The pubic symphysis is a joint sandwiched between your left pelvic bone and your right pelvic bone. It helps your pelvis absorb some of the weight from your upper body before it travels to your lower body. It also helps separate your pelvic bones to prepare for vaginal childbirth.
Your pubic symphysis joins your left and right pelvic bones. Unlike joints like your elbow and knee, your pubic symphysis doesn’t move much. Its big job is to hold the right and left pelvic bones in place. Still, it does make tiny movements that help your pelvis absorb weight from your upper body. These joint movements get even bigger when you’re pregnant. The joint gets more flexible during pregnancy, helping your pelvic bones spread enough for childbirth.
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The pubic symphysis joins your left and right pelvic bones to make one pelvis that’s strong enough to support your body but that’s able to stretch during childbirth. The joint connects each pelvic bone so that they are roughly mirror images of each other. Together, your pelvic bones help distribute the weight from the top part of your body to your legs and feet. Your pubic symphysis joint allows movement of up to 2 millimeters and one degree of rotation. This movement helps your pelvis absorb shock when you’re walking or running. This joint is especially important if you’re pregnant. It becomes extra flexible so that your pelvic bones can widen and a baby can pass through the birth canal.
Your pubic symphysis joint sits at the bottom of your pelvis, where your left pelvic bone connects with your right pelvic bone. The joint is wider in the front than it is in the back by about 3 to 5 millimeters. It’s in front of your bladder and above both the clitoris and the penis.
Tendons from some of the muscles in your torso and thighs connect with ligaments in the public symphysis.
Your pubic symphysis joint is made of two kinds of cartilage and four ligaments that make the connection between your pelvic bones strong but not rigid. The pubic symphysis allows more flexibility than the joints that connect the bones in your skull but less flexibility than joints like your elbow.
Symphysis pubis dysfunction is an umbrella term for symptoms you feel because of changes in your pubic symphysis. Most of the time, pregnancy causes symphysis pubis dysfunction. During pregnancy, hormone changes cause the ligaments that hold the pubic symphysis in place to loosen. More slack in the ligaments makes your joint more flexible. This flexibility allows your pelvic bones to separate during childbirth when it’s time for the baby to come. These changes can be painful.
Pregnancy isn’t the only condition that changes your pubic symphysis.
Depending on what’s affecting your symphysis pubis joint, you may feel a sharp pain in your pelvis. Sometimes the pain feels spread out across your abdomen, hips, and back. Having trouble with certain movements can cue you in that something’s wrong with your pubic symphysis:
Your provider can help determine if a problem with your pubic symphysis is causing your symptoms.
Usually, your doctor will be able to tell how healthy your pubic symphysis is by doing a medical history and a physical exam to test how strong and stable your pelvic muscles and joints are. In rare cases, your doctor may do a blood test or imaging. If you’re pregnant, your doctor will only suggest imaging that is safe for the fetus.
Your doctor will help you manage your pain while your body heals from an injury to your pubic symphysis.
The best treatment for you depends on what’s causing your pain. Speak to your provider about your options.
Taking care to move your body in ways that won’t injure your pubic symphysis joint is a great way to avoid injury. Doing exercises to strengthen the muscles that surround and support your pelvis can help, too. Your doctor may recommend any of the following:
Talk with your provider about exercises you can do to prevent injury and how to plan for exercising so that you don’t risk injury.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It’s easy to think of the most flexible joints, like the knee and elbow, as the most important ones, but joints like the pubic symphysis do important work, too. Your pubic symphysis helps your pelvis absorb shock when you move. The changes in this joint during pregnancy make vaginal childbirth possible. This is why it’s so important to protect your pubic symphysis from injury.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/14/2022.
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