Bladder Spasms: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Odds are, you’ve had a couple of instances where you had to cross your legs and hope to make it to the nearest bathroom. 

However, there is a major difference between having to go and constantly feeling on edge because you must go

For people who experience bladder spasms regularly, the urge to go is a painful reality. 

Their bladder is difficult to control, which could make them feel bad or ashamed about not being able to handle the incontinence. 

But, there is an array of treatments at your disposal capable of tackling the symptoms. 

You need to know precisely what you are dealing with and the right time to seek expert help. If you face bladder control problems, you are in the right place. 

In this guideline, we will look at each spasm and its impact on the pelvic floor. 

What Are Bladder Spasms?

A bladder spasm is an involuntary muscle contraction. The symptoms occur when the bladder starts squeezing out of the blue and makes the patient feel they need to urgently empty their bladder. Many of those affected experience bladder pain, urinary urgency, and lack of bladder control. 

Signs and Symptoms of Bladder Spasms

A bladder spasm can lead to incontinence (urine leakage). Data shows that the prevalence of incontinence in men of all ages is lower than the incontinence recorded in women. Incontinence could result from sphincter dysfunction, bladder dysfunction, or both.

Studies indicate a 3% to 11% overall incontinence prevalence rate in men. Urge incontinence is the most prominent symptom, affecting 40% to 80% of patients. To understand bladder spasms in general, it’s vital to look at the symptoms. 

The tell-tale signs of bladder spasms include:

  • Leaking urine

  • Regularly waking up in the middle of the night once or multiple times to urinate (nocturia)

The spasm could also be a symptom of infection. A urinary tract infection (UTI) can trigger aches, urgency, burning, and bladder spasms. Treating the bladder infection can clear up the bladder and urine symptoms. 

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What Do Bladder Spasms Feel Like?

Bladder spasms make you feel like you suddenly have to urinate. And you lack the control to manage the urine leakage

If the spasm results from a UTI, you can also develop pelvic pain, bad-smelling urine, pink urine, red urine, or cloudy urine

It’s not uncommon for a patient with a UTI to have trouble emptying their bladder. So, when they do go to the toilet, only a tiny amount of urine leaves the system. 

But, if you have an overactive bladder that leads to incontinence, the symptoms can feel like you need to urinate up to 8 or more times a day. The bladder contraction can make your body leak urine before reaching the toilet. The muscle spasms can also wake you up two or more times at night to go to the bathroom. 

What Causes Bladder Spasms?

Although many ailments can lead to a spasm, most are associated with an overactive bladder (OAB). After all, these are some of the hallmark symptoms of an overactive bladder. 

An overactive bladder is a chronic ailment that can impact the quality of life in a major portion of the population. It has an estimated 16.5% prevalence rate, which can get in the way of your daily activities and performance. 

UTIs are another contributor to bladder spasms. 

Other triggers for bladder spasms include:

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Poor kidney function

  • Constipation

  • Bladder surgery

  • Certain medication

The reason for the bladder problem with cystitis is relatively simple. Some patients with cystitis could also experience a defect in their protective bladder lining, which means that a simple leak in the lining could open the door to toxic substances in urine and irritate the bladder wall. This kind of bladder irritation due to cystitis interferes with normal bladder function. 

What you drink or eat can also affect an already fragile bladder and cause spasms. This is particularly evident in a patient with cystitis. Food additives, preservatives, acidic, spicy, and citrusy foods could irritate the bladder lining. 

Then there is a certain medication that could result in bladder spasms. Bethanechol, a medication used during chemotherapy, known as valrubicin, can lead to bladder spasms as a side effect. Diuretic medication, particularly hydrochlorothiazide or furosemide, can have the same effect. 

When to See a Doctor

Bladder spasms are not always a cause for concern. But, when they do lead to high fever, severe pain to the pelvic floor muscle, and blood in the urine, that’s when you need emergency care. But, you shouldn’t let your bladder troubles go too far. 

If you often have bladder spasms and you can’t make the trip to the bathroom every single time, then see a doctor. 

When you find yourself leaking urine and experiencing pain, then contact a specialist. They will assess your symptoms and see whether you need an adequate treatment plan. 

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How Do Doctors Diagnose What’s Causing The Bladder Spasm?

In order to diagnose the cause of the bladder spasm, a healthcare provider will first assess the patient’s medical history, check the medications they’re taking, ask questions about symptoms and their severity, and perform a physical exam.

