The other day a pregnant mama came in to see me with excruciating pain around her tailbone. It was deep. It hurt to sit on her bottom. It hurt when she moved. And the worst part? She literally couldn't even put her finger on it. She was in pain and understandably, freaked out to head into labor already in this much pain. We worked deeply all around her sacrum, glutes and tailbone and were able to get her some relief (as she said, she had no idea there were muscles there to be massaged!)
Yes, this is "tailbone pain" but it helps to think of it as pelvic pain. It's not an isolated little bone. Not a vestigial tail. It's an integral part of your entire pelvis, your stability, your pelvic floor....and your birthing experience.
That coccyx sits at the base of the sacrum, completely interwoven with our pelvic floor muscles, our glutes and an entire system of ligaments that provides stability to the pelvis.
And you know what else? That coccyx moves. It needs to move. In a vaginal birth, the sacrum and tailbone move at the right moments to make more space for baby. Space for baby to come out.
Tight, spasming muscles and ligaments can lock your tailbone into place -- not helpful!
This will affect your comfort (pain!). It can affect your birth. And it can affect your pelvic health long term.
How does the tailbone get locked up?
Sometimes actual pressure from your baby deep in your pelvis pushes against your tailbone.
Sometimes you have an underlying tailbone trauma that is exacerbated by the changes of pregnancy (ever fallen on your tailbone -- even a decade ago??).
Sometimes it's the pelvic floor muscles.
Mostly it is a combination of a few factors magnified by this: chronic tucking of your tailbone. This "tucking" makes our tailbone much more vulnerable to:
pressure on the bone itself
strain on the ligaments attaching to the coccyx and lower sacrum
tension or even spasming in the pelvic floor muscles close to your tailbone
And it reduces the overall mobility. In the graphic here, you can see the pelvis on the left has a more neutral alignment, while the pelvis to the right has tilted further back, tucking the tailbone underneath you. The result? While seated, you end up sitting on your tailbone; while standing, the contents of your abdomen press down on your tailbone; and alignment for your pelvic ligaments and muscles is challenged, leading to various imbalances and strains.
You need to get off your tailbone
No matter how active you are, chances are that you are sitting way too much. And probably sitting on your sacrum and tailbone much more than you realize.
Fortunately, a lot of this can be alleviated by moving your tailbone out of the way!
A good place to start is simply with how you sit. I recommend trying this with a firm chair/stool or even your birth ball -- avoid soft, cushy surfaces which encourage you to collapse and slouch back on to your sacrum. Katy Bowman from Nutritious Movement demonstrates this here.
Spin your Baby
Feedback and “noise” from your tailbone can tell you lots about what might be going on deep in your pelvis. It can signal unbalanced pelvic floor muscles, as well as indicate that your pelvis is out of alignment. Spinning Babies can be a powerful intervention -- try the Forward Leaning Inversion and Side-lying Release to balance out all the structures of the deep pelvis.
Get some Bodywork
Targeted bodywork can really help balance out your entire pelvis. Experienced bodyworkers and some chiropractors will actually work on and around your tailbone. This can help directly relax some of those spasming muscles, release tight ligaments and may actually help move it back into alignment. As with my client above we worked all along her tailbone and some of her pelvic bones to get her some relief. If you do have to sit a lot and are experiencing a lot of discomfort, you definitely want to rethink how you sit and may want to look into getting some more focused bodywork.
Ready to schedule some deeper work on your pelvis? Book with Nicole today.