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Treatment of coccydynia by chiropractic manipulation per rectum under local anaesthesia: a multiple-case study

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Treatment of coccydynia by chiropractic manipulation per rectum under local anaesthesia: a multiple-case study.
Liram N. Hasharoni A. Davidson E.

Department of orthopaedics spine surgery unit,

Pain relief unit, Hadassah University Medical Centre Jerusalem, Israel.

Objectives: A five year prospective efficacy study of treating chronic coccydynia by intrarectal chiropractic manipulation under local sedation.

Methods: Thirty three patients referred between 2007 and 2011 were treated and included in this study, using routine clinical guidelines. They were assessed by VAS, Ostwestry LBP and a Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaires. Twenty one subjects were female and twelve male. Age ranged from 17 to 67. Eligibility for treatment criteria were [regardless of the questionnaire]: Predominant diagnosed coccydynia of at least six months' duration without improvement, failure of previous therapy and no underlying pathology.

Lateral and postero-anterior coccyx x-ray studies were obtained pre and post manipulation. Assessment by questionnaire was done pre-manipulation, one month and six months after treatment. Thirty of thirty-three cases were followed up by clinic visits or telephone contact up to three years after treatment.

Results: At one month, the median VAS and questionnaire values showed significant improvement in nineteen (58%) cases. Their total questionnaire scores were reduced from 30.94 to 19.14 (38.2%).

At six months, improvement remained in sixteen (48%) cases. Their respective total questionnaire scores were reduced to 21.62 (33.4%)

[p<0.0001 for all of these values].

Follow up (six months to three years) showed that of the original nineteen who reported improvement, thirteen (39%) reported that their condition was still improved. Six reported gradual return of symptomatic coccydynia.

Mean VAS scores were: Pre-manipulation: 7.38. At thirty days scores were: 4.81 and at six months 5.00 (34 % and 32% respectively p<0.0001).

Fourteen cases showed no improvement after one and six months. Followed up, ten remained symptomatic and reported disability. One underwent coccyx surgery and three could not be reached.


Around 50% improvement prevailed for a few months. At longer term, a remaining 39% reported benefit from this treatment. Typically, patients with traumatic aetiology, good coccyx mobility, stable personality and shorter symptomatic duration stood better chances for improvement. Hyper flexion or lateral deformity as well as changes related to DJD played no predictive role in treatment results.


Study background and rationale

Coccydynia has been treated by intrarectal manipulation since the 17th century (2). Due to this condition's exquisitely painful presentation and emotional overlay (3,4), collaborative approach between the pain clinic and the spine surgery unit's chiropractor proposed this treatment concept since 1988. The clinical rationale

in support of these treatment procedures was twofold:

A. It has been established that in coccydynia pain originated in the soft tissue components, mostly in pelvic floor muscles (PFM) spasm (4). PFM participate in "visceral" activity rather than interaction with mechanical tasks. They differ in their control mechanisms from both limb and axial muscles (5). The authors in this study believed that manual treatment without sedation may be too painful.

B. The discreet nature of coccydynia and manipulating per anus has potential emotional overlay (3). It may therefore be best performed in a hospital-based clinic environment rather than the doctor's office in order to gain the patient's confidence.
Previous coccyx internal manual treatment routines

Having gained the experience of treating five to eight coccydynia cases a year by this routine since 1988, the authors decided in early 2007 to assess short and long term outcome measures by using a prospective questionnaire and follow up.

JY Maigne of Paris, France and his co workers have been at the forefront of coccydynia treatment for over two decades. Their last ground breaking work (6) served as guideline and inspiration for both treating coccydynia by intrarectal manipulation, and also in conducting this study. Inasmuch as collaborating with a pain relief clinic, this study's orientation and technique differed from, and hopefully augmented the vast base provided by Maigne et al.