Further tests may be necessary for an accurate diagnosis. Patients may need to provide a urine sample so a healthcare professional can analyze it for the presence of blood, bacteria, or other signs of infection. 

If the urinalysis shows no signs of infection, the doctor may order other tests to diagnose the cause of bladder spasm. These other tests have different purposes, such as measuring the speed of urine or how much urine is left after voiding. 

A neurological exam is also an option, but a doctor will order it only when other tests show nothing specific or they are inconclusive. 

Once they diagnose the cause, the healthcare provider may prescribe medication for bladder spasms, i.e., therapy to manage the underlying cause.

Treatment For Bladder Spasms

Your treatment plan will vary depending on what’s causing the bladder spasms and pain. But, overall, you would have to follow one or multiple treatment opportunities. Combination therapy works best with this kind of problem. Take a look at the viable options below. 

Note: We at Ben’s Natural Health favor natural treatment alternatives over drugs. Due to their potential to cause side effects, we don’t like to encourage readers to choose any medication. Unless advised by a medical professional. The information collected here is for educational purposes only. 

Medication 

Medicine that keeps the bladder muscle in check works by blocking signals triggering the spasms. The first line of treatment a doctor might recommend is typically drugs known as Antispasmodics. Such as Ditropan (oxybutynin chloride), Detrol (tolterodine), and Levsin (hyoscyamine). 

Extended versions of tolterodine and oxybutynin are also available. These include Detrol LA (tolterodine extended-release) and Ditropan XL (oxybutynin extended-release). Plus, oxybutynin comes in a patch that can decrease the side effects. 

Another option is tricyclic antidepressants. Although their primary purpose is to manage depression, these products can reduce spasms, calm the nerve signals and bladder muscle. 

Exercises to Train the Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor needs a workout in the form of physical therapy that can strengthen the bladder and help you hold the urine. Bladder retraining starts with Kegel exercises

It can be a little difficult at first to manage the urge urinary incontinence and bladder symptoms. Still, with regular practice and muscle tightening, the pressure to the bladder can subside. Talk to your doctor for specific instructions on how to manage stress incontinence

Sedatives and Pain Management 

Sometimes the pain can be hard to tolerate. Those who recently had urethral catheterization, but need help to relieve the discomfort and pain, may be suggested to take a sedative or a urinary diversion. 

But, to manage the pain, urinary retention, urinary incontinence, and other bladder symptoms, talk with a doctor first. Especially if you recently had surgery that may cause your urinary incontinence. 

Dietary Changes

Sometimes a simple change in diet can go a long way. Some beverages and foods are major culprits for bladder spasms. That includes carbonated drinks, alcohol, chocolate, coffee, spicy foods, etc. 

Keep a food diary to know how well you are managing the symptoms, urinary incontinence, pain, and discomfort after surgery. Use it to record the meals you eat and the symptoms you experience. 

Alternative Therapy

Both acupuncture and biofeedback may help. Acupuncture studies show that women prone to cystitis who undertook this kind of treatment experienced a reduction in residual urine. This makes acupuncture a viable option for a healthy bladder. 

Biofeedback is here to teach the mind to control automated bodily functions. Therefore, it may come in handy for incontinence. 

Timed Voiding

Last but not least is timing the bathroom trips. Experts recommend going every 1.5 hours to 2 hours can help. 

As the bladder spasms subside, you are less likely to experience embarrassing accidents. Eventually, you can increase the time between trips and curb the time spent in the bathroom. 

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How To Prevent Bladder Spasms

Although bladder spasms may not be preventable entirely, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the risk or its severity. These tips can help you out:

Pay attention to fluid intake

Drinking too much fluid increases the frequency of urination. At the same time, not drinking enough fluid makes urine more concentrated. More concentrated urine can irritate the bladder and contribute to spasms.

Limit caffeine and alcohol intake

They irritate the bladder, which can lead to increased urinary urgency and frequency. Make sure to limit your intake of these beverages, particularly at night.

Maintain weight in a healthy range

Being overweight or obese puts too much stress on the bladder, thus increasing the risk of spasms and urinary urgency and frequency.

Exercise regularly

Increased levels of physical activity improve bladder control.

Quit smoking

Many smokers tend to cough, which puts more stress on the bladder.

