- Bladder Spasms Center
- Urinary Incontinence in Women Slideshow Pictures
- Urinary Incontinence in Men Slideshow Pictures
- Food & Drinks That Make You Gotta Go Slideshow Pictures
- Patient Comments: Bladder Spasms - Describe the Feeling
- Patient Comments: Bladder Spasms - Causes
- Patient Comments: Bladder Spasms - Treatment
- Find a local Urologist in your town
- What do bladder spasms feel like?
- Who is most likely to develop bladder spasms?
- What causes bladder spasms?
- What are nervous system disorders that lead to bladder spasms?
- Which types of surgery may lead to bladder spasms?
- What are other causes of bladder spasms?
- What is the treatment for bladder spasms?
- What are complementary and alternative therapies for bladder spasms?
- When should someone see a doctor for bladder spasms?
Chances are we have all crossed our legs a time or two in hopes of making it to the closest restroom in time. But there's a big difference between having to go, and always feeling like you have to go. For those who live with bladder spasms, that feeling is a painful reality that can lead to embarrassing wetting accidents and an unwanted shift in lifestyle. However, there are a variety of treatment options available to manage the symptoms. Here's what you need to know about bladder spasms, from the causes to what you can do to ease the pain.
What Do Bladder Spasms Feel Like?
Normally, the bladder gently fills with urine and you slowly become aware of the need to urinate. This feeling is your cue to start looking for a bathroom.
But in people who have bladder spasms, the sensation occurs suddenly and often severely. A spasm itself is the sudden, involuntary squeezing of a muscle. A bladder spasm, or "detrusor contraction," occurs when the bladder muscle squeezes suddenly without warning, causing an urgent need to release urine. The spasm can force urine from the bladder, causing leakage. When this happens, the condition is called urge incontinence or overactive bladder.
People who have had such spasms describe them as a cramping pain and sometimes as a burning sensation. Some women with severe bladder spasms compared the muscle contractions to severe menstrual cramps and even labor pains experienced during childbirth.
Who Is Most Likely to Develop Bladder Spasms?
Anyone at any age can have bladder spasms. In children, bladder spasms (also called pediatric unstable bladder or uninhibited bladder) are the leading cause of daytime incontinence.
However, you are more likely to have bladder spasms with urine leakage if you:
What Causes Bladder Spasms?
There are a number of different causes of bladder spasms. The cramping pain could be due to something as simple as your diet or a medication that you are taking, or it could be associated with changes in blood supply and function of the nerves controlling the bladder.
However, bladder spasms may be the result of an infection or a recent surgery, or they may occur if you have nerve or muscle damage. So it's important to see a doctor to determine the cause.
In some cases, your doctor may not be able to identify the cause. When this happens, the condition is called idiopathic bladder spasms.
Some common causes of bladder spasms are:
- Urinary tract infection (UTI): Bladder pain and burning are a common symptom of a UTI.
- Interstitial cystitis (IC), also called painful bladder syndrome: This condition refers to bladder and urinary pain that is not due to other causes, such as a urinary tract infection. Pain is recurring and often severe.
- Catheter use: A catheter is a thin tube used to drain urine from the body, often after surgery. It is placed into the urethra and up into your bladder. Bladder spasms are a common and sometimes distressing complication of catheter usage.
Nervous System Disorders That Lead to Bladder Spasms
The feeling you get when you need to empty your bladder is normally an involuntary response. The brain signals the bladder muscle when it is time to tighten (contract) and release urine. However, certain nervous system disorders cause damage to the nerves that send signals between the brain and the bladder. When this happens, the bladder does not work properly. "Neurogenic bladder" is the general term for bladder problems due to nerve damage.
