Millions of men and women suffer from pain and decrease in daily activities because of pain associated with interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS). According to the sources compiled by the IC Network, about 3.2–7.9 million women and 1–4 million men have symptoms of IC in the United States alone. As with other complex medical conditions, bladder pain is frequently under-diagnosed and can take an emotional, physical, and financial toll on quality of life.

What is interstitial cystitis?

The American Urology Association defines IC/BPS as “An unpleasant sensation (pain, pressure, discomfort) perceived to be related to the urinary bladder, associated with lower urinary tract symptoms of more than six weeks duration, in the absence of infection or other identifiable causes.” Symptoms include pain (in the urethra, vulva, penis, and/or abdomen), urinary urgency, urinary frequency, pain with sexual activity or other activities of daily living. These symptoms are in the absence of an infection.

How is it treated?

Treatment options for IC/BPS include pain management, physical therapy, hormonal treatment, medicine, and surgery. Manual physical therapy for the pelvic floor muscles, abdomen and viscera can help free the restricted tissues and decrease secondary muscle tightness.  For those seeking ways to decrease symptoms on their own, yoga can be an effective and complementary option to clinical treatment.

Why yoga for IC/BPS?

The American Urological Association recommends stress management techniques in the first line of defense. Manual physical therapy is listed in the second line of defense.

Breathing, centering and awareness techniques offered through yoga help reduce stress, and consequently, increase function. Certain yoga poses and flows help calm the sympathetic nervous system. Using yoga as an aspect of a holistic treatment plan for IC/BPS allows you to have a tool that is safe, portable, and effective in improving quality of life.

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Note: As with any exercise program, please consult the appropriate medical provider. Some precautions and contraindications to specific yoga postures include uncontrolled high or low blood pressure, second and third trimester of pregnancy, recent surgery, etc.