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Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder

Stomach Ache

What is it?

Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic condition characterized by bladder pain, pressure, and discomfort, as well as urinary frequency and urgency. It is a type of bladder inflammation that can cause pelvic pain and discomfort that can range from mild to severe. The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is not known, but it is believed to be related to abnormalities in the bladder lining or the way the bladder muscles function. It may also be associated with the immune system, genetics, or an autoimmune disorder.

Symptoms of interstitial cystitis can vary widely from person to person and may include frequent urination, painful urination, pain in the lower abdomen or pelvic area, pain during sexual intercourse, and a feeling of pressure or discomfort in the bladder area. Some women with interstitial cystitis may also experience fatigue, depression, or anxiety. While there is currently no known cure for endometriosis, there are treatments available to help you manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

How Does Physical Therapy Help?

The chronic pain associated with IC can cause the pelvic floor muscles and surrounding areas to become tight or weakened, which can worsen bladder symptoms and lead to dysfunction in many other areas such as the abdomen and low back. At WWPT, we consider the system comprehensively and recognize that the pain in your left shoulder can absolutely be related to dysfunction in your right hip (as a basic example). Our assessment and treatment approaches value movement function as a whole, not as individual parts. 

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy is a specialization that involves total-body assessment and employment of manual therapies, therapeutic modalities, corrective exercises, breathing techniques, pain neuroscience education, lifestyle/behavior medicine, and basic nutrition advice to address symptoms in the abdomen, back, hips, and pelvic region. It can be helpful for women with IC by relieving pain, re-training and improving bladder function, increasing overall pelvic stability, empowering the woman with self-treatment techniques and education, and increasing her quality of life by assisting her to return to function and daily movement in a pain-free way. ​

In particular, evidence supports that a combined modality treatment approach involving Dry Needling with specific electrical stimulation of the tibial nerve (known as PTNS or Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation) in addition to therapeutic ultrasound of the lower abdominal wall help to dramatically improve symptoms. This of course, is not a "fix", but does provide a window of relief for women during and after her treatment sessions so she may better tolerate Physical Therapy and her extremely important home program in order to make progress toward her therapy goals.

Learn more about PTNS in our blog post!



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