Nervous system disorders and injury that can cause bladder spasms include:
- Brain tumor
- Cerebral palsy
- Herpes zoster infection that affects the nerves in the sacrum
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple system atrophy (Shy-Drager syndrome)
- Spinal cord injury
- Stroke that has caused brain damage
- Diabetic neuropathy (when the nerves are damaged by longstanding diabetes)
Surgery That Leads to Bladder Spasms
Surgery to the lower abdominal area may weaken the bladder or pelvic floor muscles, or cause damage to the nerves that control the bladder. Bladder spasms may occur following certain surgeries, including:
Other Causes of Bladder Spasms
Some medications may cause bladder spasms as a side effect. Medications that commonly cause bladder spasms include:
- Bethanechol (urecholine)
- A chemotherapy drug called Valrubicin
- Medicines called diuretics, which help the body remove excess water, such as furosemide (Lasix)
What you eat or drink can sometimes bother a fragile bladder and cause it to go into a spasm. This is especially true in patients who have a condition called interstitial cystitis.
Spicy, acidic, or citrusy foods and the chemicals in certain preservatives and food additives can irritate the lining of the bladder. Such products include:
Latest Chronic Pain News
Daily Health News
Treatment of Bladder Spasms
How your doctor treats your bladder spasms depends on what exactly is causing your painful symptoms. But in general, therapy may involve one or more of the following treatments. A combination of treatments often works best.
Change in diet. This may help prevent bladder pain if certain foods and beverages are the culprit behind your spasms. Avoid spicy, acidic, or citrusy foods, as well as alcohol and caffeine. Keeping a food diary, which tracks your meals and your symptoms, can be helpful.
Timed voiding. This involves timed trips to the bathroom to urinate, usually every 1.5 to 2 hours. Timed voiding is especially helpful for children. As the bladder spasms get better and fewer wetting accidents occur, you can extend the time between trips to the bathroom.
Pelvic floor exercises ("Kegels"). Kegels and other forms of physical therapy help strengthen and relax the bladder and other muscles that help the body hold in urine. Kegels, combined with biofeedback, are a good way to help reduce bladder spasms in children. To tighten your pelvic muscles, squeeze your muscles in the same way as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine or prevent yourself from passing gas. Kegel exercises take practice, and tightening the wrong muscles can put more pressure on your bladder. Ask your doctor for specific instructions.
Medicines to relax the bladder. The most commonly prescribed drugs to relax the bladder and prevent spasms are called anticholinergics. They include oxybutynin chloride, tolterodine and others. A common side effect is dry mouth.
Medicines called alpha-blockers (such as terazosin or doxazosin) may be given to children to help the bladder relax and allow the bladder to empty completely.
TENS. Electrical stimulation through the skin (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS) sends mild electrical pulses to the bladder through patches applied to the skin. It's believed the electric signals help you feel better by increasing blood flow and releasing hormones that block pain. TENS is often used to relieve muscle or back pain. In the case of bladder spasms, doctors think the increased blood flow makes the bladder muscle stronger, which reduces spasms and leakage.
Electrical stimulation implant (Inter-Stim). This is placed under the skin to deliver gentle electrical pulses to the bladder at regularly timed intervals. Your doctor may recommend this therapy if you have severe bladder spasms and urge incontinence that does not get better with other treatments.
Pain medicines and sedatives. These may be given to patients who have catheter-related bladder spasms after surgery. But they don't always take away all the discomfort. Some research suggests that a prescription anti-inflammatory medicine called ketorolac may help relieve or prevent catheter- or surgery-related bladder spasms in children.
IMAGESSee a medical illustration of the bladder plus our entire medical gallery of human anatomy and physiology See Images
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Acupuncture. Some research has suggested that bladder-specific acupuncture may significantly reduce bladder muscle contractions and the urge to use the bathroom.
Biofeedback. Biofeedback is a method that teaches the mind how to control normally automated body functions. Bladder training is a type of biofeedback. Some doctors believe biofeedback and behavioral changes work better than medicines for treating urge incontinence. A combination of biofeedback and medications may work best.
Botox. In studies, botulinum-A toxin has been shown to reduce nerve-related bladder spasms in children and adults. Botox prevents nerves from releasing chemicals that tell muscles to contract. The Botox is injected directly into the bladder muscle wall.
