What are Bladder Spasms?

Home / Bladder Medically Reviewed by Edith Anderson, RN

Bladder spasms are involuntary contractions of the bladder which generate an urge to urinate, sometimes accompanied by extreme pain. If bladder spasms persist, incontinence may develop, as the bladder will force urine out.

The resulting stream of urine may be impossible to stop, as the patient does not have control over his or her bladder. A number of conditions can lead to bladder spasms, and they should definitely be addressed by a doctor, as it may be possible to manage bladder spasms or to address the underlying cause to eliminate them altogether.

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

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

Treating Bladdder Spasms

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, while others find that doing pelvic floor exercises strengthens their bladder control. Measures such as catheterization may be used to address incontinence on a temporary basis while a doctor treats the spasms.

Bladder training is also 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.