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The Right Exercise, Therapy and Body Support for IC

When I first experienced IC I couldn't believe how quickly my body changed. I could no longer teach my exercise routine and I had to give up my practice in movement and muscle re-education. However, I felt lucky because I knew what to do for myself.

I changed my exercise routine into a gentle stretching routine to encourage length in my muscles and increase my range of motion, which had severely decreased. I learned that I got into trouble if I held a stretch too long, and I learned what stretch positions I could no longer use.

I realized that not only had my postural muscles become short, but they had also become very weak. Knowing that short muscles were more susceptible to trigger points, and that stretching weak muscles could lead to injury, I began experimenting with strengthening exercises. It took a while, but I found a balanced routine that helped me to reclaim comfort in my body.

Not only am I able to manage the pain pattern of IC in my body, but I also benefit from the effects exercise has on my mind. I think IC patients sometimes forget about the stress we live with. We worry about appointments and commitments, new doctor visits, where bathrooms are, and much more. Gentle exercise is great stress management.

Although exercise for the IC patient is a bit like playing the child's game "Mother May I," and there are times when we cannot exercise, it's very important not to give up. Even one day a week can release tension and encourage length in our muscles. As much as I don't feel like exercising at times, I feel such a great relief and sense of wellness after exercise.

Exercise in general promotes mood-lifting hormones that fight pain. Exercise promotes deep breathing, increases circulation, aids digestion and elimination, and helps us to sleep better. Exercise also gives us a "sense of control' over our bodies, self-esteem and confidence, which is taken away by IC. I encourage all IC patients to fit gentle exercise into their life styles.

Some IC patients need myofascial and trigger point therapy to stretch their muscles, and release their trigger points before they can routinely exercise. In our April and June columns of 2002 we covered different trigger points that affect IC patients. We had a strong response from patients, so we are showing three other very important trigger point areas that may need therapy.

Trigger Points in the Abdominal Muscles

The rectus abdominus is the central abdominal muscle that attaches the lower ribs to the pubic bone. The abdominal obliques are the muscles on the sides of the abdomen that attach to the ribs, the rectus abdominus, and the crest of the pelvis. Trigger points in these muscles can create external pain, pain in the organs (including the sexual organs), pain in the back, bladder spasms, bloating, and swelling. Since IC can cause the trigger points in the first place, this problem can become a vicious cycle.

Trigger Points in the Adductors

The three muscles, adductor longus, adductor brevis and adductor magnus, on the inside of the thigh, are called the adductors. They attach the pubic bone to the thighbone. The adductors pull inward, flex and laterally rotate the thigh at the hip joint, and are usually very weak in IC patients.

When there are trigger points in the adductor longus and brevis one can experience stiffness and deep pain in the hip joint. Sometimes the pain extends down the inner thigh, to the inside of the knee, and down to the shinbone. Trigger points may restrict lateral rotation (turning the knee out). This is especially true in IC patients, whose hips are rotated inward (towards their bladders). This is why we should make "wide turns." Turning around and changing directions when we are walking can cause knee pain if our turns are not wide enough. Adding an extra step while turning can help.

The third adductor muscle, the adductor magnus attaches in the crotch between the pubic bone and the sitz bone (the bones we sit on). As it descends it divides into three parts and attaches along the back of the thighbone. The adductor magnus is used to stabilize the pelvis and extend the thighs during walking and running, which is often a challenge for IC patients.

Trigger Points in the Levator Scapulae

This muscle lifts the shoulder blade. The lower end of the levator scapulae attaches to the inner edge of the top angle of the shoulder blade, and the upper end of the muscle attaches to the top four vertebrae of the neck. Stress and pain (which causes one to hold his or her shoulders up), holding a phone, lifting over the head, and a head forward posture can shorten the levator scapulae and activate trigger points.


Exercise and therapy can help prevent weak muscles and trigger points, but we also need the right postural support to keep our muscles long, and remove pressure on our pelvic floors. Out of my necessity, my husband Andy and I have produced a line of support cushions to help manage the pain pattern of IC. Our cushions are finally available on our new website,

New-Pattern Spine Support Cushion

Our back cushion is designed to support and relieve the muscles of the upper and lower back without encouraging a head-forward position, or increasing pressure on the pelvic floor, which is typically imposed with lumbar rolls and back cushions.

Lumbar Roll

Typical lumbar rolls and support cushions lack upper body support, encourage a head forward position, and increase pressure on the pelvic floor and bladder by tilting the pelvis forward.

New-Pattern Spine Support Exercise Pad

Our exercise pad provides support, and reduces unnecessary tension during stretching and strengthening floor exercise.

Sitting on an exercise pad (while stretching) with your hips elevated higher than your knees allows forward movement from the hip joints, and not the lower back. An exercise pad also provides support for proper spinal alignment.

Placing an exercise pad just above your waist (while stretching and strengthening on your back) supports, lengthens and relaxes your low back.

Stretching and strengthening on your side with an exercise pad placed between your armpit and waist supports and aligns your spine, and takes pressure off of your shoulders. For neck support and spinal alignment a pad can be folded to elevate your head.

Stretching and strengthening while kneeling on an exercise pad provides cushioning for the knees and takes pressure off of your ankles, which are compressed without a pad.

New-Pattern Spine Support Sleep Pad

Our sleep pad promotes a healthy posture during sleep, relieves pressure on the low back, hips and shoulders, and reduces morning stiffness. Our pads are lined in 100 % organic cotton chambray and have a removable, 100% organic French terry fleece slipcover. They stay put when you change positions during the night and can be doubled or rolled for extra support.

Sleeping on your side with a sleep pad placed between your armpit and waist supports your low back and hips and takes the pressure off of your shoulders.

Sleeping on your stomach (which many IC patients do) with a sleep pad supports your low back, relaxes your hip flexors, and greatly reduces low back pain and stiffness in the morning.

Very soon we will offer our seat cushion, which is designed to take pressure off of the pelvic floor, and provide support during forward tasks and relaxation. It has been one of our major goals to make sitting more comfortable for IC patients. It has also been a great challenge to find the right foam and assemblers for our seat cushion, which is made of several pieces and layers. Not surprisingly, it was another IC patient who led us to the right company to make our back cushions.


About The Authors:
Gaye is an author and IC patient & support group leader who has been involved in IC work for years. In 1990 she published "Stretch Into a Better Shape" and produced a stretching and exercise video for IC patients in 1993. She is a specialist in Aston-Patterning movement and muscle re-education.

Andrew has over ten years of clinical and health care management position. He is currently the Administrator of Maison Hospitaliere, located in New Orleans. Andrew holds a Ph.D. in Special Education, a M.A. of Health Adminstration, M.A. of Clinical Psychology.

They welcome your comments and feedback on their articles at: The Sandlers

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