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As our understanding of bladder pain has improved, the names for this condition have also changed to Bladder Pain Syndrome/Interstitial Cystitis. While many people still use the term “interstitial cystitis,” we now use the term “bladder pain syndrome” to describe most cases of bladder pain.

Bladder Pain Syndrome/Interstitial Cystitis is defined as:

  • Pain, pressure, discomfort in the area above the pubic bone related to bladder filling
  • Associated with urinary urgency and frequency
  • Chronic (has been present for over 3 months)
  • Not explained by an infection or other diagnosed problem

Who gets Bladder Pain Syndrome/Interstitial Cystitis?

What causes it?

  • There is no single cause of Bladder Pain Syndrome/Interstitial Cystitis. It is a complex diagnosis with many contributing factors.
  • Research has shown that some people with BPS/IC have lesions on the bladder lining as shown by bladder imaging, but many don’t. Patients do not need imaging for a BPS/IC diagnosis, but it may be helpful for some. 
  • People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, vulvar pain, anxiety, and depression are more likely than others to have Bladder Pain Syndrome/Interstitial Cystitis. Researchers believe that a common set of factors contribute to all of these diagnoses.


  • There is currently no cure for Bladder Pain Syndrome/Interstitial Cystitis. The best management strategy is multidisciplinary. This includes using medication, getting mental health support, and making lifestyle changes that reduce chronic pain.
  • Urologists and urogynecologists are the experts in medications. Medications for BPS/IC are prescribed to reduce pain and improve bladder tissue health. There is no single gold standard treatment for everyone, so many people need to experiment with medication.

How can physical therapy help?

  • Pelvic physical therapy can be powerful for chronic pain management! We can work with you to identify and manage diet, sleep, stress coping, and activity. Additionally, we can teach you how to take advantage of the pain relieving effects of exercise, and understand your triggers to minimize flare ups. Ultimately, our goal at Agile pelvic PT is to help you be as independent as possible and take control of your diagnosis. 
  • To begin, a bladder diary can be helpful in identifying contributions to bladder pain. Many people with BPS/IC find that limiting bladder irritants is a good way to reduce their pain.

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