Chances are, at least once in your life, you have crossed your legs, hoping to make it to the closest restroom in time. However, there is a major different between really having to go and feeling like you have to go all the time.
For those who struggle with spasms of the bladder, this feeling is a reality that can cause embarrassing accidents and changes in their lifestyle. You should know, though, that there are treatment options available to control the symptoms of bladder spasms.
However, before you learn about the treatment options, you must first understand a little bit more about bladder spasms.
How Do You Know if You’re Experiencing Bladder Spasms?
Typically, your bladder very gently fills with urine and you slowly realize your need to urinate. This feeling tells you that you should start looking for a bathroom soon.
However, in those individuals who have bladder spasms, this feeling occurs quite suddenly and usually severely. You already know that a spasm is a sudden and involuntary squeeze of a muscle.
A bladder spasm is when the bladder muscle suddenly and without warning squeezes, causing a desperate need to urinate.
This spasm can force some urine from the bladder, causing some leakage. When this occurs, it is called overactive bladder or urge incontinence.
Those who experience these bladder spasms sometimes describe them as a burning sensation and other describe them as cramping.
Women who experience severe spasms in their bladder compare them to severe menstrual cramps, and in some cases, as severe as the labor pains experienced in childbirth.
Who is at Risk for Developing Bladder Spasms?
Bladder spasms can occur in anyone at any age. Children can experience bladder spasms, which are called uninhibited bladder or pediatric unstable bladder. This is the primary cause of daytime incontinence in children.
However, there are some factors that make you much more likely to experience bladder spasms with urine leakage. Those factors are as follows:
- Have a UTI
- Recently had pelvic or lower abdominal surgery
- Pregnant/recently gave birth
- Nerve/bladder muscle damage due to injury or disease
Causes of Bladder Spasms
There are a variety of things that can cause or contribute to bladder spasms. The pain could be something as simple as your diet or even a medication you’ve been taking.
On the other hand, it could be the result of changes in the blood supply and functions of the nerves that control the bladder.
Additionally, bladder spasms could be caused by an infection of the bladder, surgery, or could be due to muscle or nerve damage. Therefore, it is vital that you visit your physician to figure out what is causing you to have bladder spasms.
In some cases, your doctor may be unable to identify the cause of your bladder spasms. This condition is referred to as idiopathic bladder spasms.
Treating Bladder Spasms
The course of treatment your doctor selects depends on what is causing your bladder spasms. For the most part though, treatment will most likely consist of one or more of the following treatments. A combination is typically the most effective.
Changes in diet
If specific foods or drinks are causing your bladder spasms, changing your diet could help control your symptoms. To see if this is the case, keep a food diary, tracking what you eat and when your symptoms occur.
This is a bit more time consuming- it will require you visit the bathroom frequently to urinate, typically between 1 ½ – 2 hours. This is an especially effective treatment for children.
As the bladder spasms begin to get better and the individual is experiencing fewer accidents, the time between bathroom trips can be increased.
Pelvic Floor Exercises, or Kegels
Kegel exercises and other physical therapy methods can help to relax and strengthen the bladder and the other muscles involved in helping the body hold in urine.
Kegel exercises, along with biofeedback, are an excellent way to reduce bladder spasms in children.
To tighten your pelvic floor muscles, simply squeeze them in the same way you would if you were trying to stop the flow of urine or keep yourself from passing gas.
You should be aware that Kegel exercises do take lots of practice. If you tighten the wrong muscle, it can cause an increase in pressure on your bladder. Speak with your doctor to get more specific instructions.
There are several medications that are often used to control bladder spasms. These are known as anticholinergics. A common side effect of these medications is dry mouth. Common medications include the following:
- Tolterodine tartrate
- Oxybutynin chloride
- Trospium chloride
Doctors also sometimes prescribe an antidepressant- imipramine, which helps to relax the bladder and reduce bladder spasming. Medications such as doxazosin or terazosin, which are alpha-blockers, could be given to help the bladder to empty completely and relax.
TENS, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is electrical stimulation through the skin. In this form of treatment, patches are applied to the skin, through which mild electrical pulses are sent to the bladder.
Experts believe that the electrical signals increase the flow of blood and also release hormones that block the pain. TENS is also used to relieve back and muscle pain.
Doctors believe that increased blood flow to the bladder helps to make it stronger, reducing leakage and spasms.
Electrical Stimulation Implant, or Inter-Stim
If you have severe spasms and urge incontinence that does not respond to other treatments, your doctor will most likely recommend this.
In this therapy, an electrode is placed just under your skin that delivers gentle electrical pulses to your bladder at regular intervals.
Individuals who have spasms related to catheter use after surgery could be given these. However, they don’t always take away the discomfort.
Some research has shown that a prescription anti-inflammatory could relive or possibly even prevent surgery- or catheter- related bladder spasms in children. This prescription is known as ketorolac.
Some research has revealed that acupuncture therapy that targets the bladder could significantly reduce contractions of the bladder and control the urge to urinate.
As mentioned before, some physicians use biofeedback to control bladder spasms. This is a treatment method that teaches the mind how to control bodily functions that are typically subconscious.
Training your bladder is a form of biofeedback. Some physicians believe that this method and behavioral changes work much better than medications for treating urge incontinence. A combination of this and medications could be the best solution.