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What is Painful Bladder Syndrome?

Painful bladder syndrome, also known as interstitial cystitis, is a condition characterized by chronic pelvic pain, an increased urge to urinate throughout the day, difficulty sitting for long periods of time, and pressure and discomfort related to the bladder. It tends to be more common in women. Pain is usually present above the pubic bone, in the vulva, or even the low back and abdomen. There could be many factors that contribute to painful bladder syndrome, such as previous surgery in the pelvic region or infection. 

The pelvic floor is made up of 3 layers of muscles that support our pelvic organs. They contract when the bladder is filling with urine and relax to allow emptying or voiding. The most superficial layers close the urethra and the deepest layer supports the bladder in the pelvic bowl. In painful bladder syndrome, tightness of these muscles can irritate the bladder. Over time, this will lead to altered signals from the bladder to the brain, triggering the need to urinate when the bladder is only partially full. 

How can pelvic floor therapy help? 

Pelvic floor therapy incorporates different types of treatment strategies to treat the pelvic floor muscles directly, reduce the irritation on the bladder, and adopt better voiding habits:

  • massage and trigger point release internally and externally 
  • dietary changes to avoid bladder irritants, such as alcohol, spicy foods, citrus, and caffeine
  • recording food/fluid intake and frequency/ amount of voiding daily 
  • bladder training 
  • increase water intake 
  • targeted stretches and exercises 
  • stress reduction 
  • posture training 

It is important to keep in mind that there are many factors that can contribute to and exacerbate your pelvic symptoms. Being consistent with your pelvic floor therapy program and being mindful of diet and daily stress can help you manage your pain. 


Reach me if I can answer any questions on physical therapy, serving you locally in New York City or anywhere online virtually through “telehealth“.

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Pelvic floor disorders impact 1 in 3 women and many are surprised to learn pelvic floor physical therapy doesn’t only deal with the pelvic floor. Because our pelvic floors connect to so many other muscles and joints, it can affect many other parts of the body as well. Hence that hip or lower back pain may actually be due to pelvic floor dysfunction.  The good news—pelvic floor dysfunction is not considered a normal part of aging and can be treated successfully. Subscribe and receive my tips along with insights on the latest advancements on physical therapy including pelvic health.

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