When Interstitial Cystitis Pain Flares Up

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When your interstitial cystitis (IC) flares up, there's nothing you want more than for it to simmer down. Between the pain and the increased trips to the restroom, flares can seriously interfere with your life. Read on to learn more about what causes these symptoms and how you can return to life as usual.

Why am I experiencing a flare-up?

Sometimes, despite your best efforts to keep your symptoms at bay, you may experience a flare. Many women with IC find that symptoms get worse during their period, possibly because of hormonal fluctuations. Other causes include:

  • Stress

  • Wearing tight clothing that squeezes your waist or pelvic area

  • Traveling by car, bus, train, plane, and other types of transportation; the bouncing and vibrating motions can irritate the pelvic region

  • Recent sexual activity

Keeping a pain diary—in which you write down where you feel pain, what time of day it occurs, and what you were doing when it started—can help you and your doctor identify your IC triggers. Discovering what's causing your pain can help you avoid those triggers, as well as help your physician develop the best treatment plan for you.  

What can I do to feel better?

Fortunately, relief is in sight. And the sooner you treat the symptoms, the sooner they'll disappear. Allowing them to go on longer than a bad American Idol audition means that it'll only take longer to make them go away. As symptoms vary from person to person, so do treatments. Find out which of these work best for you, and try putting them into action at the first twinge of pain:

  • If your doctor prescribed medication to help manage a flare-up, be sure to take it.

  • Place a cold pack, heating pad, or hot water bottle directly on the perineum—the area between the anus and vagina in women and the area between the anus and base of the penis in men. You may find that you prefer hot over cold, or vice versa.

  • Fill the bathtub with a small amount of warm water with or without Epsom salts and sit in the tub. This is called a sitz bath.

  • Drink a glass of water mixed with one teaspoon of baking soda. This may help with burning sensations. But check with your physician first.

  • Remove any tight clothing that could be putting pressure on the painful area.

  • Drink extra water to dilute the concentration of your urine. This may help if your symptoms can be traced to something you ate.

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Talk with your doctor about which one may work best for you.

  • Lie on your back with knees spread or in a squatting position. Stretching may help relax tense pelvic muscles. 
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 May 13

  1. Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome, National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/interstitialcystitis/);

  2. Pain Diaries, Interstitial Association (http://www.ichelp.org/Page.aspx?pid=410);

  3. Pain, Interstitial Association (http://www.ichelp.org/Page.aspx?pid=821);

  4. IC Flares, Interstitial Association (http://www.ichelp.org/Page.aspx?pid=823);

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