The patient population in this study exclusively came from those referred to the orthopaedic spine unit outpatient clinic and suffered from coccydynia. This diagnosis was made based on findings of chronic, non-radiating localised pain or dynamic pain. Typically, patients were referred from other orthopaedic units, family physicians, pain clinics and neurology.

Baseline assessment included: age, gender, duration of symptoms, aetiology (traumatic, non traumatic and affective). Coccygeal motion evaluation was performed per rectum, while carrying out the manipulation instead of by radiography (1). This was in conformity with the clinical routine guidelines developed for recommending this option since 1988. The study's subject selection methodology may therefore be best termed "as treated", while the questionnaire design was prospective.
Two questionnaires were used in the study.

  1. Ostwestry LBP and disability, consisting of ten questions related to pain level, every day tasks, social life, sleep etc'.

  2. Short-Form McGill Pain, consisting of categorising pain and a 10 cm VAS.

Statistical analysis was done by Repeated measure ANOVA and paired T test. The results were also verified by non-parametric Friedman and Wilcoxon tests.

All subjects were imaged by lateral (90 degrees) and postero-anterior plain radiography before treatment and again within two weeks after treatment.

This routine was aimed at evaluating baseline coccyx posture and changes thereof pre and post manipulation.
The manual procedure was carried out in prone position with supported and slightly raised pelvis and performed at the hospital pain relief clinic following sedation. Epidural, spinal or caudal techniques were used, as per the anaesthesiologist's choice. The chiropractic manipulation was performed by the same person since 1988 as well as throughout this study. It involved insertion of the right middle digit into the anal canal and moving the coccygeal segments with external counter stabilisation by the right thumb. External (over the sacrum) control of the whole maneuver was achieved using the left hand. Motion evaluation and internal tissue massage and moblilisation were carried out in this fashion from distal to proximal. Joint and soft tissue fixations were mobilised and adjusted internally, sometimes using short lever high velocity technique. The internal procedure lasted about three minutes. After manual treatment the patient remained under the pain relief clinic's care until the sedative effect wore off and allowed discharging the patient. Follow up was done at the orthopaedic clinic.

Approval from the Hadassah University Medical Centre's ethics (Helsinki) committee was obtained.

As hospital pain relief and orthopaedic day clinics in Israel belong to the public health sector, the cost of this hospital procedure was covered by the national health scheme.

Gender and age distribution

Twenty one (63.6%) of the subjects of the study population was female and twelve (36.4%) male. The average age was 40.52 and had no predictive value over treatment results.

Table 1. Frequencies-Repeated measures ANOVA.




Std. Dev.



Age (years)






VAS score pre manip.






VAS score one month






VAS score six months






Total quest. score pre manip.






Total quest. score one month






Total quest. score six months






Pre manip. = pre manipulation. Std. Dev. = Standard Deviation

Repeated measures ANOVA test.

Test whether there was a change over the three time points for the questionnaire total scores. The answer is: yes p<0.0001.

The Short Form McGill Pain questionnaire provided qualitative description of the pain. There was congruency between testing pain level in both questionnaires. The contribution of descriptive pain characteristics by the McGill Short Form format showed that sharp, tiring-exhausting and aching pains moved from moderate and severe to mild and moderate in those with good outcome. There was no qualitative change in patients who did not show improvement.

Table 2. Questionnaire Paired samples (t) test.







Std. Dev.

Std. Error Mean

95% C.I. of dif. lo

95% C.I. of dif. hi

Pair 1









Pair 2









Pair 3









C.I. of dif. lo and hi = Confidence interval of difference, lower and upper.

Pair 1 = pre manipulation and one month total questionnaire scores.

Pair 2 = pre manipulation and six months total questionnaire scores.

Pair 3 = one month and six months total questionnaire scores.

Paired T-tests where the change was by comparing pre manipulation to one month, pre manipulation to six months and one month to six months. All changes were significant (p<0.0001). It seems that there is improvement between pre manipulation and one month and six months, but a change for the worse between one month and six months.
Figure 1. Graphic display of the paired samples-questionnaire.

