car, doing the dishes, stretching, playing with your dog. I drop hundreds of times a day now, and like I said, it has helped me immensely. Why does "dropping" work? My theory is that it takes the muscle tension off your tailbone, allowing your muscles to relax, which in turn allows more blood and oxygen to flow to them. Combine deep breathing with dropping, and see if you don't feel immediate relief.

5) Exercise - Find some light cardio that you enjoy, and do it daily. Walking and swimming are both great. I either walk, or play tennis. Start with 15 minutes a day and work up to 45 minutes or so a day.

6) Stretch - Amy has some good stretching routines in her book that target the muscles in the pelvic floor. The secret here is not to over-do it. Stretch LIGHTLY. I stretch for about 20 minutes three times a day. Yes, it will take a small chunk of time out of your day......but you do want to get better, don't you?

7) Diet - Again, Amy does a good job here going over diet basics. Be smart. Knock out stimulants like caffeine, and excessive amounts of sugar. Drink LOTs of water. Eat a good amount of raw veggies and fruits. All the stuff your mother told you growing up, turns out to be true. ;)

8) Massage - Along with Kirin's suggestion of finding a good Rolfer, you can alternatively look for a good physical therapist. I had a good therapist (that specialized in massage technique) work on me about a year ago. The result were amazing. Within a month she reduced my pain by 25%-30% by working on my Glutes and Hamstrings. Unfortunately the pain reduction plateaued, and after three months of PT three times a week I gave up (I was running out of sick time for the appointments). Amy also goes through some self massage techniques in her book, should you not have the discretionary income to spend on Physical Therapy, or Rolfing. By the way, most health insurance WILL cover physical therapy, so the only thing you have to worry about is the pre-pay/deductible. Amy goes through something she calls "internal massage" techniques as well. In a nutshell it consists of massaging/stretching the muscles in your rectum. I wasn't doing the internal massage because it kind of freaked me out. But once I started, I noticed it was a lot easier to "Drop" throughout the day.....I'm assuming this meant my muscles were getting more relaxed by doing the internal massage. It's now a part of my daily routine.

9) Relax - Read Kirin's article on belly breathing. You can also read this nice review on the technique on Paniccure. It is critical that you concentrate only on breathing, and not let your mind wander during the session (I still have difficulty with this).

And finally.....

10) Reduce the amount you sit. When you do have to sit, get up regularly, do your breathing exercises (see below) and walk around a bit if you can.

If you developed mysterious tailbone pain there's a good chance the pain is caused by muscle tension (your muscles are pulling your tailbone out of alignment). Give the steps I mention above a try. It seems like I made the best progress when I was doing all of the stuff listed above simultaneously (I tried one at a time, and it just didn't work). Yes, it takes a lot of time to do all of this stuff throughout your day, but for me it has been worth it. I can't emphasize how important it is to educate yourself on the process. Purchase Amy's book. It's money well spent. As I stated, I'm now 50%-60% better. I can now sit through a 90 minute church service with little to no pain. I can drive now comfortably for 60-90 minutes. I still have some difficulty at work because I have a desk job, but doing a quick 10 minute belly breathing routine on the floor of my office (during breaks) seems to help immensely.

Don't expect immediate results. I have been on Amy's routine for 6 months, and I expect it to be another 6 months before I'm out of the woods. Don't get discouraged. Don't give up!

After three years of pain, I expect to be at 100% by this fall. Once I added the belly breathing, dropping, and internal massage to my routine (about two months ago), I really started to see results! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

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