Bladder Spasms: Signs, Causes, Treatments, & Prevention

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Bladder spasms, or “detrusor contractions,” occur when the muscles of your bladder contract suddenly, causing an urgent need to urinate. When you have a bladder spasm, you may experience urine leakage and a burning sensation when urine is released.

Urine leakage is called incontinence and is most likely caused by a condition known as “overactive bladder” (OAB), also known as urge incontinence. 

Talking with your healthcare provider about bladder problems may be embarrassing, but it doesn’t have to be. The doctors here at PrimeHealth treat our patients with the utmost respect.

Set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn if our providers can help you, too.

Signs of Bladder Spasm

Spasms in your bladder may be a warning sign of urinary tract infection, interstitial cystitis (also known as “painful bladder syndrome”), neurological disease, or simply drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.

What do bladder spasms feel like? A bladder spasm feels like cramping or burning around your waist. Some people have described their spasms as a sensation of bladder pressure, twitching, and pulsating as well. 

The symptoms of bladder spasms include:

  • Burning sensation when you urinate
  • Cloudy, red, or pink urine
  • Strong urine smell
  • Inability to pass much urine whenever you use the restroom
  • Pelvic pain
  • Leakage of urine before you reach the restroom

Go to your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Unbearable pain in your bladder or urethra
  • High fever
  • Blood in your urine (may appear pinkish or red)

The symptoms that accompany bladder spasms will depend on the underlying condition.

Diagnosing Bladder Spasms

Diagnosing bladder spasms is critical to understanding the root cause and implementing the right treatment plan. Your doctor will take a comprehensive approach that covers these stages


During this phase, you’ll have a conversation with your doctor about your symptoms and medical history. It’s your chance to discuss any recurring patterns, such as:

  • How often does the problem occur?
  • What is the average volume of fluid that is passed?
  • Does it occur with standing, coughing or sneezing
  • Do you feel like you have to go immediately (urinary urgency)?
  • Do you feel pain or discomfort during urination?
  • What is your past obstetric, medical or drug history?

This historical data gives them a foundation to understand your condition better.

Physical Examination

Next up is the physical examination. Your doctor will check for any physical signs that might indicate the cause of the bladder spasms. This could include examining your abdomen and rectum for tenderness, masses or an enlarged bladder. They will also check your back for kidney issues, and other checks that can give clues about your overall urological health.

A pelvic exam may also be performed to check for any abnormalities in the reproductive organs or pelvic muscles. This will help your doctor rule out other potential conditions that can cause bladder spasms.

Blood and Urine Tests

Urine tests are a key diagnostic tool. By analyzing a sample of your urine called a urinalysis and urine culture, your doctor can check for infections, blood, or any abnormal substances. This helps in ruling out urinary tract infections or kidney stones, which can cause symptoms similar to bladder spasms.

Blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) and kidney function tests may also be ordered to get a closer look at your overall health and rule out other potential conditions.

Imaging Tests

Suppose the tests mentioned above do not provide enough information. In that case, your doctor may recommend imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan or MRI to get a better look at your bladder and surrounding areas. These tests can help identify any structural abnormalities, tumors or other issues that may be causing bladder spasms.

Urodynamic Testing

Urodynamic testing is a bit more specialized. It assesses how well your bladder and urethra are storing and releasing urine. Through various techniques, your doctor can measure bladder pressure and flow rates, helping to diagnose issues like overactive bladder or other functional disorders.

What Causes Bladder Spasms?

If the cause of your bladder spasms is overactive bladder, you’ll probably wake up multiple times in the night to urinate. If the underlying cause is bladder stones, you’re going to experience a lot more pain than other underlying causes.

There are several potential underlying causes of bladder spasms, including:

  • Overactive bladder
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritation from urinary catheter
  • Constipation
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
  • Bladder stones
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Neurological disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, stroke, and multiple sclerosis
  • Nerve damage in the bladder called Neurogenic bladder
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Chronic stress
  • Recent surgery to the bladder or pelvic floor
  • Certain medications, like bethanechol (Urecholine), the diuretic furosemide (Lasix), and valrubicin (Valstar)

What is the primary cause of bladder spasms? The primary cause of bladder spasms is “overactive bladder” (OAB).

Can bladder spasms occur at any time? Bladder spasms can happen at any time. It’s good to be prepared with underwear liners and always know where the nearest restroom is located. Some people suffering from bladder spasms even recommend keeping a change of clothes on hand.

Who Is Most at Risk for Bladder Spasms?

