Gordon, USA - email@example.com
In January 2013 I started to experience coccyx pain when sitting. I had never had trauma that I can recall. Over a period of a few months the pain reached a level that I was unable to sit without a special cushion. I had x-rays, physio, dry needling, chiro, acupuncture, and even a $3000 shot of cortisone in the tailbone under fluoroscopy by a doctor who specialized in pain. I then had an MRI followed by another MRI using dye (they thought I had a tumor). I saw a colorectal surgeon who after looking at my MRI did a digital exam and told me I had a cyst that was attached to the tip of my coccyx and that both would have to be removed.
I went to Dr. Ed Hanley in Charlotte NC for a second opinion (see Doctors and specialists in the USA, North Carolina). Dr. Hanley looked at my MRI, did his own X-rays and then consulted with his own radiologist. They concluded that the cyst was a red herring and he gave me a shot of cortisone in the tailbone without using fluoroscopy. He said he'd done enough of these to know the spot without assistance. After the initial shot I had about a 30% improvement. Two weeks later I went back and had a second shot. It took a few days for the full affect but the final result was that I was completely pain free. In the past if I touched the tip of my coccyx with my finger it gave me serious pain, now I can touch it with no pain and sit with no pain. The pain is completely gone and it has been about three months.
This whole experience took about two years from beginning to end. Dr. Hanley is a confident, competent and highly experienced doctor in this field and I can not recommend him more highly. I share my story because of all the help that I found while reading others stories and how they eventually led me to Dr. Hanley.
After about 6 months of being pain free the pain returned. I went for another cortisone shot but the effect lasted only a few weeks. After much fear and trepidation I decided to schedule surgery to have my coccyx removed. I sought many "second opinions" and as I had already tried all the conservative treatments I was told by all of the other medical professionals (they all knew of Dr. Hanley) to go ahead. Getting a second opinion from a surgeon with experience with this procedure was not possible unless I was willing to travel long distance. Though I live in a large city there were no other doctors who did this surgery and none felt competent to give an informed second opinion. I would also like to point out that Dr. Hanley advised me that he will be retiring in 2017 and that to his knowledge there is no one else in the local area that either does this surgery or plans to do it. He did say that there might be one young doctor who takes it on but he is not certain. I asked about the necessity of having experience in this procedure and he stated that this is a fairly simple procedure and experience is not that important. From my previous reading I was told that the two most significant factors in predicting a successful outcome were 1) success (even temporal) with the cortisone shots and 2) finding a good and experienced surgeon. I met both of these criteria. I would also like to share that I was fearful all along about the surgery and put it off as long as possible. Many other testimonies I have read also stated that fear was a common experience going in and I believe the primary reason is that this is such a unique and rare type of surgery although Dr. Hanley assured me that it is not difficult. With any surgery there are always risks involved and you will undoubtedly read about them in your research but as far as risks go I do not believe it is especially risky and should not be an impediment to your decision.
Preparation: I didn't find a whole lot of info on how to prepare but the best advice I found was to get a booster seat for the toilet. Even better, I got an proper medical seat that had arm rests and stood over the toilet. This works well as it allows you to keep all of your weight in your hand/arms and not ever have to sit on your butt. I believe this is very important to aid the recovery. I made sure I had a few spare medical bandages/pads and tape to change the dressing but its not necessary for at least a week. I also made sure to have plenty of laxative type food, prunes, allbran etc. Constipation can be a problem caused by the pain meds and you want to stay on top of that situation especially with this type of surgery. Infection to the wound site can also be a problem here and your doctor should issue you with a prescription for antibiotics for you to begin when you get home with a refill to use as needed if infection occurs after the course is complete. (It did for me).
Surgery: My procedure was done in the afternoon. I checked in at 1pm and was home that evening (I had a bed made up in the back of our van). I understand that some places hold you over for a day after but I did not need that. My procedure went well without any complications.
Post-op: I had read all kinds of horror stories about painful recoveries and complications but as you may have already learned the majority of people have successful outcomes and never bother to write. Most of the submissions come from unsuccessful or unsatisfied customers. I have also come to believe that many people write negative comments before they have waited long enough for healing to take place. For me the pain was almost non-existent. Everyone is different and the experience of pain is a very personal and subjective thing. I have had numerous other surgeries in the past and experienced terrible pain and horrible side effects. I was ready for the worst and I got the best. Why? Not sure but I have learned that fear, anxiety, depression, anger etc. all contribute to how we experience pain. My personal belief as a Christian led me to pray a lot, have a lot of people pray for me and a peace that I believe was given to me by God all led, I believe, to a healthy peaceful spirit within me that made the experience almost painless. I don't like pain meds and dropped down to simple Tylenol quickly with good results. What I experienced was more irritation than anything else. I believe I did have an infection which caused redness, tenderness and irritation. I phoned the doctor and his nurse advised me to fill the second prescription for antibiotics which I did. Sleeping on my side was made easier with pillows tucked behind my back to keep me from rolling backward. I had my family and friends around me at all times so was never lonely or bored, but for a single person this could be a problem (which could lead to depression and then an increased experience of pain) and I would recommend making whatever arrangements you can to alleviate this. I am already starting to forget the different time frames involved but I believe the restriction on sitting was one month which was a very long time to stand or lie down. I was also having hip problems (unrelated, or so I think) at the time which made lying down the only alternative. I got out for short walks as soon as I could and walked slowly and with short strides. I believe good healing is largely dependent on how well you follow your doctors instructions. I read of people who tore their stitches by moving too much too soon. Best to be conservative, as difficult as that might be, because the alternative is a lot worse. I am told that going back for more surgery is a highly undesirable thing that could negatively affect your long term outcome. The irritation, and what pain I did experience, seemed to come primarily from the bottom of my spine where the coccyx was removed (surprise surprise). After one month and even two I was concerned that perhaps the surgery had not been successful because sitting was still quite painful. I don't want to confuse you about my experience of pain, to be clear, post-surgery pain was minimal but trying to sit on the wound was painful at the one month and two month mark and really all the way up to three months. It wasn't until around the three month mark that I finally began to believe that I was in better shape than pre-operation. Dr. Hanley had told me that it would be three to four months before I would be good enough to return to work and he was right on. He also said that it would be one year before I was pain free and I believe he is going to be right about that. I am at 15 weeks post-op now and can sit for long periods of time pain free but if I slouch so that the bottom of my spine (surgical site) is pressing on the seating surface I feel discomfort and must move. Sitting up straight on my sit-bones on either hard or soft seats is now no longer a problem. I am very glad to put my special coccyx cushions in the closet and am considering a ceremonial burning haha.
This procedure may not be for you but I am very glad that I did it and don't regret all the extra time I took to finally go ahead. We want to do all we can to avoid surgery and be comfortable that we are doing the right thing. Dr Hanley and his nurse Donna provided me with excellent care and I can't recommend them highly enough. My thanks to both of them and to Jon Miles for providing this site which was a big help to me. I hope my experience is able to help you in some way on your journey and that you experience a positive outcome. I have allowed my email address to be available and am willing to answer any questions you might have. All the best!
I'm sorry to report that my long-term situation has not been altogether positive. I can't recall exactly how long my pain-free situation lasted but eventually the pain did return and is with me to this day.
The good news is that as long as I faithfully use my special cushion I am virtually pain free. I can tolerate short periods of sitting without the cushion on soft seats and longer periods on firm seats but it looks like my cushions and I are bound to be soul(butt)mates for life. LOL