Interstitial cystitis (IC) or Bladder Pain Syndrome is an "unpleasant sensation (pain, pressure, discomfort) perceived to be related to the urinary bladder, associated with lower urinary tract symptoms of more than 6 weeks duration, in the absence of infection or other identifiable causes" (American Urological Association).
Symptoms can include mild to severe pain in the bladder and pelvic region, urinary frequency, and/or urinary urgency. Some individuals have pain without urinary frequency. Others have urinary frequency without pain. It can be challenging for some individuals to receive a definitive diagnosis due to the similarities of IC symptoms to other conditions, such as UTI and endometriosis. A delay in diagnosis may also occur due to a lack of IC awareness in the medical community. Unfortunately many patients have waited and suffered through numerous visits to emergency rooms and doctors before they attain the correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment options. Organizations like the Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA), Interstitial Cystitis Network (ICN), and American Urological Association (AUA) are more recently educating practitioners in the community to recognize the differential diagnosis of IC.
Symptoms and response to treatment vary from person to person. The ICA and AUA have acknowledged that IC/Bladder Pain Syndrome is best treated and managed using a multidisciplinary approach, due to the challenges of finding one treatment or medication that helps all patients. A multidisciplinary approach may involve a team of professionals including a urologist or urogynecologist, mental health practitioner, physical therapist, massage therapist, and acupuncturist or naturopathic doctor. The ICA recognizes acupuncture and herbal medicine as a treatment option for interstitial cystitis.
Interstitial Cystitis is not a bladder disease, it is a whole body imbalance manifesting in the bladder. This is the reason that many individuals with IC also have other problems such as digestive issues, chronic fatigue, frequent colds, chronic acne, frequent or chronic infections, and the list goes on. Chinese medicine and acupuncture excels in treating these ailments, because it focuses on the whole person, rather than just one part. We also treat the mind, which is an important component in chronic illness. In Chinese medicine, each organ system corresponds to a certain emotion. The Kidneys and Bladder are closely associated with fear, an emotion frequently experienced by individuals with chronic bladder pain. It's also common for men and women with IC to experience depression, irritability, and excessive worrying, which can exacerbate pain levels. Our approach to treating IC is to identify factors that are perpetuating the illness and correct imbalances according to the principles of Chinese medicine. The goal of treatment is to remove irritants and pathogens which suppress the immune system, open up and improve the circulation of blood and fluids, promote tissue repair, and reduce physical pain and emotional distress. If we are able to remove obstructions in the body's healing pathways, the body is more efficiently able to do what it is designed to do: return to a balanced state. A decrease in symptoms may be experienced after the first treatment, however many individuals require long-term treatment to achieve a deeper level of healing and experience lasting results. Individuals are given a supportive environment in which to discuss their physical and emotional concerns, which is often an important component in recovery.
If you are not currently seeing a doctor who is familiar with IC, we encourage you to locate an IC-friendly doctor near you for appropriate diagnosis. Invasive procedures should be avoided until gentler, safer options have been tried. For more information about complementary medicine for IC or to locate a practitioner who treats IC please visit the ICA or ICN.
Nikoo Saleh Kasmai, M.S., L.Ac. is a California Board Certified Acupuncturist and registered provider with the Interstitial Cystitis Association and the Interstitial Cystitis Network. She has a special interest in treating IC, and uses a comprehensive approach to treatment including: acupuncture, herbal medicine, specific dietary guidance that goes beyond "trigger foods", lifestyle recommendations, and relaxation techniques. Her goal is to help individuals find pain relief and achieve lasting results by addressing the underlying imbalances that sustain illness. She also encourages her patients to find a greater awareness of their bodies, and not just return to a comfortable life, but to a more balanced way of living. For more on Nikoo click here.
"I have Interstitial Cystitis and Nikoo was able to get me off all antibiotics. She used acupuncture and diet to ease my IC symptoms and I am currently symptom free after just 3 months. I enjoy every visit to Guest House Acupuncture and am impressed with Nikoo's calm, reassuring approach. She is extremely easy to talk to and takes the time to listen to all my concerns. I highly recommend Guest House Acupuncture."
"I started seeing Nikoo a couple years ago for interstitial cystitis. I've been to numerous doctors, gynecologists, and urologists over the years and no one has been able to help me. I've tried antibiotics, bladder procedures, and various natural remedies to no avail. The only thing that ever seemed to help me was the treatments that Nikoo offered me. Over the course of a year, she put me on a treatment plan that consisted of both diet and lifestyle changes, as well as acupuncture sessions. Although I still suffer from some IC related symptoms, it is still 10X better than before I started seeing Nikoo.
Nikoo is very friendly, easy to talk to, and is willing to go above-and-beyond to help you. I'd definitely recommend her to family and friends."