U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Clinical Trial Shows Benefit of Specialized Physical Therapy Regimen for Women with Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome

Results from a recent clinical trial suggest that a physical therapy regimen targeting muscle and connective tissue in the pelvic floor, hip, and abdominal areas could help improve symptoms in women with interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS). In addition to symptoms of pelvic pain, urinary frequency, and/or urinary urgency, many women diagnosed with IC/PBS exhibit tenderness and tension in the muscle and connective tissues surrounding the pelvic area. Previously, a pilot study comparing specialized pelvic floor myofascial physical therapy (MPT) to non-specific, whole-body therapeutic massage among women and men with IC/PBS (in women) or chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (in men) had indicated that pelvic MPT might be beneficial specifically for women with IC/PBS. Building on that study, researchers recruited 81 women with IC/ PBS of less than 3 years duration for a clinical trial to determine the benefit of pelvic MPT as compared to whole-body therapeutic massage. Participants were randomly assigned to receive up to 10 one-hour sessions of either treatment from a trained physical therapist over the course of 12 weeks. They were then asked to assess overall symptom improvement. Participants were also asked to rate outcomes for specific symptoms and issues related to their condition. The researchers found that, while both groups reported similar improvements in bladder pain, urinary urgency and frequency, and quality of life, 59 percent of the women in the pelvic MPT group reported that their overall symptoms had moderately or markedly improved compared to when they began treatment, versus only 26 percent in the whole-body therapeutic massage group. Neither group reported a serious adverse event during treatment. With these encouraging results in hand, researchers can now pursue questions such as the durability of treatment effects and which patients are most likely to benefit from treatment, as well as other questions that can help determine whether pelvic MPT could become a standard clinical treatment for women with IC/PBS.

FitzGerald MP, Payne CK, Lukacz ES, et al. Randomized multicenter clinical trial of myofascial physical therapy in women with interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome and pelvic floor tenderness. J Urol 187: 2113-2118, 2012.