Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) Relief
Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction happens when the ligaments that keep your pubic bone and pelvis stable become overstretched and no longer stabilize your pelvis. Essentially, a structure that is designed to move very little begins to move a lot, and it can be very painful and difficult to move with ease. SPD is a condition that sometimes arises during pregnancy, though it can also first occur during labor and birth or in the postpartum period. Pelvic girdle pain in general is quite common during pregnancy—between 48% and 71% of women report feeling significant pelvic discomfort. About 30% of women report that the area of the pubic symphysis is painful. While SPD does involve the pelvis and the integrity of the pelvic floor muscles, a general pelvic floor dysfunction treatment like kegels is often not the answer to symphysis pubis dysfunction.
The factors that predispose people to SPD are quite varied; however, the medical literature on symphysis pubis pain seems to agree that the hormone relaxin is not entirely to blame. Factors as different as hypermobility, bearing twins or other multiples, and a history of back pain can play a role in pubic symphysis pain during pregnancy. SPD usually resolves for most pregnant people after delivery, with most returning to normal function by 6-12 months postpartum. Rarely, some people find that SPD becomes a longer-term problem. Most people are able to have a vaginal birth even with pubic symphysis dysfunction—finding pain-free ranges of hip movement prior to labor can be helpful if such a delivery is in your birth plan.
Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction Symptoms
If you’re concerned that you have pubic symphysis dysfunction, these symptoms may be present:
- Pain in the pelvis in general, and specifically in the groin and inner thighs; pain moving around into the buttocks
- Clicking sounds in the pelvis
- Pain while sleeping
- Activities like getting out of bed, in and out of cars, stepping up and down from steep stairs, really, any position that widens the legs can be very painful
What Not to Do with Symphysis Pubis Pain
Stretching may feel good, but it ultimately will create more instability. Limit activities like:
- Sitting cross legged
- Prolonged sitting (e.g., in a car)
- Standing with more weight on one leg (with hip hiked up) to hold groceries, kids, etc.
- Hips waddling while walking
- Intense stretching of the hips (e.g., wide-legged and asymmetrical moves like wide-legged forward bends and pigeon pose)
What to Do with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction
Once you’ve checked in with your care provider, you can take some simple steps to manage SPD pain. Your goal when moving to relieve pain due to pubic symphysis dysfunction is to create more stability in the pelvis.
- Sleep with a pillow between the legs.
- Sit on the sitting bones rather than the tailbone.
- Learn good movement habits and alignment for pregnancy (and the rest of your life!)
- Lie on your side rather than your back to sleep—take some of the load off of your pelvis.
- Keep your knees together when doing things that aggravate SPD—for example, getting in and out of the car, swivel your legs to one side and then stand up.
- Build up strong hips and glutes. The video below has my favorite go-to SPD exercises.
- Some people find a support belt to be a helpful tool while building up stability in the pelvis.
6 Best Exercises for Pubic Symphysis Stability
The kinds of exercises that will help with SPD pain are movements that help build strength and stability in the glutes and core. Here’s a great sequence for symphysis pubis pain. It’s also great for sacroiliac joint pain. Video:
- Come down to hands & knees, inhale, and exhale or hiss to blow out candles to engage your core. Repeat 5 times
- Add pelvic movement: exhale, tuck your pelvis under. Stay stable in your upper back & try to isolate the pelvis by tucking deeply under. Then inhale and untuck gently to release the tuck. Relax your pelvic floor as you inhale. Repeat 8 times
- Come to stand in a mini-squat: put a fist or squishy ball between your legs. Exhale as you squeeze the ball strongly, then release on the inhale. Repeat 8 times
- Candles on your back: Lie on your back with feet flat and do candles breathing. Make sure your pelvis isn’t tucked; aim for neutral (if needed, bolster your head a little bit). Repeat 8 times
- Breath + pelvic rocking: Add pelvic tucking as you exhale (feel your pelvic floor drawing in), then inhale to release. Repeat 8 times
- Bridge: On an exhale, push straight down through your feet to lift your pelvis (it will naturally tuck slightly), and gently lower down. Repeat 8 times
With mindful movement and a more stable pelvis, SPD can be much less painful.