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UTI, Interstitial Cystitis, or Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

By: Caroline Hodges, PTA, Pelvic Floor & Orthopedic Therapist at The Green Room

Do you have UTI-like symptoms but keep testing negative for any infection, pelvic pain or pressure, urinary urgency & frequency, or pain with intercourse? Do you find yourself looking up your symptoms on Google trying to make sense of your pain and find things, like “urinary tract infection,” “sexually transmitted disease,” and “bladder cancer?” Don’t scare yourself with a quick Google search! Your symptoms may be a result of pelvic floor dysfunction and/or interstitial cystitis.

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition causing bladder pressure, bladder pain and often pelvic pain, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain. The condition is a part of a spectrum of diseases known as painful bladder syndrome. 

Your bladder is a hollow, muscular organ that stores urine. It expands until it's full and then signals your brain that it's time to urinate, communicating through the pelvic nerves, creating the urge to urinate for most people. With interstitial cystitis, these signals get mixed up — you feel the need to urinate more often and with smaller volumes of urine than most people. 

This condition is diagnosed by exclusion, meaning other diagnosis must be ruled out before a physician will make this diagnosis. The cause of IC is not definitive and ranges from genetic predisposition to an auto-immune response. It’s commonly thought that IC is JUST a bladder problem that is treated with extreme diet changes, medication, and sacral modulators, however, this is not the full picture. 

Interstitial cystitis is a complex condition that involves the bladder (surrounded by the detrusor muscle), the pelvic floor musculature, and the nervous system. A natural, proven effective treatment is pelvic floor physical therapy. 

The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that make the floor of the pelvis, supporting the bladder, rectum, and for some people, the vaginal canal. They provide core and organ support, aid in lymphatic drainage and circulation, stabilize movement, sexual function, and contribute to bowel and bladder function. Because one of the major symptoms of IC is frequent urination or “overactive bladder,” they overwork the pelvic floor muscles and train the bladder to empty at a smaller capacity, which causes the musculature to tighten around it. Tight, restricted muscles, decrease pelvic floor mobility. Because these muscles also attach to the pelvis and tailbone, tense muscles restrict mobility of the tailbone and hips, creating pain locally, and further into the back, genitals, and inner thighs. 

According to the American Urological Association, pelvic floor therapy can address this dysfunction and relieve this dysfunction in roughly 70% of patients. Regardless of your diagnosis, the pelvic floor musculature is affected with each of these conditions and can be treated conservatively with pelvic floor rehab. Our practice will help to educate you on things you can do yourself to maintain improved mobility so that you have significantly more control over your body and pain management tactics for sustained progress, improving your quality of life!"

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