Do pelvic floor exercises

Men and women alike should do Kegel exercises, which strengthen pelvic floor muscles and improve bladder control and decrease urine leakage.

Practice urgency suppression

This is a technique to distract yourself from the need to urinate.

Manage stress

Psychological stress and anxiety can contribute to urinary incontinence or increased urgency and frequency of urination. Instead of ignoring stress, try managing it properly. Useful stress-relieving techniques include getting enough rest, reading and/or writing, yoga, meditation, or engaging in a hobby.

The abovementioned tips can be helpful if you’re also wondering how to stop bladder spasms naturally.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do Bladder Spasms Last?

The duration of bladder spasms depends on the underlying cause. For instance, symptoms of overactive bladder may improve in four to eight weeks with proper treatment. During this time, you may experience bladder spasms. 

Interstitial cystitis flares, which can also cause bladder spasms, may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the trigger. 

Also, every person is different, so these conditions may affect you differently than someone else. Bladder spasms tend to last until the underlying cause improves.

Are Bladder Spasms Serious?

Bladder spasms generally aren’t serious. However, you should still see a doctor if the problem is persistent. In rare cases, the cause of bladder spasms is a serious underlying condition.

Some nervous system disorders can contribute to bladder spasms. These include brain tumors, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and others.

Can Anxiety Cause Bladder Spasms?

Anxiety can contribute to bladder spasms because it affects urinary function in several ways. Muscles in the body tend to tense up when you’re anxious. Since it’s a muscular sac, the bladder tightens as well. Pelvic floor muscles do too.

A growing body of evidence confirms that anxiety contributes to an overactive bladder and causes urinary incontinence. Anxiety bladder spasms are manageable by doing your best to get help for anxiety symptoms you’re experiencing.

What Foods Cause Bladder Spasms?

Foods that cause bladder spasms or worsen the symptoms you experience are listed below:

  • Spiffy foods
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tea, coffee, alcohol
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Tomato and tomato-based foods and products
  • Fruit juice
  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners 

What Foods Soothe The Bladder?

Some foods exhibit calming effects on your bladder, which is why you may want to increase their intake or add them to your daily menu. These include:

  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Squash
  • Potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Whole grains
  • Lean proteins
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Bread 

What Vitamins Are Good For Bladder Health?

Increasing the intake of certain vitamins and minerals can improve bladder control and overall health. These include:

  • Vitamin C: consumption of vitamin C through diet has a positive effect on urinary storage and may help with incontinence
  • Vitamin D: insufficient intake of the sunshine vitamin can contribute to the development of pelvic floor disorders and thereby put you at a higher risk of urinary incontinence
  • Magnesium: helps nerves and muscles function properly, thus reducing bladder spasms and allowing the bladder to empty properly.

Conclusion

Bladder spasms can be embarrassing for people, especially if you recently had a urine accident. But, this is nothing to be ashamed of. Many people struggle with bladder troubles. 

Most of the time, the spasms are not a real problem until the pain gets severe and the incontinence is too hard to control. This is the time when your doctor will suggest you take various treatment approaches that are best tailored to your needs.

However, do not take matters into your own hands. Although the bladder spasms may not be an emergency, they still need to be evaluated by a healthcare expert. This is mainly if you can’t manage the incontinence and the problem becomes more apparent. Now that you know exactly what you are dealing with, you will have an easier time solving the issue. 

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Sources

  1. Nitti VW. The prevalence of urinary incontinence. Rev Urol. 2001;3 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S2-S6. 
  2. McKibben MJ, Seed P, Ross SS, Borawski KM. Urinary Tract Infection and Neurogenic Bladder. Urol Clin North Am. 2015. 
  3. Leron E, Weintraub AY, Mastrolia SA, Schwarzman P. Overactive Bladder Syndrome: Evaluation and Management. Curr Urol. 2018. 
  4. Alraek T, Soedal LI, Fagerheim SU, Digranes A, Baerheim A. Acupuncture treatment in the prevention of uncomplicated recurrent lower urinary tract infections in adult women. Am J Public Health. 2002. 
  5. Cheng S, Lin D, Hu T, Cao L, Liao H, Mou X, Zhang Q, Liu J, Wu T. Association of urinary incontinence and depression or anxiety: a meta-analysis. J Int Med Res. 2020 Jun;48(6):300060520931348.

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