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Having pain in tailbone. Tailbone tip not showing on X-ray. What is the problem?

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Orthopaedic Surgeon
Practicing since : 1994
Answered : 10356 Questions
5 years ago I fell while snowboarding and hurt my tailbone badly - but never went in to see a doctor. Eventually it healed. Eight months ago (after driving across the US five times), the pain in my tailbone started to return. So I finally went in, and the saw that the tip of my tailbone does not show up in an x-ray (discovered in an x-ray taken yesterday) - the doctor believes it could be a growth covering it up (cancerous) and has scheduled an MRI. Is it possible my tailbone is just short/not fully developed? I was born premature by a month. My sister told me that I was told at an early age that my tailbone was not developed. Is this even possible? Or is it possible I broke it off when I injured it 5 years ago? Could it be cysts, or some other non-cancerous reason the x-rays aren't revealing/showing the tip of my tailbone?
Posted Sat, 27 Oct 2012 in Bones, Muscles and Joints
Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 6 hours later
Thanks for posting your query.
The only other reason of tailbone not showing on X-ray is a congenitally absent coccygeal vertebrae. A growth covering up the area is a more likely possibility.
Even if there is an injury or fracture, the broken pieces or the displaced fragments should have shown on an X-ray. Premature birth is not associated with a non development of coccyx. If it was detected at the time of birth that your tailbone was absent then it might be a likely cause of non visualization of the vertebrae on X-ray. It is best to go for an MRI to get a clearer picture.
I hope this answers your query.
In case you have additional questions or doubts, you can forward them to me, and I shall be glad to help you out.
Please accept my answer in case you do not have further queries.
Wishing you good health.
Dr. Praveen Tayal.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Having pain in tailbone. Tailbone tip not showing on X-ray. What is the problem? 37 minutes later
Hi Dr. Tayal,

Thank you for the reply. I have the MRI scheduled. But don't you think it's more likely that this is the result of my tailbone injury and subsequent pressure put upon it driving over 20,000 miles in a short period versus some rare cancerous tumor? That would be an odd coincidence if I just happen to have damaged my tailbone severely AND that I developed cancer there. Correct?

Also - isn't it also just as likely my tailbone just doesn't have the little hook at the end? People have shorter limbs, one arm, and many other anomalies - is having an incomplete tailbone a big deal?

I guess what I'm getting at here is that it seems rather limiting for the ONLY reason that it's not showing up is a cancerous growth covering it. Couldn't an inflammation, or a cyst, benign growth, or some type of infection - be the cause?

Please know I'm not trying to just get you to say what I want to hear - I'm trying to apply the occam's razor principal here.

Thanks again.
Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 3 hours later
Thanks for writing again.
I can understand your anxiety. The possibilities you have told are likely but we at least need to investigate further so that we should not miss anything serious which could have been easily detected and treated.
The missing tip of the tail bone with no associated pathology is a possibility but not a common one. The benign swellings are not likely to conceal the bone from X-rays. The radiologist must have noted some haziness in the area before recommending an MRI for you.
Let us wait for the MRI results and then discuss regarding the possibilities.
Hope my answer is helpful.
Do accept my answer in case there are no further queries.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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