Bladder Pain Syndrome (BPS) previously only known as Interstitial Cystitis (IC) can be a debilitating and chronic condition causing multiple symptoms in the urinary tract system. Sufferers often describe it as feeling like a bladder or kidney infection, with frequency, and urgency of the bladder being experienced, including at night which is known as nocturia. Symptoms can include stinging or burning when emptying your bladder and pain with sexual intercourse and/or pelvic pain.

Bladder Pain Syndrome is not exclusive to women and men can also suffer. In men, it is often grouped with another condition called Chronic Prostatitis (CP) or Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS).

For both men and women, it can often be mistaken for an Overactive Bladder (OAB) which is a condition where frequent and sudden urges to urinate come on and may be difficult to control. This condition may be associated with accidental loss of urine. Recurrent Urinary Tract infections may also mimic BPS.

Sadly, a lot of women consider these normal if they have suffered UTIs all their life. Recurrent might only be one or two a year whereas chronic urinary tract infections (CUTIs) have now been recognised this year by the NHS as a condition. This is where the infection does not go away but the symptoms might abate at times. 

It is very important to get assessed by your GP to rule out infection and or other causes and conditions. Other conditions that can be associated with BPS or run concurrently are Vulvadynia and Vaginismus. The prior meaning is pain around the vulva (entrance of the vagina) with clothing, pressure on sitting, or touch. The latter means pain and tension in the pelvic floor muscles on attempting sexual intercourse or even digital penetration.

What starts as BPS could lead to Vaginismus or vice versa as the body and brain get out of sync and messages get confused between the brain and the pelvis as the body always seeks to protect a painful body part.

Once an infection has been ruled out, pelvic floor physiotherapy can be a really positive part of your regime treatment.

A specialist physiotherapist can:

  • Help you understand what bladder pain syndrome is and how it is presenting your particular case.
  • Help you identify your triggers. These may include dietary, physical, or mental triggers.
  • Teach you how to manage or resolve your symptoms with tools such as brain retraining, bladder retraining, and pelvic floor rehabilitation.
  • Every patient who presents will have a unique history. Your age, sex, parity, and general health and wellbeing can all affect your outcomes.

BPS affects 400,000 people in the UK and 90% of sufferers are women in their 50’s and 60’s. In this age group, perimenopause and menopause come into play, hormonal issues or changes can affect this condition or make it more difficult to diagnose. Interestingly only 10% of every 10,000 sufferers have true inflammation of the bladder. (Characterized by Hunner’s Lesions). The now outdated belief that this was a much higher figure meant that sufferers were often sent down the invasive medical route involving bladder instillations, botox injections, and medication.

We offer treatment for BPS at Body Balance Physiotherapy. Vivienne Bartley, Owner of Body Balance Physiotherapy, is a ‘Bladder Hero’ and has trained with Specialist Pelvic Pain Physiotherapist Jilly Bond. Jilly keeps Bladder Heroes up to date with the latest clinical research on BPS and offers mentorship for any difficult cases.

If you have a friend or family member suffering from Bladder Pain Syndrome please seek the help that is available. Don’t let an unhappy bladder rule your life.

Words by Vivienne Bartley.