The Anatomy of the Pubis

This large bone supports the hip and lower extremities

The pubis, also referred to as the pubic bone, is one of the three main bones that make up the pelvis. Also known as the pelvic girdle, the pelvis is a structure located between the abdomen and thighs.

The pubis is the most forward-facing bone of the pelvic bones. Together with the ilium and ischium, the pubis helps form the deep, cup-shaped structure of the pelvic girdle.

The main function of the pubis is to protect the urinary organs (like the bladder and prostate) as well as the internal sex organs. The pubis differs slightly in both form and function in those born female versus those born male.

This article describes the anatomy and function of the pubis, including the differences between the sexes. It also outlines some of the conditions that can affect the pubis and what is involved in a treatment and rehabilitation plan.

Anatomy of the Pubis

The pubis is located at the front of the body just below the abdomen. The pubis supports and protects the urinary and sexual organs of both sexes, including the bladder, uterus (womb), ovaries, prostate gland, and testes (testicles).

There are two halves to the pubis. Each one is made up of three sections:

  • Pubic body: This is the largest portion of the pubis. The body forms the wide, strong, middle, and flat part of the pubic bone.
  • Superior pubic ramus: This is one of two sections of bone that branch off the pubic body. The superior pubic ramus is the upper section that connects to both the wing-shaped ilium and the upper portion of the L-shaped ischium.
  • Inferior pubic ramus: This is the lower section of bone that branches off the public body. The inferior pubic ramus connects to the lower portion of the L-shaped ischium.

The right and left half of the pubis are connected by a piece of cartilage called the pubic symphysis. The pubic symphysis is semi-rigid and able to move by around 2 millimeters in most adults.

Variations in Structure and Function

The general structure of the pelvis as a whole differs depending on one's sex. The female pelvis is thinner and lighter, while the male pelvis is thicker and denser to support a heavier body build. The female pelvis is also wide and shallow compared to the male pelvis, which is more heart-shaped and narrow.

The variations in the structure of the pelvis are related to differences in the urinary and sexual organs of each sex. They also vary due to certain functions of the body.

With respect to the pubis, one of the main differences is seen in the pubic symphysis. In males, the pubic symphysis is where the suspensory ligament of the penis is attached to the pelvis. In females, the pubic symphysis, situated close to the clitoris, can expand to enable childbirth.

There are anatomical variations in the structure of the pelvis among females, some of which are more accommodating to childbirth than others. The variations may be classified as:

  • Gynecoid: This is the most common type of pelvis in females. It is more round, shallow, and open and is highly accommodating to childbirth.
  • Android: This type bears a closer resemblance to the male pelvis. It may be less accommodating to vaginal childbirth and more accommodating to a Cesarian section.
  • Anthropoid: This type of pelvis is narrow and deep with a shape similar to that of an egg. Vaginal birth is possible, but it may take longer than someone with a gynecoid pelvis.
  • Platypelloid: Also known as a flat pelvis, this is the least common type overall. It is wide but shallow, making it difficult for a baby to pass through the birth canal. Many females with a platypelloid pelvis require a C-section.

Functions of the Pubis

The main function of the pubis is to protect the urinary organ and internal sex organs. The pubis also joins the rear bones of the pelvic girdle, providing a stable junction between the trunk and the legs.

Together, the bones of the pelvic serve three major purposes:

  • To support and balance the trunk
  • To enable movement by transferring body weight to the lower limbs
  • To facilitate childbirth

The pubis itself also provides the attachment point for certain ligaments (tissue that connect bone to bone) and tendons (tissue that connects muscle to bone). This includes:

  • The inguinal falx, tendons that connect the muscles of the abdomen to those of the pelvis
  • The suspensory ligament, which attaches the base of the penis to the pelvis

In addition, the pubic symphysis has slight motion and functions as a shock absorber when walking or jumping.

Conditions Affecting the Pubis

There are several conditions that can affect the pubis, each of which requires a different treatment and rehabilitation plan.

Pelvic Fractures

As with any bone, the pubic bone can be fractured. When this occurs, a person cannot walk, sit, or move well without pain. Pelvic fractures are most often caused by a high-impact event like a car accident or falling from a significant height.

When the pubis is fractured, the bone must be immobilized to allow for complete healing. Because the pubic bone is difficult to immobilize, complete bed rest for several weeks is required. This includes the avoidance of unnecessary movements of the upper body and lower limbs.

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Aleve (naproxen) or Advil (ibuprofen) may be prescribed to relieve pain and inflammation. Some people may require stronger prescription opioid drugs.

After significant healing has occurred, crutches or other assistive devices will be used as part of the rehabilitation process. A physical therapist will often be recruited to direct the rehabilitation plan.

The plan will often involve manual (hands-on) therapy to improve muscle flexibility and increase mobility in the hips, spine, and pelvis. Exercises involving the hips and core muscles are often done following a pelvic fracture.

Osteitis Pubis

The pubis can also be affected by a condition called osteitis pubis. This is an inflammation of the pubic symphysis and other tissues attached to the pubis.

Osteitis pubis is mainly caused by repetitive stress. It tends to affect athletes and other people who are very physically active, including soccer players and long-distance runners. It can also occur after childbirth or pelvic surgery

Symptoms of osteitis pubis include pain in the groin or lower abdomen. There may also be pain and tenderness when pressure is applied to the pubic bone. The condition can be easily mistaken for menstrual cramps or a pulled muscle.

Osteitis pubis is treated with rest. In addition to over-the-counter NSAIDs, applying ice several times daily for 10 to 15 minutes can help ease the inflammation and pain.

The rehabilitation of osteitis pubis mainly involves exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting the pubis. These include the core muscle training of the traverse abdominal muscles (which wrap horizontally across the belly like a belt) and abductor muscle exercises that target the inner thighs.

Summary

The pubis is one of three major bones that make up the pelvis. It connects the upper wing-shaped bone (called the ilium) to the lower L-shape bone (called the ischium) to form the pelvic girdle.

The primary function of the pubis is to support and protect the urinary and internal sexual organs. There is a right and left pubic bone separated by a piece of cartilage called the pubic symphysis.

The pubis is vulnerable to fractures, usually caused by high-impact injuries. Athletes may also develop a condition called osteitis pubis in which the pubic bone becomes inflamed due to repetitive stress. Both conditions are treated with rest and often benefit from rehabilitation with a physical therapist.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where is the pubic bone?

    The pubic bone is the forward-facing bone in the center of the pelvis. Also known as the pubis, this bone forms the bottom of the pelvic girdle. Externally, you can feel your pubic bone at the bottom of the torso between your legs. 

  • What causes pain near the pubic bone?

    Pain near the pubic bone could be related to your digestive, reproductive, or urinary systems or may be due to connective tissue on the pelvic floor. Pain in the pubic area can be due to constipation, a urinary tract infection, or a sexually transmitted infection. 

    A painful pubic bone at the end of pregnancy or after childbirth can be from osteitis pubis. Caused by repetitive stress in the groin area, it is also common in soccer players and long-distance runners. 

  • What is behind the female pubic bone?

    In women, the bladder is directly behind the pubic bone. Behind the bladder are the uterus, Fallopian tubes, ovaries, and upper vagina. The rectum is in the back of the pelvis. 

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wobser AM, Wobser RW. Anatomy, abdomen and pelvis, bones (ilium, ischium, and pubis). In: StatPearls.

  2. Yax J, Cheng D. Osteomyelitis pubis: a rare and elusive diagnosisWest J Emerg Med. 2014;15(7):880–882. doi:10.5811/westjem.2014.8.13401

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