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  • Writer's pictureNicole Cozean

What is interstitial cystitis (IC) and how is it diagnosed?

Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a scary and incredibly misunderstood diagnosis. You may have also heard terms like ‘painful bladder syndrome’ or ‘bladder pain syndrome’ as well. We want to shed some light on what IC is, how it’s diagnosed and what you can do about it!

Definition of IC: Interstitial cystitis is defined by the presence of two symptoms in the absence of any other explanation (like a UTI or bladder cancer). It’s:

  1. Pain or pressure we perceive to be related to the bladder, and

  2. Urinary urgency or frequency

Finding Pelvic Sanity Podcast: What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Finding Pelvic Sanity Group - Have you joined Finding Pelvic Sanity yet? It's a totally free, supportive online group of 5,000+ members dealing with pelvic floor dysfunction. It's moderated by the team at PelvicSanity, so you'll know you're getting great information a positive environment. Make sure to join here


Symptoms of IC: In addition to the hallmark symptoms of bladder pain and urinary urgency/frequency, people often have other related issues.

These can include painful intercourse, low back pain, having to go to the bathroom at night (nocturia), pain with sitting or exercise, constipation and other pelvic health symptoms. Everyone is different with how they present.

Do I really have interstitial cystitis?

IC is a diagnosis of exclusion, which means it’s only diagnosed by ruling out other things (like bladder cancer or a UTI). There’s no test that can confirm you have IC (including a cystoscopy). If you have the symptoms above - pelvic pain perceived to be related to the bladder and urinary urgency/frequency - you can be diagnosed with IC just by the symptoms. Importantly, the IC diagnosis doesn’t tell you anything about WHY you have the symptoms or WHAT the best treatment option will be for you!

Physical Therapy for Interstitial Cystitis

The muscles and nerves of the pelvic floor can be responsible for every symptom of IC. They can cause the bladder pain and urinary symptoms. They are also the cause of seemingly unrelated symptoms like painful intercourse, low back pain, hip pain or constipation. It’s the reason symptoms are often worse when sitting or after strenuous exercise, and why they can get better after gentle stretching or a warm bath.

Physical therapy is the highest recommended treatment (Grade ‘A’) by the American Urological Association. It’s literally the first recommendation you should get from a urologist when IC is suspected. Unfortunately, many urologists aren’t aware of their own organization’s guidelines and don’t routinely refer to physical therapy, so you may have to find it yourself.

Finding Pelvic Sanity Podcast: What is Interstitial Cystitis?

As Nicole said in the full 'sode of the podcast on this topic...

"IC is technically a description of your symptoms. It tells you nothing about the underlying reasons for what is happening or how to get better. But you absolutely can live a healthy, happy and pain-free life after an IC diagnosis!" -Nicole Cozean, Pelvic Sanity

We hope this gives you a good overview of the condition, and we want to leave you with the first lines of The IC Solution (link): “Thousands of people with IC live healthy, happy and pain-free lives - and so can you!” Check out The IC Solution and The IC Roadmap Course!

If you’re dealing with pelvic health issues, make sure you join our free FB support group (Finding Pelvic Sanity), follow us for more information on Instagram (@pelvicsanity) and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify for wherever you get your podcasts!


Who are we at PelvicSanity?

At PelvicSanity, it's our mission to support patients with pelvic pain and pelvic floor symptoms, regardless of where you live. We can help with:

- In-person treatment for those in Southern California at the PelvicSanity clinic

- Immersive Out-of-Town program for those able to travel

- Remote Consultations to get you expert 1:1 help, advice and an action plan

- Online patient courses on Interstitial Cystitis and Movement for Pelvic Health

- A Facebook support group for patients called Finding Pelvic Sanity.


Nicole Cozean

Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity Physical Therapy in Orange County, CA. PelvicSanity treats patients from all over the world with remote consultations and the Immersive Out of Town Program. She also runs Pelvic PT Rising, training other pelvic PTs to better serve patients.

Named Physical Therapist of the Year, Dr. Nicole is author of the award-winning book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Her passion is helping those with pelvic health issues - regardless of where they live - find lasting relief.

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