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  • Writer's pictureChristeen Perkins, DC

What is symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)?

Pregnant woman with symphysis pubis dysfunction

What is symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)?

Symphysis pubis dysfunction, more commonly referred to as SPD, is pain in the pelvis and pelvic girdle. The pain commonly stems from an increase in instability of the pelvis and pelvic floor. This instability is usually a result of an increase in the hormone relaxin. Relaxin works by creating more flexibility in the ligaments of the body, especially the ligaments that help to hold the pelvis together. This is very helpful in allowing your body to expand and stretch as your baby grows and your body prepares for labor. This increase in relaxin is a life saver throughout labor as it allows the pelvis to open and move as needed during delivery. While it can be helpful it can also lead to instability of the pelvis and symptoms of SPD. In simpler terms, relaxin loosens your ligaments and allows your pelvis to move more than it normally would or should.

What does SPD feel like and how do I know if I have it?

SPD symptoms are more commonly felt in later stages of pregnancy but can be experienced as early as the first trimester. For some it feels like a mild discomfort in their groin. For others it can feel like a burning sensation. In more severe cases it can feel like an electric shooting pain that is often referred to as “lighting crotch”. Commonly SPD is aggravated by movements that open the pelvis such as getting in and out of the car, rolling over in bed and performing a deep squat. Check out the section below about treating SPD at home to learn more about how you can make small changes to your daily movement patterns to reduce SPD pain.

How is symphysis pubis dysfunction treated?

At Untamed Wellness our chiropractor in Littleton, CO, approaches SPD with a collaborative mindset. Chiropractic adjustments by a webster certified chiropractor can help relieve symptoms of SPD. When the ligaments are more mobile it can create uneven movement patterns in the joints of the pelvis. Being assessed and treated with chiropractic care in pregnancy can help improve and balance movement patterns in the pelvis which can help relieve pain caused by SPD. It is also important to address the musculature that helps stabilize the pelvis. This is where a collaborative approach is beneficial as seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist can further improve pelvic balance and stability and help reduce symptoms of SPD.

How can I treat SPD at home?

As mentioned previously SPD can often be triggered by basic movements you are making every day. Movements such as getting in and out of the car, rolling over in bed and performing a squat can all lead to an increase in SPD pain. To prevent this try keeping your knees together when getting in and out of the car or rolling over in bed. When sleeping try to sleep with a pillow between your legs to maintain balance in the pelvis. As much as avoiding certain movements is not our style, this is one time where avoiding things such as deep squats and lunges is recommended.

It is also going to be super helpful to work on strengthening the muscles associated with the pelvis to improve pelvic stability. This is where seeing a professional (prenatal chiropractor and pelvic floor physical therapist) can be very helpful as they will give you exercises specific to your body to help improve pelvic stability and strength.

It can also be helpful to use a pelvic stability belt. Pregnancy belts that support your belly can be helpful to take stress off your low back but are not helpful in supporting the pelvis or reducing SPD pain. Using a belt like the serola belt will help to stabilize your pelvis, reduce excessive movement in the pelvis and reduce SPD pain. Serola belts are available for purchase on Amazon.

Can SPD cause long term issues?

The good news is symphysis pubis dysfunction is most often temporary. Symptoms can be relieved through proper treatment while pregnant and for most people will fully resolve when no longer pregnant. If you are still feeling symptoms of SPD after you have delivered, schedule an appointment with a postpartum chiropractor in Littleton, CO sooner than later. Postpartum care is equally as important as prenatal care as it is crucial to your long term health to heal fully from pregnancy and labor.


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