Interstitial Cystitis (Painful Bladder Syndrome)

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy improves Interstitial Cystitis symptoms.

Many patients with interstitial cystitis (IC) and their physicians are turning to physical therapy to help ease IC symptoms and pain. This kind of therapy is especially helpful if the patient has pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD), and it has been found that 87% of IC patients have PFD (1). The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that attaches to the front, back, and sides of the pelvis and to the tailbone and sacrum. These muscles support the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus or prostate, and rectum, and wrap around the urethra, vagina (in women), and rectum. Coordinated contraction and relaxation of these muscles helps control bladder and bowel function.

Pain during intercourse, also known as dysparuenia, is very common. Get treated at Sarton Physical Therapy.

Many of the urinary, bowel, or sexual symptoms that patients with Interstitial Cystitis experience can be signs of pelvic floor dysfunction, including:

  • Urinary urgency, frequency, hesitancy, stopping and starting, or incomplete emptying

  • Painful urination

  • Constipation, straining, or pain with bowel movements

  • Unexplained pain in the lower back, pelvic region, genital area, or rectum

  • Pain during or after intercourse or orgasm


How does Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Help?

Studies have demonstrated the benefit of physical therapy for tight and tender pelvic muscles associated with IC. One study reported that 70 percent of IC patients who were treated with manual physical therapy to the pelvic floor for 12 to 15 visits experienced moderate to marked improvement (1).

In patients who have IC or other pelvic pain conditions, the pelvic floor muscles may be tight or in spasm, have a combination of tightness and weakness, or have pain-triggering spots or knots called “trigger points” (any spot in the patient’s skeletal muscle or fascia that causes pain not related to inflammation or injury). Pain referred from internal organs, such as the bladder, may set off these muscle problems, but the muscle problems themselves can also contribute to bladder symptoms. A viscerosomatic reflex is also a contributing cause of pelvic floor muscle spasm. Pain can be referred to the skin and other muscles in the lower abdomen, lower back, buttocks, thighs, and perineal area. Pain there can then refer back to the internal organs, contributing to the symptoms. Physical therapy is an effective and research supported way to help ease pain and bladder symptoms associated with IC. The physical therapists at Sarton Physical Therapy are specially trained in the techniques that help IC and pelvic pain patients.

Our therapists will perform an evaluation which will determine the patient’s major complaint in addition to determining if there is a PFD link to their IC symptoms. The therapist will then inspect the biomechanical and structural causes of their IC or PFD such as muscle imbalances and joint misalignment. Our team will then develop an individualized treatment plan which may include: internal and external manual therapy such as myofascial release, nerve gliding/tension release and visceral manipulation as well as biofeedback. The goals of our treatment include diminishing trigger points, reducing viscerosomatic relfex, lengthening the pelvic floor muscles, eliminating connective tissue restrictions, and reducing neural tension caused by physiological or mechanical abnormalities such as tight muscles or narrow nerve paths. To help our patients heal faster, we employ cutting-edge modalities such as warm laser therapy and teach them pain-reduction strategies as well as self treatment techniques. To ensure the best results, the therapists at Sarton Physical Therapy always spend an hour with each patient during every appointment.

Let our expert Physical Therapists with advanced board certification in pelvic floor physical therapy help. Please contact Sarton Physical Therapy with any questions or to have your patients schedule an appointment. 


(1) Han, Esther et al. “Current Best Practice Management of Interstitial Cystitis/bladder Pain Syndrome.” Therapeutic Advances in Urology 10.7 (2018): 197–211. PMC.