Overactive bladder exercises focus on strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and retraining the bladder and brain for better bladder control.
Overactive bladder (OAB) exercises may help reduce symptoms such as frequency of urination, urinary urgency, and bladder leakage.
This article discusses the different exercises for OAB, how they might help, and other treatments.
OAB exercises may help to:
- strengthen pelvic floor muscles
- reduce the frequency and urgency of urinating
- improve bladder control
- reduce bladder leakage
Depending on the severity of OAB, people may find exercises improve symptoms within a few weeks or months of consistent use.
The following sections outline some different types of exercises for OAB.
Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
According to the National Association For Continence (NAFC), Kegel exercises are one of the best methods for improving bladder function. Kegel exercises may help reduce or stop bladder leakage and an urgent need to urinate.
A person will need to engage the pelvic floor muscles when performing Kegal excerices. To idenify these muscles, they can attempt to stop the flow of urine mid-stream when urinating. A person can then try the exercises as follows:
- With an empty bladder, tighten the pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds and relax for 5 seconds. Repeat this sequence five times on the first day.
- Once more confident with the exercise, increase it to 10 seconds of contracting and 10 seconds of relaxing, repeated 10 times. People can aim for three sessions of 10 repetitions per day.
- Avoid contracting the muscles in the stomach, thighs, or buttocks during Kegel exercises, and breathe as usual.
With Kegel exercises, people may notice improvements in OAB symptoms in around 4 weeks.
Kegel exercises may not be suitable for people with an overactive pelvic floor. Before starting the exercises, people can talk with a doctor to check whether they may benefit.
Bladder training is a way of retraining the muscles that control the bladder and learning whether to ignore or take notice of the signals. It can also help people recognize when the bladder is full or not.
As well as improving bladder control, bladder training may help to:
- reduce the frequency of urination and bladder leakage
- increase the amount of time people can wait between using the toilet
- increase the amount of urine the bladder can hold
- control feelings of urgency
Bladder training may involve:
- Keeping a bladder diary to note:
- urination frequency
- the time between bathroom visits
- other factors that may affect OAB, such as diet
- After establishing how frequently a person urinates, adding 15 minutes onto that time to help train the body and mind to wait, then further increasing the wait time.
- When feeling the urge to urinate, a person may try delaying urination by 5 minutes and then gradually increasing the waiting time.
Depending on the severity of OAB, people may experience improvements within 2 weeks, or it may take up to 3 months or longer.
Vaginal cones are small weights that people place inside the vagina. An individual then engages the pelvic floor muscles to keep the cone in place and can gradually increase the weight.
Vaginal cones may help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and improve symptoms of urinary incontinence.
Biofeedback is a way of making sure people engage the correct muscles when they perform pelvic floor exercises to get maximum benefit. Biofeedback is an effective way to train pelvic floor muscles and may help people regain bladder control.
Biofeedback may use sensors inside the vagina or around the anal area. The sensors measure the activity of the pelvic floor muscles and show whether people are contracting the correct muscles.
People can work with a biofeedback specialist to help them identify the correct muscles for pelvic floor exercises. A person may notice an improvement in symptoms within three biofeedback sessions.
People may need other treatments if exercises are ineffective. They may also use other treatments alongside exercises. They include:
- Electrical stimulation: This uses pulses of low-voltage electrical current to target the nerves that help control bladder function. Electrical stimulation may help improve symptoms of OAB, such as the urgency and frequency of urination.
- Medications: Certain medications help relax the bladder muscle to prevent it from contracting when the bladder is not full. Medications may include beta-3 agonists or antimuscarinics.
- Botox: Botox injections into the bladder muscle help relax the bladder to prevent it from contracting too much. This may help reduce the frequency and urgency of urination.
- Surgery: In rare cases, surgery may be an option if OAB is severe and does not respond to other treatments. Surgery may involve enlarging the bladder or altering the route of urine flow.
OAB exercises may help strengthen pelvic floor muscles and retrain the bladder for better bladder control.
If exercises are ineffective, people can discuss other treatment options with a doctor, including medications, Botox injections, or surgery.