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Pelvic girdle pain, also referred to as PGP and sometimes symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), involves pain, discomfort, and even immobility of the pelvic girdle, also known as the bony pelvis. The bony pelvis is comprised of three bones: the ilium, the ischium, and the pubis. Pelvic girdle pain is most often associated during or immediately after pregnancy, though it is not unheard of for a patient to have pelvic girdle pain as a result of injury or trauma.
Pain is the primary symptom of PGP. It may be most notable in the joints of the pelvis, often affecting the pubic bone in front, but felt in the lower back as well. Other symptoms include difficulty and pain or discomfort when walking, difficulty with mobility such as sitting, standing, or twisting at the waist. In the case of SPD, the pain is believed to be caused by loosening or detachment or the ligaments surrounding the pelvic region.
Pelvic girdle pain is most often considered a symptom of the physiological changes that take place during pregnancy. The pelvis bears the weight of a growing fetus for enough time that the pressure causes pain and discomfort. Mild to moderate pain and discomfort can be expected, but severe or debilitating pain that interferes with daily activity should be addressed by a doctor.
Due to the frequency of pelvic girdle pain with pregnancy, the treating obstetrician may provide a treatment plan that includes a combination of rest and physical therapy activities to help strengthen the core pelvic joints and muscles. Treating this pain post-partum may also include osteopathy. Chiropractors who are familiar with this condition may also provide treatment options for PGP in male, elderly, and post-partum patients.
Since the exact physiological cause of PGP is both varied and unclear from a diagnostic standpoint, treatment for relief of pain should be individualized. For non-pregnant females, a doctor may rule out primary causes of pain, including pelvic inflammatory disease and other sexually transmitted diseases that may cause pelvic pain. If no underlying cause is found, treatment may consist of a combination of physical therapy, prescription medication, and osteopathy. The treatment approach is as varied as the individual symptoms and causes.
Pregnant women experiencing the symptoms of pelvic girdle pain should talk to their obstetrician or midwife, while other patients may want to discuss their symptoms with their family doctor, chiropractor, or an orthopedic specialist. Non-impact exercise and stretching, such as those exercises associated with yoga are believed to provide some relief for this type of pain. Pregnant women should seek the advice of their obstetrician or midwife before engaging in any new exercise program.