Getting Social Security Disability for Severe Coccyx Pain (Coccydynia)

There are some instances in which coccydynia qualifies for Social Security disability.

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Coccydynia, pain in the tailbone, can make it difficult to sit and function at work. Coccydynia is generally caused by some type of trauma, such as a fall, to the coccyx, a bony structure that is found at the very bottom of the spine, commonly referred to as the tailbone. Other causes of coccydynia may include childbirth, pressure from prolonged sitting, degenerative joint changes, a mobile coccyx, a tailbone fracture, or a tumor.

Coccydynia Symptoms and Treatment

Coccydynia is usually a dull and achy pain that can become markedly worse when:

  • sitting
  • going from sitting to standing, or
  • standing for prolonged periods of time.

The pain from coccydynia generally last for just a few weeks or months and goes away on its own. Avoiding sitting/standing for prolonged periods of time, sitting upright or on a donut shaped pillow, applying heat or ice, and taking over the counter pain medications can help with the pain. Sometimes the pain, however, can be difficult to get rid of, especially if you're required to sit or drive for work. If the pain does not go away on its own, individuals may get treatments that include:

  • physical therapy
  • medication, including injections into the tailbone, or
  • surgery to remove the tailbone or tumor (if one is present).

If your coccydynia does not go away with treatment and the pain makes it difficult for you to function at work, you might qualify for Social Security disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits

Because coccydynia often goes away on its own or can be relieved with treatment, it is not easy to receive disability benefits based on this impairment alone. However, if the pain is very severe, not responding to treatment, and affects your functioning, you may qualify for disability benefits.

Social Security will assess your abilities in the areas of physical and mental skills to determine what you can and cannot do. Severe pain can affect your ability to perform the physical requirements of a job. The inability to stand for prolonged periods of time can affect your ability to take on jobs that require standing, such as working in a factory or performing physical labor, while not being able to sit for prolonged periods of time can affect your ability to properly perform a desk job, due to the need to get up frequently.

In addition to physical limitations due to pain, pain can also cause mental limitations. If physical pain is severe enough, it can affect your ability to focus on your work and to complete tasks assigned at work.

If Social Security finds that you can't even do sedentary work, you may be approved for disability. See our article on not being able to do sit-down work for more information. Or, if it finds that you can't do your old job, and your age, education level, and work experiences are such that you can switch to another type of job, you may be able to get benefits. See our article on getting disability through a medical-vocational allowance for more information on this.

Social Security's Assessment of Pain

It can be difficult to get disability for coccydynia and similar injuries because the disability claim rests almost completely on your allegations of pain. While Social Security will consider pain as a part of your overall impairment, you have to show a medical reason for the source of the pain. Often, there is no way for doctors or medical tests to corroborate this pain. Sometimes X-rays can show a tailbone fracture in the past, which can cause significant chronic pain from sitting. X-rays can also show whether the coccyx is curved or has a bone spur, both of which which can cause severe pain. Some people have dysfunction or inflammation of their sacrococcygeal or sacroiliac (SI) joint, which can beidentified in a clinical exam or may show up on an MRI. Your doctor will have to write an opinion that some kind of objective test, like an X-ray, MRI, or clinical test, shows you have a structural abnormality that could cause the chronic pain you suffer from.

If your X-rays or MRIs show no abnormality, it will be tough to get disability because you won't likely be able to show you have a "medically determinable" physical condition that is likely to produce the pain you experience. For more information, see our article on how Social Security considers pain when assessing disability.

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