Not everyone is equally likely to experience bladder spasms. Lifestyle and health factors can raise your likelihood of developing bladder spasms.

Here are a few risk factors that make you more likely to experience bladder spasms:

At what age do bladder spasms occur? Bladder spasms can occur at any age. Elderly people are more at risk for bladder spasms accompanied by urine leakage. Even children can experience bladder spasms — this condition is called “pediatric unstable bladder,” which is a leading cause for daytime incontinence.

Treating Bladder Spasms

Bladder spasm treatment options include antispasmodic medication, Kegels, dietary changes, bladder training, and general stress relief.

Depending on the underlying cause of the bladder spasms, conventional and integrative doctors typically consider a combination of treatments.

1. Lifestyle Changes

Altering your habits and lifestyle may decrease or eliminate bladder spasms. Many of these changes are relatively simple to implement.

These lifestyle changes may treat or prevent bladder spasms:

  • Change your fluid intake: See if your bladder spasms go away when you drink different amounts of fluid, or if you drink at different times in the day.
  • Alter your diet: Avoid caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, citrus, tomatoes, pickled foods, and artificial sweeteners, which some people find can trigger their bladder spasms. If your bladder spasms are caused by an autoimmune condition, it’s a good idea to avoid nightshades and follow an AIP diet to determine your triggers.
  • Keep a food diary while tracking symptoms: Track what you eat and when you experience bladder spasms. See if bladder spasms follow any specific dietary trigger.
  • Train your bladder: Go to the restroom at timed intervals. This trains your bladder to fill more completely, decreasing your urgent need to run to the bathroom. Also called “timed voiding,” bladder training is a type of biofeedback that trains your mind to better control your body.
  • Reduce your stress: Stress can trigger hundreds of conditions, including bladder spasms. Spend time outside, reduce time on technology, or practice meditation to reduce stress and lower your risk of stress incontinence and bladder spasms.

​​According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, changes in diet do not reduce the incidence of urinary incontinence. The NIDDK likely says this because no change in diet works for everyone. Bladder spasms need to be treated on an individual basis.

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2. Exercise

Strengthening your pelvic floor is vital to bladder control. Pelvic floor exercises (including the popular Kegel exercises) can treat bladder spasms, especially if incontinence and stress are the root causes.

To do a Kegel, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine. This exercise might seem odd, but it strengthens all-important muscles and reduces your risk of bladder spasms.

In general, most forms of low-impact exercise should reduce your stress levels, which also reduce your risk of bladder spasms.

3. Medication

Prescription treatments for bladder spasms typically include antimuscarinics and trycyclic antidepressants. The 3 medications most commonly prescribed for overactive bladder are:

  • Tolterodine (Detrol) — antimuscarinic
  • Oxybutynin chloride (Ditropan) — antimuscarinic
  • Amitriptyline (Elavil) — trycyclic antidepressant 

Antimuscarinics are a subtype of antispasmodics. Side effects of antimuscarinics may include:

  • Pupil dilation
  • Light sensitivity
  • Dry mouth
  • Hot and flushed skin
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Fever (in rare cases)
  • Rashes (in severe cases)

Another group of medications used to treat bladder spasms is tricyclic antidepressants. These drugs feature some nasty side effects such as night sweats and constipation, but they can be effective for some individuals.

When working with patients, I assert that medication should almost never be your first answer to bladder spasms. Whenever you can, aim to develop a treatment plan with your healthcare provider that involves the least invasive treatments (and those with the fewest side effects) first. Our providers find this is the most effective way to help patients enjoy lasting results.

4. Electrical Stimulation

An electrical stimulation implant may be placed under your skin to deliver gentle electrical pulses to the bladder at regular intervals. This is an uncommon but sometimes effective treatment for certain patients.

Bladder spasms are sometimes caused by nervous system dysfunction that leads to bladder control problems. This electrical stimulation is also called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). TENS targets the nervous system to try and fix the dysfunction.

If you experience severe bladder spasms and bladder incontinence that other treatments can’t fix, your doctor may turn to TENS. Don’t worry, it’s actually quite gentle.

5. Injections

A doctor may inject botulinum toxin type A (Botox) into your bladder wall, strengthening your bladder muscles. This may treat or at least reduce bladder spasms.

As its name suggests, Botox is literally a toxin. It may be used to strengthen the muscles in your bladder, but it’s a treatment that we only prescribe as a last resort.

