Bladder spasms are defined as an involuntary contracting or tightening of the bladder muscle, triggering a strong urge to pee that can result in incontinence or urine leaks. Often embarrassing and sometimes painful, bladder spasms are typically a symptom of an infection or an underlying condition that can be treated.
To understand more about bladder spasms, what causes them, additional symptoms, the treatment options available, and how you can prevent recurring bladder issues, keep reading.
Although commonly associated with the aging process, bladder spasms, and urinary incontinence can happen at any age and usually worsen if left untreated. The most frequent causes of bladder spasms are urinary tract infections (UTIs) and overactive bladder (OAB).
A UTI is an infection that can affect any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys, urethra, and ureters. Instigated by bacteria entering the urethra from the anus, rectum, or surrounding skin, one of the most common symptoms of a UTI is bladder spasms that result in an urgent need to pee. Additional symptoms of a UTI can include a burning sensation when urinating, cloudy urine that may have a strong odor, urine that appears slightly pink with blood, and pain in the pelvic area.
Most women experience lower urinary tract infections, or cystitis, which affects the bladder and urethra, and are easily treated. However, UTIs that affect the kidneys (upper urinary tract infections) are more serious, resulting in symptoms like fever, and vomiting, as well as pain in the side body and upper back area. These types of UTIs often require intravenous antibiotics as treatment.
OAB, which is commonly associated with urge incontinence, is defined as a strong and urgent need to urinate that usually results in an unintentional leak of urine. It can be caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles during childbirth, pregnancy, or abdominal trauma. Stress, nerve damage, certain medications, a lack of estrogen during menopause, or excess weight putting pressure on the bladder are other possible causes.
As well as bladder spasms, additional symptoms of OAB can include urinating far more frequently than usual and the need to get up at least once during the night to empty the bladder.
Other causes of bladder spasms can include:
If you are suffering from bladder spasms, urinary incontinence, or a frequent and urgent need to pee, set up an appointment with your healthcare practitioner. Even though UTIs and OAB are two of the most common causes of bladder spasms, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis from a healthcare practitioner so that the root cause can be adequately treated.
The first step a doctor will take to determine the cause of bladder spasms is to check for any signs of a urinary tract infection. If none is found, a doctor would typically suggest tests to measure your bladder pressure, how fast your urine flows, and the amount of urine that remains in your bladder after peeing. A doctor might also ask about your diet and lifestyle, and perform some neurological tests to rule out any neurological bladder issues.
Treatment for bladder spasms will ultimately depend on what is causing the irritation in the first place. For bladder spasms associated with neurological conditions, medication, and nerve stimulation procedures may be required. UTIs, however, can be successfully treated with a course of antibiotics and probiotics.
Medication is often prescribed to treat bladder spasms and urinary incontinence associated with OAB, but as many women experience unwanted side effects from the medication, alternative holistic approaches are preferred by most. These include regular pelvic floor exercises with kegel weights, eliminating trigger foods, controlled fluid intake, and bladder training.
When bladder spasms are caused by a weakened pelvic floor during pregnancy, childbirth, abdominal trauma, or the aging process, pelvic floor exercises known as Kegels are particularly helpful to re-train the muscles and provide more support for the bladder. For additional resistance training, pelvic floor physical therapists recommend using Kegel weights.
Made from smooth, body-safe, medical-grade silicone, Kegel weights are designed to fit inside the vagina like a weighted tampon. Once inserted, the pelvic floor muscles are engaged and strengthened by repetitively tightening and releasing around the Kegel weight for a few minutes per day.
For extra help in preventing recurring bladder infections, women’s health experts recommend a daily natural supplement of D-Mannose to prevent bacteria from adhering to the wall of the bladder.
Freeze Dried Aloe Vera Supplements with D-Mannose & Calcium from Intimate Rose, for example, help to soothe bladder and urinary tract infections.
When taken on an ongoing preventative basis, these supplements are especially helpful for women who suffer from recurring UTIs or bladder irritation. While the aloe acts as a soothing agent, the added D-Mannose discourages harmful bacteria from adhering to the bladder, and the alkalizing calcium helps to maintain a healthy vaginal pH balance.
Certain foods are known to irritate the bladder or act as a trigger for bladder spasms so it can be incredibly helpful to keep a food diary to determine which foods are contributing to the sudden urge to urinate. These foods will likely differ from person to person, however, foods known to irritate the bladder include artificial sugars, chocolate, citrus fruits, fizzy drinks, fruit juices, spicey food, tea, tomatoes, and sugar.
Controlling your fluid intake does not mean that women experiencing bladder spasms, a frequent urge to pee, or incontinence should limit their daily water intake. However, cutting back on caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks – all of which irritate the bladder – can provide significant relief from bladder spasms. Additionally, limiting your fluid intake in the evening can minimize the need to get up during the night to empty the bladder.
Bladder training is a form of behavioral therapy that involves setting a pre-determined routine or scheduled intervals for bathroom visits. By allowing the bladder to fill between each scheduled bathroom visit, it gradually becomes more and more comfortable for the bladder to hold incrementally larger amounts of urine.
While antibiotics will clear bladder spasms associated with a UTI, however, preventing or reducing bladder spasms associated with OAB or underlying conditions usually requires some lifestyle changes.
What’s important when it comes to bladder spasms, the urgent need to pee, or frequent urine leaks, is to clarify the root cause with a medical check-up and ensure the correct treatment is prescribed. Antibiotics will clear bladder spasms associated with an infection, for instance. Whereas, a combination of floor exercises, kegel weights, lifestyle changes, and eliminating trigger foods and beverages is usually the best way to manage bladder spasms linked to OAB.
That said, if your bladder spasms continue and you develop a fever along with severe pelvic pain and increasing incontinence, arrange a consultation with your doctor for further testing and possible medical treatments.
Medical News Today – Bladder Spasms - https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321903
Johns Hopkins Medicine - Urinary Incontinence in Women - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/urinary-incontinence/urinary-incontinence-in-women
Mayo Clinic – Urinary Tract Infection - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
Urology Care Foundation – Overactive Bladder (OAB) - https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/o/overactive-bladder-(oab)
Cleveland Clinic - Urge Incontinence - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22161-urge-incontinence
Science Direct – Kegel Exercises - https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/kegel-exercise
European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences - A promising support for acute urinary tract infections in women. A pilot study.
Continence Foundation of Australia – Bladder Training - https://www.continence.org.au/about-continence/continence-health/bladder/bladder-training