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Fractured vertebrae
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Fractured vertebrae

I am currently living in Eastern Europe in a country where the medical care is sub par.  A very good friend of mine from this area recently (and mysteriously) broke the last vertebrae in his spine (down near his tailbone).  He says the x-rays show that the vertebrae is broken in two places and the "tail" of it is just floating about 5mm away from the rest of his spine.  

This man is very active (was training for a marathon), relatively young (30), extremely careful with his health (good diet, no smoking or drinking) and had no major accidents before the pain began.  The only advice he has received from his doctors is to get cortisone shots or have the vertebrae fused together, but they have not offered a back brace or any other treatment.  My friend is horrified at the thought of spending the rest of his life off of running (as the doctors here tell him) and would very much like to heal more quickly.  Is there any advice I can give him or specific treatments that he can request from his doctors?  

My other concern is WHY the bone broke.  I have asked him to get some bone density screenings and cancer screenings, but can the vertebrae just snap from regular life (or running) in a healthy man?
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This can be a very debilitating injury.  It usually happens secondary to blunt trauma to the area such as a fall, etc.  Other possible causes include osteoporosis or repetitive movement of the area with pressure (bike riding).  The medical treatment is focused on conservative care as surgery for removal of the coccyx bone (fusion is not an alternative) can lead to even more problems down the road such as infection, bowel incontinence, etc.
This area has some large nerve endings (sciatic, piriform) that cause a lot of pain when sitting.  Marathon running would probably be difficult indeed.  These injuries or fracture of the tailbone can take months to heal. Treatment of the pain with cortisone injections may be helpful.  
Check out this web site for additional info: www.coccyx.org
Good luck!
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