Interstitial cystitis often coexists and overlaps with other syndromes such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and irritable bowel syndrome. A new study in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology suggests that an overactive sympathetic nervous system may be the common factor linking these conditions. The study reviewed 196 published, case-control studies that investigated the performance of the sympathetic nervous system in people with these conditions. The common methods used to evaluate sympathetic function included: heart rate variability analysis, sympathetic skin response, tilt table testing and genetic studies. A majority of the studies (65%) described sympathetic nervous system predominance, providing some evidence to support this factor as a possible reason for why these syndromes often occur together.
Heightened activity of the sympathetic nervous system was a key factor in my condition, and I directly experienced the connection between my nervous system ramp up and my physical symptoms (pelvic floor muscle spasms and bladder pain). Treatments like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, walking in nature, and CranioSacral therapy helped to calm my nervous system and decrease my pain. I also worked for years with a therapist and uncovered unconscious trauma, beliefs and thought patterns that may have heightened my sense of threat and put my nervous system on high alert.
Over the years, my body gradually calmed down, and I am currently pain-free on most days without medications. Now, my body no longer screams in pain when it is stressed. It whispers and I listen.
(Photo by Mariane Gabriel)