The pelvis is a ring of bone that contains three joints. One is in the front (the pubic symphysis) and the other two are in the back on either side of the sacrum (the SI joints).
What is pubic symphysis pain?
The terms symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), pubic symphysis dysfunction (PSD) and diastasis symphysis pubis are used interchangeably to describe pubic symphysis pain.
Pubic symphysis pain is specific to the area of the joint. Pressing directly on the pubic symphysis should reproduce your primary pain. Many also feel soreness in the lower abs, perineum, and groin along with joint pain.
People with pubic symphysis pain usually experience pain when walking, getting in and out of bed, and standing on one leg. During exercise, they may experience pain with running, lunges, and step ups.
Pubic symphysis pain occurs almost exclusively in pregnant and postpartum people. We know that it is extremely common and resolves within about 6 months postpartum for most people.
It is still possible for non-pregnant people to have pain in the pubic area, but other diagnoses are usually more specific. If you aren’t pregnant but have pubic pain, Agile’s pelvic PT clinic is still a great place for you to get care!
Athletic pubalgia: Repetitive stress injury to the muscle and connective tissue near the pubic bone)
Osteitis pubis: Inflammatory joint pain at the pubic symphysis that most often occurs after bladder and prostate surgeries. It has also been shown to result from repetitive stresses for athletes
Groin pain related to inner thigh (adductor) tendon or muscle pain
What causes pubic symphysis pain?
Research indicates that a combination of factors leads to pubic symphysis pain. Hormonal changes in pregnancy increase the movement in the pubic symphysis, but the increased amount of joint movement does not itself seem to be the cause pain.
The best evidence suggests that pubic symphysis pain is a sensitivity to force through the joint. Someone with much better stability from muscles and connective tissues on one side of the pelvis than the other may be more likely to experience pain than someone who has equal levels of stabilization.
In rare cases, the pubic symphysis can separate during vaginal childbirth because of the combination of high physical stress and hormones. While most people recover fully after this injury, they do experience a longer recovery period. We have experience with these clients and are ready to help!
I heard that pubic symphysis pain is because of misalignment of my pelvic joints. Is that true?
Many people who are concerned about joint alignment are also worried to move normally and participate in their desired exercise. We don’t want anyone to limit their movement because of this fear. Your pelvis is strong and stable, even if you have pain!
How can physical therapy help?
If your symptoms are severe, we recommend temporarily resting from painful activities. However, staying active within a mild to moderate degree of pain is safe and advisable. Your PT can help you navigate your daily activity and exercise program to make sure you can stay moving!
Once your symptoms calm, we can start building back up! We use an exercise-based approach that focuses on building strength in the pelvic floor, abdominals, back, hips, and thighs. By building strength and tolerance for painful movements, we can get you back up to speed!
If movements in bed or getting out of the car are painful, try keeping your legs together (“move like a mermaid”). Your PT can help you troubleshoot bothersome activities if you’re still having issues.