How To Prevent Bladder Spasms

To promote healthy bladder function and prevent bladder spasms, follow these guidelines:

  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Reduce your daily stress
  • Exercise regularly
  • Follow the AIP diet (if your bladder spasms may be triggered by IC)

For both men and women, urinate after sex to flush out any bacteria trapped in your urethra. This will help to avoid any UTIs that may trigger bladder spasms.

Additionally, for women, wipe from front to back after defecating. This may help you avoid transferring bacteria to your urethra. Urethral bacteria is how urinary tract infections (UTIs) happen. UTIs can lead to a host of unwanted side effects such as bladder spasms, abdominal pain, fever, and a burning sensation while urinating.

Can drinking more water help bladder spasms? Drinking more water helps to alleviate bladder spasms as it dilutes your urine, causing less irritation to the bladder.

Impact of Bladder Spasms on Quality of Life

Bladder spasms can have a profound impact on your quality of life. If you are experiencing frequent spasms, you may often find your daily activities heavily disrupted. Work life can be particularly challenging, as the need for frequent bathroom breaks or the fear of incontinence might lead to anxiety during meetings, presentations, or even throughout a regular workday.

Also, in social settings, the unpredictability of bladder spasms can lead to embarrassment and an unwillingness to participate in activities outside the home, limiting your social engagements and potentially straining relationships with your friends and family.

The emotional toll is equally significant. Some people report feelings of depression and isolation, as discussed by users on platforms such as Reddit, where people share their personal struggles with bladder spasms.

Long-Term Outlook and Coping Strategies

The long-term outlook for individuals living with bladder spasms can vary significantly based on the underlying causes, the effectiveness of treatments, and how well you manage your condition. For many, with the right combination of treatments, lifestyle changes, and management strategies, it’s possible for you to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of spasms, leading to an improved quality of life.

To cope with ongoing symptoms, consider the following strategies:

  • Stay Informed: Knowledge is power. Resources such as the Urology Care Foundation offer a wealth of information to help you understand your condition better.
  • Seek Support: Joining support groups, either in person or online, can offer emotional comfort and practical advice. Websites such as National Association For Continence: Bladder And Bowel Health provide directories for support groups and additional resources.
  • Manage Stress: Stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help reduce the overall impact of stress on your body and might lessen the severity of bladder spasms.
  • Regular Follow-ups: Keep regular appointments with your healthcare provider to monitor your condition and adjust treatments as necessary.

Remember, you’re not alone in this. Many individuals lead fulfilling lives despite their diagnosis. Turning to support networks, whether they be professional, familial, or communal, can provide you with the strength and resources needed to manage your condition effectively.

Innovations in Bladder Spasm Treatment

Recent advancements in the treatment of bladder spasms have opened up new avenues for individuals struggling with this condition, offering hope for more effective and less invasive treatment options. Among these, a significant breakthrough has been in the development of novel medications that target bladder muscles with greater specificity, consequently reducing the occurrence of spasms without the widespread side effects associated with older drugs.

Additionally, the advent of minimally invasive surgical procedures, such as the use of Botox injections directly into the bladder muscle, has shown promising results. A study published in the Urology Annals points out that such injections can significantly alleviate symptoms, offering a reprieve to those with severe bladder dysfunction.

Each of these advancements represents a step forward in the ongoing effort to improve the quality of life for individuals afflicted with bladder spasms, showcasing the dynamic and evolving nature of medical research in this area.

Bladder Spasm Outlook

Bladder spasms occur in a third of American adults. Thankfully, you can feel empowered — not embarrassed — as you seek treatment and improve your bladder health and quality of life.

If you are experiencing bladder spasms, schedule a free phone consultation with a PrimeHealth specialist. We are experts in handling multiple potential causes of it, including interstitial cystitis, constipation-predominant IBS, and Alzheimer’s disease.

We treat our patients with respect and dignity. Our individualized healthcare plans mean you are getting the best care for your situation. Bladder spasms are often curable. Our patients prove it.


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  2. Kanter, G., Komesu, Y. M., Qaedan, F., Jeppson, P. C., Dunivan, G. C., Cichowski, S. B., & Rogers, R. G. (2016). Mindfulness-based stress reduction as a novel treatment for interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. International urogynecology journal, 27(11), 1705-1711.
  3. Huang, Y. C., & Chang, K. V. (2020). Kegel Exercises. StatPearls [Internet].
  4. Coolen, R. L., Groen, J., & Blok, B. F. M. (2019). Electrical stimulation in the treatment of bladder dysfunction: technology update. Medical Devices (Auckland, NZ), 12, 337.
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