Most of us take bladder function for granted. When our bladders gently fill, we become aware of the feeling to void, and we go to the nearest washroom, yet those who get bladder spasms have a totally different experience.
If you have bladder spasms, you likely feel a sudden and severe urge to release urine. This is due to the fact that the spasm itself leads to involuntary squeezing of a muscle associated with the bladder. This spasm can force urine leakage. It is a condition that is often referred to as urge incontinence or overactive bladder (OAB).
Spasms can be accompanied by cramping pain and sometimes a burning sensation. Others describe the spasms as a twitching feeling.
Suffering from bladder spasms is distressing because you are always concerned about the location of the nearest washroom and you are fearful of leakage.
Causes of bladder spasms
Pinpointing your bladder spasm cause can be tricky, so it is important to see a doctor if you experience such a sensation. There are a number of different reasons why you could be experiencing the spasms. In some cases, the cramping pain could be related to your diet or a medication you are taking. It can also have something to do with malfunctioning nerves that control the bladder.
In many situations, bladder spasms are a temporary condition associated with an infection, such as a urinary tract infection. Once treated, the spasms and sudden urge to go to the washroom will disappear. Interstitial cystitis is a condition that can also cause these bladder spasms. The pain that comes with this condition can be severe.
There are certain cases where the cause of spasms can be linked to a nervous system disorder. This is because for some reason the disorder is damaging the nerves that send signals between the brain and the bladder.
Here’s a look at some nervous system disorders that could cause bladder spasms:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Shy-Drager syndrome
- Brain tumor
- Herpes zoster
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Spinal cord injury
Surgery can also lead to bladder spasms, especially procedures that involve the lower abdominal area. Bladder surgery, C-section, hysterectomy, and prostate removal are examples of operations that could lead to bladder spasm.
As mentioned above, medications and diet can cause bladder spasms. These medications include chemotherapy drugs and diuretics, such as furosemide (Lasix) or hydrochlorothiazide. Spicy, acidic, or citrusy food and/or chemicals and preservatives can irritate the bladder and lead to spasms.
Signs and risk factors for bladder spasms
Bladder spasms can feel different to each person, but in many instances people describe a burning and cramping sensation. Some women have compared the spasms to muscle contractions they get during menstruation or childbirth.
Anyone can get bladder spasm at any age, but some people are more likely to have this condition. Some who have bladder spasms also experience leakage, while others do not. In some cases, people have bladder spasms after urinating.
You are more likely to have bladder spasms with urine leakage if you:
- Are elderly
- Are diabetics
- Are obese
- Are pregnant or recently gave birth
- Have a urinary tract infection
- Have bladder disease or injury
- Have had recent abdominal or pelvic surgery
- Have neurological disease
Treatment options for bladder spasms
If you experience bladder spasms, it is important to seek medical guidance. The sooner you determine the cause, the closer you will get to relieve your discomfort. Bladder spasm treatment is not one-size-fits-all. There are a number of options depending on what is causing the spasms and how severe they are.
Let’s look at how to stop bladder spasms with the treatment options available:
- Diet adjustments – keeping a food diary and eliminating certain foods and beverages that irritate the bladder.
- Kegels – a form of physical exercise strengthening the muscles that help hold urine in.
- Bladder training – this involves timed voiding of the bladder to teach the bladder to act a specific way.
- Medications – certain prescribed drugs can relax the bladder and prevent spasms. They come in tablets and transdermal patches. Antidepressants can also relax the bladder and so can alpha-blockers.
- TENS – transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation sends mild pulses through the skin to the bladder to increase blood flow and make bladder muscles stronger, thus reducing spasms.
- Electrical implant – placed under the skin, the implant delivers a gentle electrical pulse to the bladder at timed intervals to deal with severe spasms.
- Acupuncture – some bladder-specific acupuncture techniques have been shown to reduce bladder muscle contractions.
- Biofeedback – a method that trains the mind how to control bodily functions that are normally automatic.
While your doctor will guide you on the best treatment for your bladder spasms, be prepared to try more than one. Research shows that doctors tend to prescribe a combination of treatments and that patients often have to try a few different ones before finding something that is really effective.
When to see a doctor for bladder spasms
Bladder spasms are not only uncomfortable. They can be intrusive in the sense that they interrupt your work, social, and personal life. Many people do whatever they can to hide the fact that they have bladder issues, but if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed below, see a doctor.
- Pain or cramping in the pelvic or lower abdominal area
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Urgent or frequent void
- Leakage of urine
We have all crossed our legs from time to time when we are nowhere near a washroom and simply have to go. However, there is a big difference between having a full bladder and really having to go versus always feeling like you have to go. For those who suffer from bladder spasms, the painful reality is that accidents can happen, embarrassment looms, and discomfort is common. With a variety of treatment options available to help bladder spasm sufferers with their symptoms, hiding simply doesn’t make much sense. Talking openly with a doctor about bladder spasms is the first step for sufferers to take if they want to shift their lifestyles over to the fulfilling side.