Interstitial cystitis, or IC, is a bladder condition involving multiple symptoms, including chronic pelvic pain, pressure, discomfort in the bladder and pelvic regions, and urinary frequency and urgency. Interstitial cystitis is also commonly referred to as painful bladder syndrome (PBS), bladder pain syndrome (BPS), and chronic pelvic pain.
Between persistent bladder pain, frequent trips to the bathroom, and sleeplessness due to constant nighttime urination, living with IC can be a nightmare. Receiving a diagnosis of IC can feel overwhelming, and physical and mental stress can lead to painful flares. If the painful symptoms of IC are affecting your ability to function in day-to-day life, here are some tips to help you cope.
Find the Right Doctor
Your choice of doctor can significantly influence your ability to effectively live with and manage a chronic illness like interstitial cystitis. In most cases, your primary care physician will refer you to a specialist specializing in IC, such as a urologist, gynecologist, or urogynecologist.
During your search for the right doctor, look for a doctor with experience taking care of IC patients. Remember that it’s normal to meet with multiple doctors, as it’s important to find a doctor that you feel comfortable discussing personal issues with, including sexual relationships and urination problems.
After finding the right doctor, you can start working with your doctor to create a comprehensive treatment plan. Make sure to choose a doctor with your best interests in mind—your doctor should be willing to discuss your treatment options and help you make informed decisions throughout the treatment process. Depending on your situation, consider asking your doctor to help you incorporate psychological support, pain management, physical therapy, and stress management into your treatment plan.
Build a Social Support Group
Because dealing with the painful symptoms of IC can make it difficult to function in day-to-day life, depression and anxiety are common among IC patients. Surrounding yourself with the support of close friends and family can help you avoid social isolation and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
If you’re struggling with anxiety and depression, seeking professional help can improve your quality of life. The expert DC therapists at the Therapy Group of DC can help you learn healthy ways to cope with your tension, fatigue, panic, and inability to relax due to the symptoms of IC. With the help of personalized, data-driven talk therapy treatments, you can learn effective ways to manage stress and start feeling like yourself again.
In addition to reaching out for professional support, try joining an online or in-person interstitial cystitis support group. There are numerous regularly meeting IC support groups throughout the United States and around the world, and joining a support group is a great way to swap strategies for coping with the painful symptoms of IC. To find a support group near you, ask your doctor for recommendations or visit the Interstitial Cystitis Association’s support group page.
When you’re dealing with chronic pain, exercising is the last thing on your mind. However, incorporating gentle physical activity into your daily routine can help relieve stress and release endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. During your physical activity, make sure not to place pressure on the bladder, as high-intensity, vigorous exercise can worsen the symptoms of IC.
If you’re not sure how to incorporate physical activity into your routine, try taking a long walk, joining a yoga class, or trying water aerobics. Swimming and water aerobics are ideal for patients with IC, as the bladder feels supported due to the pressure of water. After swimming, be sure to shower as soon as possible to remove chlorine, which can sometimes lead to irritation. Meanwhile, yoga, pilates, and tai chi can help stretch tight pelvic muscles while relieving mental stress.
Living with interstitial cystitis can be physically and mentally draining, and painful symptoms can take control of every aspect of your life. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the pain of IC, finding the right doctor, surrounding yourself with social support, and exercising can help you feel better.