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What is bladder pain syndrome (interstitial cystitis)?

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Let's begin with a brief overview of the bladder's anatomy and function. The bladder is a muscular organ that receives filtered urine from the kidneys. As it fills, the bladder wall stretches, sending signals to the brain, informing it the bladder is full and prompting the urge to urinate when appropriate.

Bladder Pain Syndrome (BPS/IC) involves bladder hypersensitivity, leading to symptoms like urgency, frequency, and pelvic pain without any infection. Severe cases may lead individuals to visit the toilet over 40 times a day. BPS is a complex pain condition that affects the bladder, pelvic floor, and nervous system.

BPS is more common in women than in men, with an estimated 1.2 million Australians living with this condition. It is often associated with negative cognitive, behavioral, sexual, or emotional consequences, leading to a reduced quality of life.

What are symptoms of Bladder Pain Syndrome/ Interstitial Cystitis?

Symptoms can vary among individuals and may include:

  • Suprapubic pain (pain above the pubic bone)

  • Bladder pain and pressure with filling, that persists after urination

  • Burning sensation during urination

  • Increased urgency and frequency to urinate

  • Vulva pain (vulvodynia)

  • Phantom UTIs

  • Generalized back, hip, and pelvic pain

  • Dyspareunia (painful intercourse)

What causes bladder pain syndrome/ interstitial cystitis?

The exact cause of BPS/IC is still debated, and there is no consensus. Some believe it may be related to Hunner's lesions, a dysfunction in the bladder lining; however, these lesions are only present in 10% of individuals with BPS.

One significant finding is that 87% of those with BPS/IC have overactive and tight pelvic floor muscles. Releasing these muscles can help the bladder function optimally and relieve some symptoms. Additionally, the bladder may become up-regulated and easily irritated after experiencing three urinary tract infections (UTIs).

How do we treat bladder pain syndrome / interstitial cystitis?

According to the American Urology Association, pelvic floor therapy is the primary treatment for BPS/IC.

Our osteopaths are trained in pelvic health and have undergone extensive training in BPS/IC, learning from leading experts in the field. Our approach to treatment is multi-dimensional and includes internal and external myofascial release of the pelvic floor muscles and the fascia supporting the urethra and bladder.

Education on breathing, yoga, hip and spine movement practices, and meditation is provided, along with self-care and self-compassion practices. Our comprehensive understanding of the anatomy and fascial connections impacting the bladder and pelvic floor muscles allow us to address the condition effectively.


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