Table 3. VAS Paired samples (t) test.







Std. Dev.

Std. Error Mean

95% C.I. of dif. lo

95% C.I. of dif. hi

Pair 1









Pair 2









Pair 3









C.I. of dif. lo and hi = Confidence interval of difference, lower and upper.

Pair 1 = pre manipulation and one month total VAS scores.

Pair 2 = pre manipulation and six months total VAS scores.

Pair 3 = one month and six months total VAS scores.

Changes in VAS scores were significant (p<0.0001) between pre manipulation and one and six months. It seems that there is improvement between pre manipulation and one month and six months. VAS changes were not found to be significant between one and six months.

Figure 2. Graphic display of the paired samples-VAS.

Using the non parametric Friedman and Wilcoxon tests (as the individual questions and VAS are ordinal and not quantitative in nature) showed congruency of significant results for all scores found significant by the T test and ANOVA.

Non parametric testing: Friedman Test

Mean Rank

pre total score

one month total score

six months total score




Test Statistics




Asymp. Sig





Non parametric testing: Wilcoxon Signed Ranks test

N Mean Rank Sum of Ranks

total score one month-pre

negative ranks

positive ranks


total score six months-one month

negative ranks

positive ranks



21a 11.00 231.00

0b 0.00 0.00



2d 3.00 6.00

6e 5.00 30.00



  1. one month
    pre c. one month=pre

  1. six monthsone month f. six months=one month

Test Statistics (total score)

one month-pre six months-one month


Asymp. Sig.

-4.123 b -1.732 c


  1. based on positive ranks c. based on negative ranks.

Traumatic aetiology

Eleven females and six males suffered from coccygeal trauma (including partum). Good outcome prevailed in eight post trauma females and four post trauma males after one month and in seven females and four males after six months.

Psychosocial profile

Those with affective or depressive history typically showed poorer treatment outcome at one month, six months and long term follow up as compared to those without affective or depressive histories.

Radiographic factors

Hyper flexion deformity and lateral deviation (scoliosis) of the coccyx had no predictive value in obtaining relief from manipulation under sedation. Comparison measurement between pre and post manipulation films showed that in some cases, the deformity, especially distal hyper flexion was measurably reduced. This however, did not predict clinical results.

Symptomatic duration

Since the clinics involved in this study typically received referrals for chronic coccydynia, it was noted that those suffering for shorter periods before treatment had better chances for a good outcome. Those with considerably more than one year's chronic pain fared worse.


Treatment results

It was found by the questionnaire analysis that there was significant improvement between pre manipulation and one month (58%) and six months (48%) and change for the worse between one month and six months. Clinical follow up which was not questionnaire based of 91% of this study's population over a period of one to three years showed that in an additional 18%, the good outcome was not maintained over longer periods as compared with the initial 58%, leaving long term good results at around 40%.

Optimally, clinical trial validity should be evaluated by a randomised double blind controlled study. This design was not possible due to the following methodological reasons:

(1) Difficulty in effectively double blinding sedation and manipulation per rectum.

(2) Patient consent to such a treatment routine is already pre-selective and far from random. It's hard to decide which carries greater bias; a non randomised trial whereby the patients are driven by pain and the therapeutic relief option, or their consent to take part in an experiment.

(3) Questionable ethical justification in both invading the anal canal and in obtaining permission to apply sedation for experimental manipulation and sham procedures, as opposed to clinical practice of this option for pain relief.

Evaluating the clinical outcome of those treated by manipulation under sedation was performed over a patient population characterised by the following:

  1. Suffering from chronic coccydynia of at least six month duration, and typically over twelve months.

  2. At least one course of conservative therapy for coccydynia was attempted and failed. In most cases, more than one therapeutic avenue was explored.

  3. The coccydynia aetiology was frequently post traumatic including post partum, affective or idiopathic (8,9).

It may therefore be argued that since this study's population suffered from coccydynia for quite a while and not benefited from conservative treatment, it served in a way as a built-in control for its own outcome. This compensated for selecting an "as treated" population rather than a controlled one.

