No regrets about coccyxgectomy!

Sandy, USA -

Posted 2016-01-17

Iím now 3 months out of my coccyxgectomy surgery and couldnít be happier with the results! Let me share my story with you so that you can learn a bit about what to expect on your own journey through tailbone surgery if its the right thing for you.

I knew the exact moment when I broke my tailbone. I was standing up on a chair in the dark (we had lost electricity and I was getting a flashlight) and jumped down. Very silly of me as I completely misjudged where the back of the seat was and landed my tailbone exactly on the back of the chair. I immediately saw stars, felt like I couldnít breathe and knew that I had done some real damage. But being someone who doesnít seek out the docs very often I did wait a few days to go see my physician. I had clear external bruising and lots of pain. Despite this my doctor told me it was likely just a bad bruise and that I should take some pain killers and wait it out. She directed me that tailbones can take many months to heal so I should just be patient. No x-ray was ordered and I was sent home.

About 6 months later at my yearly check-up I mentioned that my tailbone still hurt quite a bit. I was directed to see a pain specialist who ordered an x-ray and could clearly see that I had broken off the last inch or so of my tailbone and that it was free-floating inside and rubbing against the soft tissue every time I moved. No wonder I had pain! The pain specialist directed me to a spine surgeon who readily agreed that the piece needed to come out surgically. I could try to find relief with something like a steroid injection or similar but truthfully that bone piece would still be in there moving around so there was really no point of trying those palliative measures. My spine surgeon had performed this surgery twice before in his 30 years of surgeries so he knew that it was rare and that the biggest risk would be infection. My surgery itself would be quite easy as all he really had to do was to remove the loose bone piece.

Surgery took about 2 hours and was performed at a surgical center in Massachusetts, not a hospital. I was given only general anesthesia. I had really wanted to get some kind of "block" but the doctors wanted me sent home quickly (only in America do they rush you out the door!!) and any block would just interfere with that. So home I went with instructions to keep the site clean and a supply of Percocet. When the general anesthesia wore off about a day later the pain was very significant, about an 8/9 out of 10 scale. No position felt comfortable- I couldnít sit and I couldnít lie down even on my side without huge pain. The only position that felt any kind of comfortable turned out to be upright and walking. But when you are taking high doses of Percocet (which you surely need for those first 10 days!) then walking around doesnít quite work out so well as you are tired and want to just rest or sleep. And nobody in pain can stand for 12 hours a day, so those first 10 days or so just stink and thereís little you can do about it.

I truly canít imagine how a patient could survive tailbone surgery without the help of someone to act as your home nurse. There is simply no way that you can change your own bandages! Believe me I tried- you canít do it! Even using a mirror, you canít do it! So you should relinquish your humility and have your home nurse (in my case, my husband) help you. They will be essential in cleaning your wound area and in changing bandages. Every time you shower they will need to help you reapply the bandages and they must be on high alert for any sign of infection. If you are expecting an upcoming tailbone surgery then recruit your loved one now or consider hiring a home healthcare person for an hour every other day just for wound care.

Before surgery my biggest concerns were about how quickly Iíd be back to doing my usual stuff. So let me give you estimates about my own schedule of recovery and how I reached milestones.

1. Driving a car. Out of pure necessity I had to drive my car very briefly about 5 days after surgery. It wasnít ideal and I had to time it so that my meds were largely worn off. It hurt like crazy but if you absolutely canít avoid driving then you just need to suck it up for those few brief minutes. I could drive in very small bursts of about 10 minutes each from 5 days until about 2.5 weeks, then began to gradually increase that interval. I ALWAYS used a cushion on my seat and even still use it today for multi-hour drives. I used that cushion for a good 2 months every time I was in the car, and itís only been in the last few weeks that Iíve stopped using it for most driving. My cushion was a U-shaped memory foam cushion and I worked great.

