Meditate? To help relieve physical IC pain? You must be joking!
Many patients with IC begin their journey by being told that their condition is 'all in their head', so it's no surprise that there might be some resistance to a mental approach to treatment. However, even though the condition is real and physical, reducing stress can be a key component in treating chronic pain conditions like IC. The IC Guidelines from the American Urological Association even put stress relief in the first line of treatments for the condition.
Multiple studies have shown the benefits of meditation and stress relief; in fact, on our intake forms at PelvicSanity, we specifically ask patients what they do to relieve stress in their daily lives - it's that important!
Researchers have proven that meditation is able to reduce acute pain, relieve anxiety and stress, and help focus on the present moment.
Meditation for Interstitial Cystitis
Having already been proven in other chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, researchers recently evaluated meditation specifically for interstitial cystitis. In addition to their normal IC treatments, participants went through an 8-week meditation program. Once a week, they would attend a 2-hour meditation class, and were given at-home tapes to listen to if they chose to do additional meditation. The results were striking:
86% of those who meditated felt more empowered to control their own IC journey!
Nearly 9 of 10 patients reported improvement in their symptoms over the 8-week course, as compared to only 1 in 3 of non-meditating patients
Patients who meditated scored significantly lower on a 'problem index;' a measure of how much their symptoms bothered them on a daily basis.
This was after only two months, and the equivalent of just 17 minutes per day spent in meditation - in our busy, stressful world, perhaps we're too busy not to meditate!
Some patients can be discouraged or intimidated by how exotic meditation may appear, but it's not just for mountaintop monasteries anymore. Even the Marines are now meditating to improve mental resiliency and performance. It can be as simply as doing a few quick breathing exercises throughout the day. We also encourage our patients with IC to meditate as they do their stretching exercises, either in yoga or using the PelvicSanity Stretching Regimen to help relax the pelvic floor.
Meditation carries so many benefits for all of us, and can be an important, easy, inexpensive part of a holistic treatment plan for interstitial cystitis.
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity physical therapy, Orange County's premier pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. One of only 270 PTs to be board-certified in the pelvic floor, and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Nicole is the author of the acclaimed and best-selling book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution (2016). She is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Chapman University. The PelvicSanity blog focuses on presenting practical, positive information to help patients beyond the walls of Nicole's clinic.