Outcome measures

Slightly better outcome obtained by this study's procedure (58% at one month, 48% at six months and 40% longer term) as compared to the randomised controlled study in France (6) who reported around 25% improvement. This may possibly be attributed to the considerably improved pelvic floor muscle relaxation afforded by sedation, allowing to perform manual techniques that may have been too painful to bear otherwise. However, these differences may also be due to the relatively small sample as well as other factors influenced by this study's design. The shortfall in good outcome over time suggests that in stubborn cases, more than one manipulation may become standard care, as practiced by the French workers in the 2006 study (6).

While conducting this study and in practice prior to it, manipulation of coccyx per rectum had no complications. On one occasion, the epidural procedure caused severe headache which was treated subsequently at the pain clinic.
The radiology assessment protocol adopted differed from that used by Maigne, Chatellier, Le Faou and Archambeau (6). These workers established a useful dynamic assessment radiologic coccyx mobility algorithm (7). This study relied on their findings and assessed coccyx mobility evaluation through motion palpation in the rectal canal when manually treating the patients. Thus, extra exposure to X-rays over and above the plain views described in the methods section was saved.

Another slight difference in comparison with recent previous work lies in the actual manual technique. The middle finger rather than the index was inserted to perform the manipulation since it is longer and can afford greater proximal reach for the purpose of motion evaluation and manipulation (6).

Limitations of the Study

The first obvious shortcoming of this work is the lack of randomisation. There is an eternal argument between the bias of randomising a clinical procedure, and that of evaluating "as treated". The lack of control group inherent to the study design must be considered. However, there is an ethical aspect to consider when invading the anal canal under sedation for the purpose of an experimental sham procedure.

Given the nature of the clinical problem as being fairly uncommon and the relatively good sample size, a cohort study is hopefully acceptable under these circumstances.
The population of those treated by this study's protocol suggested that greater numbers and more that one manipulation should be attempted in future studies, perhaps within a multi-centre set-up.
The main questionnaire used was the Ostwestry LBP. Although it was not devised for coccyx, the questions asked were relevant and purposeful in evaluating pain and limitation caused by coccydynia.

The study did not take into consideration anthropometric characteristics that may have a bearing on the outcome.


Treating chronic coccydynia by chiropractic manipulation per rectum under sedation may be recommended as safe and moderately effective. Post trauma, relatively short symptomatic history, good coccyx mobility and stable personality are all predictive of good outcome.


  1. Maigne JY, Chatellier G. Comparison of three manual coccydynia treatments: a pilot study. Spine 2001; 26:E479-83. Discussion E484.

  2. Sugar O. Coccyx, the one named for a bird. Spine 1995; 20:379-83

  3. Bremer I. The knife for coccydynia failure. Med Rec 1896;50;154-5.

  4. Nathan S.T., Fisher B.E. Roberts C.S. Coccydynia: A Review of Pathoanatomy Aetiology Treatment and outcome. J Bone Joint Surg (Br.)2010;92-B:1622-7.

  5. Vodusek D.B. Pelvic Floor Muscles-Innervation, Denervation and Aging. Imaging Pelvic Floor Disorders Medical Radiology 2008; Springer Berlin Heidelberg 45-49.

  6. Maigne J.Y, Chatellier G., Le Faou M., Archambeau M. The Treatment of Chronic Coccydynia With Intrarectal Manipulation. Spine 2006; 18:E621-E627.

  7. Maigne J.Y., Tamaler B. Standardised radiologic protocol for the study of common coccydynia and characteristics of the lesions observed in the sitting position: clinical elements differentiating luxation, hyper mobility and normal mobility. Spine 1996;21:2588-93.

  8. Mennel J.B. The Science and Art of Joint Manipulation. London: Churchill 1949.

  9. Howorth B. The painful coccyx. Clin Orthop 1959;14:145-61.

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