When to See a Doctor
Call your doctor for an appointment if you have:
- Pain or cramping in your pelvic or lower abdominal area
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Urgent or frequent need to use the bathroom
If you have or think you are having bladder spasms, it is important that you see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Your symptoms may be due to an infection that can be treated. In rare cases, bladder spasms may be a sign of a serious underlying condition.
WebMD Medical Reference
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse web site: "Nerve Disease and Bladder Control."
FamilyDoctor.org web site: "Interstitial Cystitis."
American Family Physician web site: "Interstitial Cystitis: Urgency and Frequency Syndrome."
The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse web site: "Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome."
AARP web site: "Overactive Bladder: How to Take Back Control."
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD, on July 9, 2009
Top Bladder Spasms Related Articles
AcupunctureAcupuncture is the practice of inserting needles into the body to reduce pain or induce anesthesia. More broadly, acupuncture is a family of procedures involving the stimulation of anatomical locations on or in the skin by a variety of techniques.
Bladder PictureThe urinary bladder is a muscular sac in the pelvis, just above and behind the pubic bone. See a picture of the Bladder and learn more about the health topic.
Botox TreatmentBotox, the brand name of a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles. When Botox is injected into a muscle, it can no longer contract, causing the wrinkle to soften. Botox injections last from four to six months. Bruising is the most common side effect.
C-Section (Cesarean Birth)C-section (cesarean birth) is surgery to deliver a baby. C-section options, what to expect before, during, and after the delivery of your baby are important considerations for birth. Reasons for a C-section delivery include multiple births, health problems, problems with the pelvis, placenta, or umbilical cord. Vaginal birth after a C-section (VBAC) is also an important issue to discuss with your doctor if you have had prior C-section deliveries.
Cerebral palsy (CP) is an abnormality of motor function and postural tone acquired at an early age (even before birth). Cerebral palsy is generally caused by brain trauma. Types of cerebral palsy include: spastic, dyskinetic (dystonic or choreoathetoid), hypotonic, and mixed types. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, and treatment is generally managing the symptoms of the condition.
A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure in which the uterus is removed. There are a variety of surgical techniques for performing hysterectomies, which include vaginal hysterectomy, total hysterectomy, laparoscopy-assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH), supracervical hysterectomy, laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy, radical hysterectomy, and oophorectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy hysterectomies.
Complications include infection, pain, and bleeding. The type of hysterectomy performed is dependent on the woman and the reason for the procedure.
MenopauseMenopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods permanently stop, also called the "change of life." Menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, irregular vaginal bleeding, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, weight gain, and emotional symptoms such as mood swings. Treatment of menopausal symptoms varies, and should be discussed with your physician.
MS SlideshowLearn about multiple sclerosis (MS) causes, symptoms, and treatment for this autoimmune disease that attacks the nerves of the central nervous system and damages myelin affecting the brain and spinal cord.
Overactive BladderOveractive bladder is a sudden involuntary contraction of the muscle wall of the bladder causing urinary urgency (an immediate unstoppable need to urinate). Overactive bladder is is a form of urinary incontinence. Treatment options may include Kegel exercises, biofeedback, vaginal weight training, pelvic floor electrical stimulation, behavioral therapy, and medications.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve StimulationTranscutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a technology that uses a small device to deliver electrical current into tissues to help alleviate pain. TENS is helpful in treating various conditions, including:
- chronic neck pain and
- chronic back pain.
There are many types of urinary incontinence (UI), which is the accidental leakage of urine. These types include stress incontinence, urge incontinence, and overflow incontinence. Urinary incontinence in men may be caused by prostate or nerve problems. Treatment depends upon the type and severity of the UI and the patient's lifestyle.
Urinary Tract InfectionA urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection of the bladder, kidneys, ureters, or urethra. E. coli, a type of bacteria that lives in the bowel and near the anus, causes most UTIs. UTI symptoms include pain, abdominal pain, mild fever, urinary urgency and frequency. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics.
UTI SlideshowUrinary tract infections (UTI), including bladder infections, affect women and men, causing UTI symptoms like kidney infection. Read about UTI symptoms, treatment, causes, and home remedies.