2. Sitting. My doctor had told me that I would likely feel most comfortable in a hard wooden seat as opposed to a cushiony chair. I completely scoffed at that idea but I must admit he was right! A hard chair lets your hip bones take most of the weight and so your tailbone doesnít actually touch the chair much. A cushy chair has your whole bum area sink down such that all parts are touching, and thus hurting. So counter to your instinct, a hard chair actually works best. And certainly you will need to lean forward in that chair for many weeks after surgery as the leading forward takes the weight completely off of the tailbone. My first sit in a real chair was 3 days after surgery and I probably lasted about 5 minutes. That will gradually increase to longer periods and less leaning forward. But even 3 months post-surgery I still find myself feeling a little sore if Iíve sat for one long spell (like 2 hours or so at a movie) or if Iíve sat down in small spurts but often through the day.

3. Using the toilet. In those first few days after surgery youíll be wary of using the toilet. I must say that in that arena expectations are far worse than the actuality. Even BMís didnít really hurt, it was just that youíd be worry that theyíd hurt and so using the toilet became something to induce anxiety. I do suggest using a stool softener as it will help, especially if you are taking opiate-based pain killers. Along these same lines, you will have bandages on your bottom so youíll want to be extra careful to keep that zone clean as much as you can. Infection is the biggest risk with this type of surgery so cleanliness is a must.

4. Pain meds. Expect to use pretty much maximum doses for about the first 7-10 days. Then that dose for me tapered down but I would still use a pain killer before bed for probably the first 6 weeks still. As I tapered off of Percocet I added in higher doses of ibuprofen and kept on using that for a good month or more. At the 3 month mark I do still need ibuprofen for tailbone pain if Iíve sat for long periods, but thatís becoming more and more rare.

5. Sleeping- Sleeping those first 2 weeks was awful. I tried various methods of pillows under my body but couldnít find a position where no pressure was placed on my very sore bottom. I had read a fellow blogger who suggested that a massage table with the Ďpregnancyí opening was useful and in hindsight I think that was a brilliant idea and may have worked quite well. Without that table, I will say that sleeping became one of the worst parts of the day because you couldnít get comfortable, and would have pain even rolling over to get from one side to another. My hips would ache from being slept on all night as well. I didnít sleep well for a good 7 weeks after surgery, but now sleep completely fine even when lying on my back.

6. Infection and wound. The biggest risk is infection so cleanliness is essential. I did well (or rather my home nurse/husband did!) to avoid any infection but it still took a long while for my wound to fully close. The majority of my wound was closed by day 10 but a small piece (about an inch) didnít fully close until about the 4th week or so. Apparently that is perfectly fine and normal, but it did seem worrisome at the time.

7. Getting back to work. I have multiple small jobs and so my requirements are different at each job. I was able to go to my retail job (which is all standing up) about 3 weeks after surgery. I could resume my teaching job (which had a 45-minute commute but was otherwise all standing) about 5 weeks after surgery. I couldnít resume my kayak teaching job (all sitting) until 3 months later. So you can get back to work reasonably quick if you donít have a long commute and if your job is mostly standing. If you have any kind of job where sitting is imperative then I think it would be hard to get back to that sooner than about 8 weeks.

8. General housework. Because I was "stuck" standing so much after surgery I actually was able to get back to general housework like laundry and cooking within a few days. I guess that was a pleasant surprise since I had expected to be out of commission for longer. But if youíre stuck standing all day then you might as well be moving around when doing so.

9. Wearing pants. You might not realize it but many pants fit pretty tight in the crotch area. You will want to avoid this for the first few weeks! I wore skirts and very baggy shorts during my recovery. I bet that I didnít put on real jeans for probably 3-4 weeks and even then it was my loosest fit ones. Definitely no skinny jeans for a good 6-7 weeks!

Thatís all of the useful information I can think of to share from my own experience. If you are contemplating surgery then I wish you well! It was definitely worth it for me, but each case is unique and so it might not be right for all. Good luck!


Updated 2017-10-01

I may be a lucky one, but the removal of my coccyx was the end to all of my tailbone troubles. Once the surgical pain healed I was pain free! You should recall that my coccyx was completely broken off and dangling, and so removing it was a no-brainer and an easy fix. NO regrets at all for having the surgery. I would say that when I sit for super long periods (like a 5 hour car ride or a whole day of work) then I do feel a slight pain in my tailbone area. That could be in my head or it could just be scar tissue stuff. Either way it's very dull and I never even take Motrin for it.

So my surgery was a complete success and I'd recommend it to others who have a clean break of their tailbone without any hesitation.

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