TENS and Bladder Distention for Interstitial Cystitis
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
With transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), mild electric pulses enter the body for a period of time, two or more times a day, either through wires placed on the lower back or just above the pubic area (between the navel and the pubic hair) or through special devices inserted into the vagina in women or into the rectum in men.
Although interstitial cystitis research scientists do not know exactly how TENS relieves pelvic pain, it has been suggested that the electrical pulses may increase blood flow to the bladder, strengthen pelvic muscles that help control the bladder, or trigger the release of substances that block pain.
TENS is a relatively inexpensive interstitial cystitis treatment and allows people to take an active part in the treatment process. Within some guidelines, the patient decides when, how long, and at what intensity TENS will be used. It has been most helpful in relieving pain and decreasing frequency in patients with Hunner's ulcers. Smokers do not respond as well as nonsmokers. If TENS is effective, improvement is usually apparent in three to four months.
The most important test used when diagnosing interstitial cystitis is a cystoscopy done under anesthesia. This test uses an instrument called a cystoscope to see inside the bladder. A liquid or gas is then used to stretch the bladder (a technique called bladder distention).
Many patients have noted an improvement in symptoms after a bladder distention is done to diagnose interstitial cystitis. In many cases, the procedure is used as both a diagnostic test and initial therapy.
Researchers are not sure why distention can be an effective treatment for interstitial cystitis, but some believe that it may increase capacity and interfere with pain signals transmitted by nerves in the bladder. Symptoms may temporarily worsen 24 to 48 hours after distention, but should return to predistention levels or improve within two to four weeks.