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What are Bladder Spasms?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Bladder spasms are involuntary contractions of the bladder that generate an urge to urinate, sometimes accompanied by extreme pain. If the spasms persist, incontinence might develop, because the bladder will force out urine. The resulting stream of urine might be impossible to stop because the patient does not have control over his or her bladder. Many conditions can lead to bladder spasms, and they should be addressed by a doctor because it might be possible to manage the spasms or to address the underlying cause and eliminate them altogether.

When bladder spasms occur, the bladder randomly contracts as though the patient is preparing to urinate. The patient usually will feel as though he or she needs to urinate, and some leakage might occur. One of the most common causes of incontinence in the elderly is this condition, and these contractions also can cause incontinence in young children. In some cases, the spasms might be extremely violent, with patients comparing them to severe cramps, like those associated with child birth.

Possible Causes

People who have neurological problems can develop bladder spasms as a result of conflicting messages sent to the nerves in the bladder. Stroke victims also are prone to developing involuntary bladder contractions because of the brain damage caused by strokes. Bladder infections and chronic conditions that affect the bladder, such as interstitial cystitis, can lead to spasms as well. Age is one of the most common risk factors for developing spasms of the bladder, with people older than 60 being more prone to them, but people of any age can experience them.

Treatment Options

There are several approaches to treating bladder spasms, depending on the root cause. Certain medications can be used to relax the bladder so that it cannot contract at random, and electrical stimulation is sometimes used to address mixed signals from the nerves around the bladder. Some patients have success with acupuncture and other alternative therapies, and others find that doing pelvic floor exercises increases their bladder control. Measures such as catheterization might be used to address incontinence on a temporary basis while a doctor treats the spasms.

Bladder training also is an option. In bladder training, people establish a urination schedule, urinating at set times rather than when they feel the need. The interval between urinating can gradually be extended until the patient finds his or her comfort zone. A urologist can provide additional suggestions and treatment options to patients, depending on the cause of their bladder spasms.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon141136 — On Jan 09, 2011

I'm a 14 year old and I've been getting bladder spasms for about 2 years. Yes, it annoys me. It usually happens when I just drink a glass of water in one go. And often it happens at night time so the main problem is it affects my sleep. The doctors couldn't really help so I don't know what to do.

By closerfan12 — On Jul 31, 2010

@StreamFinder -- the most common ones are those mentioned in the article, a sudden need to void, sometimes with pain.

The only others I've found are burning while urinating, abdominal cramps, and a feeling of a full bladder -- your basic UTI/bladder spasm symptoms.

You might want to check out the Mayo Clinic website or WebMD, sometimes they have good info.

By StreamFinder — On Jul 31, 2010

Can anybody tell me what some other bladder spasm symptoms might be?

I've got a biology paper due on urinary tract diseases and need some information quickly!

By rallenwriter — On Jul 31, 2010

Sometimes certain foods can actually cause spasms in the bladder.

Foods like alcohol, chocolate, citrus fruits and overly-sweet beverages can irritate the bladder, causing spasms.

However, this usually only occurs in conjunction with another one of the bladder spasm causes, usually interstitial cystitis.

By calea — On Sep 08, 2009

It's interesting that catheterization is both a cause and a temporary solution to bladder spasms. I've heard that bladder spasms can also be caused by a reaction to some foods, and that dietary changes can help.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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