When it comes to chronic pain, men and women are not created equal. Women are over-represented in the ranks of those dealing with chronic pain.
A relatively uncommon cause of chronic pain in women is coccydynia, or tailbone pain. Your pain can come on gradually or suddenly after an impact to the area at the end of your spine. The tailbone is often painful to the touch, so sitting, horseback riding, or anything that puts pressure on the area hurts. Constipation adds to the pain, but the pain is lessened after a bowel movement. Women are 5 times more likely than men to develop coccydynia. Pregnancy-related injuries and the less-protected position of the tailbone in women are considered major reasons for the disparity.
During childbirth, the pressure of the baby’s head against the coccyx can injure the area. One research study of women with coccydynia found a connection between the condition and births that were described as difficult. While coccydynia is most often caused by childbirth or a backward fall, doctors can’t always pinpoint the cause. The coccyx isn’t flexible enough to bend with pressure, resulting in injury to the coccyx, the nearby ligaments, or both. Coccydynia affects women of all ages, but age 40 is the average age of onset. It usually goes away in weeks or months, but it can become chronic and impact daily life, preventing you from driving or bending over without pain. Rarely, coccydynia may be due to a tumor or infection.
Compression fractures tied to osteoporosis
When a bone in the spine breaks as a result of osteoporosis, or thinning of the bones, it’s called a compression fracture. The fracture usually happens in the front of the spine, where the front of the bone collapses. The back of the bone is usually not affected.
The fracture typically follows some sort of movement affecting the spine—from a sneeze to a fall. A compression fracture is most likely in the lower part of the upper back and can cause sudden, severe back pain, but some people don’t feel any pain. A compression fracture can also cause a rounded hump in the back and a loss of height. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to have a compression fracture. This is because compression fractures are caused by osteoporosis, and women are much more likely to have osteoporosis. If you’re a woman older than 45 and have sudden, intense back pain—especially if you’re at risk for osteoporosis—it’s best to get to the doctor quickly. Risk factors for osteoporosis include having a personal or family history of fractures or osteoporosis and having a small body frame. Even if you aren’t in pain, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible after a spinal compression fracture since the injury can limit mobility.