Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Relief Methods

Table of Contents

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

Table of Contents

Symphysis pubis dysfunction, abbreviated as SPD, is a group of health symptoms that leads to discomfort or pain in the pelvic region. In most cases, this pain is experienced during pregnancy, when the pelvic joints on both your back and front move unevenly and become stiff.

Pubis symphysis dysfunction is also sometimes referred to as pelvic girdle pain and the condition is not harmful to your body but could be extremely painful. The severe pain may at times affect your mobility.

Let’s check out what symptoms you should look out for if you suspect you have pubis symphysis dysfunction.

Symptoms of Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

The symptoms of pelvic girdle pain or SPD may differ for various people both in terms of presentation and severity. The most common symptoms of SPD are:

  • Pain in your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus)
  • Pain in the lower back on either or both sides
  • Pain in the front of your pubic bone

The pain caused by pubis symphysis dysfunction at times affects your thighs and you might also feel or hear a clicking or grinding sound from your pelvis. The pain becomes even more obvious when you are engaged in the following activities:

  • Turning over in your bed
  • Putting your weight on one of your legs
  • Using the stairs
  • Walking

It might also seem challenging to widen your legs which means difficulty in doing daily tasks such as

  • Getting in a car
  • Getting out of a car
  • Getting dressed
  • Getting out of bed

Causes of Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

Pregnancy is the foremost cause of pubis symphysis dysfunction and it affects 1 in 5 pregnant women. Pregnancy hormones such as relaxin loosen the muscles and ligaments in a pregnant woman’s body and affect these areas in particular:

  • Pelvis
  • Pelvic floor
  • Stomach
  • Hips

This loosening of muscles and ligaments is intended to increase the motion of your body to enable easy childbirth. However, it also means your joints are loose enough to make you lose your balance because of their increased mobility. This leads to pain or discomfort in the body that can turn unbearable at times.

Sometimes these pregnancy hormones are released in early pregnancy so you might experience symptoms of SPD long before childbirth. The baby’s position and weight are also suspected culprits of pubis symphysis dysfunction.

It is unlikely for SPD to occur outside pregnancy but there are still chances if you have suffered pelvic injuries from conditions like osteoarthritis. At times, certain cases of SPD have no known causes.

How is Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction Diagnosed?

Diagnosing pubis symphysis dysfunction at its early stages can be helpful while treating it. Once you are pregnant and experiencing SPD, get in touch with your healthcare provider or doctor to sort the diagnosis out. They will refer you to a physiotherapist who can assess the strength and stability of your pelvic muscles and joints. They will also suggest some symphysis pubis dysfunction exercises to relieve the pain.

Can Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction Lead to a Complicated Pregnancy?

SPD will not medically harm your baby and most women with the condition have been able to give vaginal birth. However, the pain could turn chronic and it may depress you which might indirectly affect your baby. Symptoms of pubis symphysis dysfunction do not disappear entirely before childbirth so you need to do things to relieve the pain.

The U.K. group of Pelvic, Obstetric, and Gynaecological Physiotherapy suggests that you avoid these activities as much as possible if you suspect you have SPD:

  • Carrying things in one hand
  • Pushing heavy objects
  • Vacuuming
  • Lifting heavy loads, such as a toddler, shopping bags, wet laundry
  • Sitting or standing for a long time
  • Sitting on the floor
  • Crossing your legs
  • Carrying a child on your hip
  • Bending and/or twisting while lifting
  • Putting your weight on only one leg

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction: Treatment Options

Physiotherapy is the first treatment option for pubis symphysis dysfunction. It aims to:

  • Improve your pelvic joint position and stability
  • Improve your muscle function
  • Minimize your pain

A physiotherapist provides manual therapy to make sure your pelvic joints, hips, and spine move evenly. They will also suggest certain exercises that strengthen the muscles of your hips, stomach, back, and pelvic floor. Physiotherapists also suggest hydrotherapy (exercising in the water). Being in the water can take off the stress from your joints. You may also follow suggestions on positions for birth, labor, and sex.

You may be prescribed TENS therapy or pain medications in severe cases of pubis symphysis dysfunction and provided with supportive equipment such as pelvic support belts or crutches. You can apply cold or heat to the area to reduce swelling or pain.

How to Prevent Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction?

You can do very little to prevent pubis symphysis dysfunction during pregnancy. You are more prone to SPD if you have had any previous pelvic injury. Remember to take measures to protect your pelvic region from injuries.

SPD doesn’t affect your child directly but it may make your pregnancy journey a bit more difficult as it reduces your overall mobility. Some pregnant women are also medically exempted from having a vaginal delivery due to SPD. The symptoms of postpartum symphysis pubis dysfunction will be less but if they don’t seem to improve, get in touch with a doctor. They will be able to rule out any hidden health conditions.

The Bottom Line: Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction

Pubis symphysis dysfunction or pelvic girdle pain is a health condition that affects most pregnant women. It is the separation of the pelvic joints in preparation for childbirth. However, loosened joints or muscles will increase mobility which will make the person unbalanced. The uneven joints will cause immense pain and discomfort in the area.

The unbearable pain may be prevented by exercises for symphysis pubis dysfunction along with the following relief methods:

  • Taking prescribed pain medications
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • TENS therapy
  • Avoiding certain activities that involve the pelvic area

Even though severe pain due to pubis symphysis dysfunction is unavoidable during pregnancy, its pain can be eased by relief methods and exercises. In rare cases, SPD may also affect non-pregnant folks which is obvious in case they have had previous hip or pelvic injury. You must get in touch with a doctor in case of severe pain so that you can rule out any severe health conditions behind the pain.

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction FAQs

1. What are some relief exercises for symphysis pubis dysfunction?

Here is an exercise for symphysis pubis dysfunction that you can follow:
  • Place your hand on your tummy right above your pelvic region.
  • Inhale through your nose.
  • Exhale slowly by squeezing your stomach towards your spine.
  • Hold the squeeze for about 10 seconds and continue to breathe normally.
  • Repeat this exercise about 10 times a day.
  • 2. How do you get rid of pubis symphysis dysfunction?

    Here’s what you can do to get some relief from symphysis pubis dysfunction:
  • Squeeze your legs together while getting out of the car
  • Wear a pregnancy belt
  • Sleep with a pillow between your legs
  • Place an ice pack on your pelvic region
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Take NSAIDs
  • 3. What should you not do with a pubis symphysis?

    Pubic symphysis dysfunctions when your joints separate too far. To ease the pain of this separation or to get some sort of relief, you must avoid activities like lifting and vacuuming. You may apply cold or heat pads to the area to ease the pain and wear a pelvic support belt for symphysis pubis dysfunction.

    4. How should you sleep with symphysis pubis dysfunction?

    You must keep a pillow between your legs when you sleep to ease the pain of pubis symphysis dysfunction. Another thing that you can keep in mind is to keep your knees together while you sit down or stand up. This keeps your pelvic in a neutral position as it applies less pressure on the joints.

    5. How long does it take for pubis symphysis dysfunction to heal?

    A pubis symphysis dysfunction on the joints may take three to eight months to heal on its own. For most women, the discomfort or pain caused by the condition lingers for about two more months after childbirth.

    6. When does pubis symphysis dysfunction usually start in pregnancy?

    Pregnancy-related SPD varies from woman to woman. Here’s some data:
  • 74% of women get SPD in their first pregnancy
  • 12% of women get SPD in the 1st trimester
  • 34% of women get SPD in their 2nd trimester
  • 52% of women get SPD in the 3rd trimester
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