Bladder spasms happen when your bladder muscles contract or tighten. If these contractions continue, it may cause an urge to urinate. Because of this, the term “bladder spasm” is often used synonymously with overactive bladder (OAB).
OAB is also known as urge incontinence. It’s characterized by an urgent need to empty your bladder and the involuntary leakage of urine. It’s important to understand that a bladder spasm is a symptom. OAB is typically the larger issue, though it can be caused by other things.
Bladder spasms can also be a symptom of infection. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are temporary infections that can cause burning, urgency, spasms, and pain. With treatment, these infections can clear up and your symptoms can virtually disappear.
Keep reading to learn more about what spasms are, how they’re managed, and what you can do to prevent them.
The most common symptom of bladder spasms is feeling an urgent need to urinate. The spasm may lead to leakage, or what is called incontinence.
If your bladder spasms are caused by a UTI, you may also experience the following:
- burning sensation when you void your bladder
- ability to pass only small amounts of urine each time you use the bathroom
- urine that looks cloudy, red, or pink
- urine that smells strong
- pelvic pain
If your bladder spasms are the result of OAB or urge incontinence, you may also:
- leak urine before reaching the bathroom
- urinate often, up to eight or more times each day
- wake two or more times during the night to urinate
Bladder spasms are more common as you age. That being said, having spasms isn’t necessarily a typical part of aging. They often indicate other health issues that, left untreated, can worsen over time.
In addition to UTIs and OAB, bladder spasms can be caused by:
- drinking too much caffeine or alcohol
- certain medications, such as bethanechol (Urecholine) and furosemide (Lasix)
- impaired kidney function
- bladder stones
- enlarged prostate
- neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis
- irritation from urinary catheter
If you have trouble walking, you may develop urgency if you’re unable to get to a restroom quickly enough to relieve yourself. You may also develop symptoms if you don’t fully empty your bladder when you use the bathroom.
If you have concerns about your urgency to go, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. They can help get to the root of the issue, as well as develop an appropriate treatment plan for you.
Before running any tests, your doctor will assess your medical history and notes on any medications you’re taking. They’ll also perform a physical exam.
Afterward, your doctor may examine a sample of your urine to check for bacteria, blood, or other signs of infection. If infection is ruled out, there are several tests that can help diagnose bladder issues.
Some tests measure how much urine is left in your bladder after voiding. Others measure the speed of your urination. Some tests can even determine your bladder pressure.
If these tests aren’t pointing to a specific cause, your doctor may want to perform a neurological exam. This will allow them to check for different sensory issues and certain reflexes.
Exercise and changes in your lifestyle may help ease your bladder spasms. Medications are another treatment option.
Pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels, are often helpful in treating bladder spasms caused by stress and urge incontinence. To do a Kegel, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine from your body. If necessary, your doctor may refer you to a specialist so you can learn the proper technique.
Certain lifestyle changes can help with bladder issues, such as changing your fluid intake and diet. To see if your spasms are tied to certain foods, try keeping a food diary. This can help you track any foods that may be causing bladder spasms.
Irritating foods and drinks often include:
- citrus fruits
- fruit juice
- tomatoes and tomato-based foods
- spicy foods
- sugar and artificial sugars
- carbonated beverages
You may also experiment with what’s called bladder training. This involves going to the toilet at timed intervals. Doing so can train your bladder to fill more fully, decreasing the number of times you need to urinate throughout the day.
Your doctor may prescribe one of these medications to help with bladder spasms:
- antispasmodics, such as tolterodine (Detrol)
- tricyclic antidepressants, such as oxybutynin (Ditropan)
Lifestyle changes and other treatments can help you manage and even lessen your bladder spasms. Symptoms tied to an underlying condition, such as an infection, should also respond well to treatment for that condition.
If your symptoms persist or worsen, you should consult your doctor. It may be necessary to switch up your treatment regimen or try a different medication.
Bladder spasms may not be entirely preventable, but they may be reduced if you follow these tips.
- Mind your fluid intake. Too much fluids may make you urinate more frequently. Too little may lead to concentrated urine, which can irritate your bladder.
- Avoid drinking excess caffeine and alcohol. These beverages increase your need to urinate, leading to more urgency and frequency.
- Move your body. People who exercise around half an hour most days of the week tend to have better bladder control.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight may put excess stress on your bladder, increasing your risk for incontinence.
- Quit smoking. Coughing caused by smoking can also put added strain on your bladder.