Bladder urgency and how physiotherapy can help


Bladder urgency, also known as overactive bladder (OAB), is a frequent and sudden urge to urinate that may be difficult to control. You may feel like you need to go to the bathroom many times during the day and night, and may also experience unintentional urine leakage (urgency incontinence).


Unity Studios Blog Bladder Diagram
Anterior view of the bladder


Normally, urine flows from our kidneys through the ureters and in to our bladder. The urine is stored in the bladder until it leaves the body through the urethra. The urge to urinate occurs when our bladder (which is lined with a muscle called the detrusor) stretches to an increase in volume of filling urine. When a certain level is reached (usually about 400mls) a signal is sent from the bladder to the brain that it’s time to go to the toilet. When it is convenient and we are sitting on a toilet, the brain sends a signal for the detrusor muscle to contract and the pelvic floor muscles to relax so we can begin to urinate.

In an overactive bladder, the bladder muscle seems to give wrong messages to the brain. The bladder may feel fuller than it actually is. This causes the detrusor muscle to contract when the bladder is not very full, and not when you want it to. This can make you suddenly need to go to the toilet. OAB can cause a big impact on your life as you may become more isolated, restricting work and social activities due to unpredictable toilet habits.

Symptoms for OAB can be:

  • Urgency – A sudden urgent need to do to the toilet. Sometimes you are not able to resist the urge which can also lead to urge incontinence. This is a leaking of urine before you can get to the toilet.
  • Frequency – Going to the toilet more then seven times a day. In many cases a lot more then seven times
  • Nocturia – Waking up to go toilet more then once a night.

Its is unclear sometimes why OAB begins for some people. Some common causes include pregnancy, weak pelvic floor muscles, repeated urinary tract infections (UTI’s), Oestrogen deficiency, and some medications are to name a few.

The good news is that physiotherapy can help manage symptoms of OAB with simple behavioural strategies. Dietary habits, timed voiding, bladder training, and using your pelvic floor muscles are all techniques the pelvic floor physiotherapist at Unity can teach to assist in OAB symptoms. As everyone’s body’s and symptoms are all different we recommend coming to talk to one of our trained staff to help your individual needs

Here are some ways we can help

We may want you to recording a bladder diary. It is a good way to measure how much fluid is going in and how much is coming out.

Bladder training

Teaching techniques to try and slow or control the feeling of urgency to try and reduce the number of toilet trips.

Fluid intake

Teaching you what the normal amount of water you should be drinking (in most cases people aren’t drinking enough water), as well as things to avoid.

Pelvic floor muscle assessment

To see if the muscles are weak, then we can teach you tricks like “the knack” or if the muscles are overactive and not doing their job properly.

If you suspect you have an overactive bladder and/or you experience incontinence, come and see us (book here) or go and see a local physio that has lots of experience in women’s health. You deserve to have freedom from your bladder and avoid the stress of finding the next available bathroom.

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