Osteitis pubis is an acute or chronic injury to the small joint in the middle of the pelvis, known as the pubic symphysis. The condition is most commonly seen in athletes who play contact sports, though it can also afflict pregnant women and elderly people with weakened joints. An inflamed pubic symphysis is likely to cause local tenderness and painful twinges that radiate throughout the groin and abdominal region. In most cases, osteitis pubis can be overcome in about three months with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and follow-up physical therapy. Severe injuries may require surgery to repair badly damaged joints.
The pubic symphysis is a narrow, cartilage-filled joint that helps stabilize the pelvis during activity. The joint can become acutely inflamed if the pelvis suffers a direct blow, or it can gradually deteriorate as the result of frequent overuse. Football, hockey, and rugby players are especially prone to direct injuries due to high-impact tackles and falls. Athletes who engage in sports where intense running, jumping, kicking, and stopping are common are at the highest risk of developing chronic osteitis pubis.
Common symptoms of osteitis pubis include swelling and tenderness in the groin region. Sharp, shooting pains and dull aches envelop the abdomen, groin, and genitals. An athlete who is developing a chronic condition is likely to notice worsening pain during and after physical activity. In serious cases, symptoms can be severe enough to make it very uncomfortable or impossible to walk. Even mild pains should be reported to a physician or trainer so a proper diagnosis can be made.
A doctor who suspects osteitis pubis can perform a series of diagnostic imaging tests to check for signs of pubis symphysis inflammation. Magnetic resonance imaging and computerized tomography scans are also used to make sure the surrounding bones, ligaments, and pieces of cartilage tissue are not damaged. Blood tests may be performed to rule out viral infections and other possible causes of inflammation.
Mild instances of osteitis pubis can usually be relieved by avoiding physical activity for several days, icing the joint regularly, and taking anti-inflammatory drugs. A doctor may inject a corticosteroid solution directly into the pubic symphysis if pain is debilitating. Once the joint starts feeling better, a patient can engage in light stretching and strengthening exercises to complete the recovery phase. Surgery is reserved for recurring or especially serious cases of osteitis pubis. A patient who does undergo an operation can expect to spend several months in physical therapy before he or she can return to normal activity.