Overactive Bladder Training: Benefits, How-To, and FAQs – Healthline

Overactive bladder (OAB) refers to a group of symptoms, the most prominent of which is a sudden urge to urinate. A 2018 review estimates that OAB affects as many as 33 million adults in the United States.
One of the first-line treatments for OAB is called bladder training. The goal of bladder training is to help you adapt to holding urine for longer, reducing the number of trips you need to take to the bathroom in a day.
Below, we’ll cover the basics of bladder training, how it works, and its potential benefits. Keep reading to discover more.
Typically, your bladder will fill gradually throughout the day. It can hold about 1 pint of urine, according to the National Health Service. When your bladder becomes full, signaling between your brain and bladder lets you know that it’s time to use the bathroom.
The bladder muscles then squeeze to allow urine to exit your body through the urethra. Most people empty their bladder about four to seven times per day.
While the exact cause is unknown, OAB is associated with an overactivity of the bladder muscles. When these muscles contract involuntarily, it can lead to:
As such, many people with OAB rush off to the bathroom as soon as the urge to urinate comes on. However, this can actually make OAB worse, as your bladder will become used to holding smaller and smaller amounts of urine.
Bladder training helps you to learn to more effectively hold your urine. This extends the amount of time between trips to the bathroom.
Several different techniques are used as a part of bladder training. Let’s explore these now.
A key part of bladder training is aiming to go to the bathroom at regular intervals throughout the day. This helps your bladder to adjust to a certain urinary frequency. Over time, you’ll gradually increase the interval between bathroom trips.
For example, you may find that you go to the bathroom about every 30 minutes, so you may start by waiting an additional 15 minutes before using the bathroom. This means that you’ll aim to go to the bathroom every 45 minutes instead.
As your training progresses, you can begin to increase this waiting interval to 20 minutes, 25 minutes, and so on. According to 2018 research, the overall goal is to be able to hold your bladder for about 3 to 4 hours before using the bathroom.
When it’s time to use the bathroom, it’s important to avoid rushing to the toilet. Instead, try to move to the bathroom at a regular pace. This helps to reduce the association of going to the bathroom with feelings of distress or urgency.
Bladder training involves resisting the urge to use the bathroom right away or “just in case.” Initially, trying not to use the bathroom immediately when the urge to urinate comes on can be difficult.
Practicing distraction techniques can help. These include things like:
It’s important to note that some distraction techniques may work for some individuals and not others. Try to stay patient as you figure out which distraction techniques work best for you.
It’s natural to think that drinking fewer liquids can help to reduce urinary frequency. However, it’s still important to make sure you’re consuming enough liquids throughout the day.
Drinking enough liquids can prevent things like dehydration, constipation, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). It also helps with bladder training.
Remember that your bladder needs to get full for bladder training to be effective. Also, urine that’s too concentrated can irritate the lining of your bladder, aggravating your symptoms.
To help keep to your bladder training routine at night, it may be a good idea to limit liquids 1 or 2 hours before bed. Additionally, try to reduce or eliminate the consumption of liquids that may irritate your bladder, such as:
It’s important to keep a diary during bladder training. That way, both you and your doctor can track your progress. Be sure to record things like:
Bladder training has several benefits. These include:
Many people who treat OAB recognize the benefits of bladder training. In fact, in a 2020 survey study involving 213 healthcare professionals, 88 percent reported that they felt bladder training was both important and effective at managing OAB.
You probably still have several lingering questions about bladder training for OAB. Let’s try to address some of these now.
Bladder training can strengthen the muscles of your bladder. This can allow you to gradually hold more and more urine, reducing the number of trips you make to the bathroom each day.
The exact protocol that’s used for bladder training can vary by healthcare professional. A 2020 review suggests that it generally lasts between 8 and 12 weeks.
Bladder training can be effective for OAB. Let’s see what some of the research says.
An older 2013 study of 85 people with OAB found that bladder training reduced urinary frequency, urinary urgency, and nocturia. It also found that bladder training improved quality of life.
A more recent 2018 study on women agreed with these findings. Participants receiving bladder training had improved quality of life, as well as reduced urinary frequency and urine leakage.
The effectiveness of bladder training may also be boosted when it’s combined with other types of treatment. A small 2020 study suggests that bladder training is more effective when combined with biofeedback, electrical stimulation, or both.
A 2021 review considered behavioral and lifestyle-based treatments for OAB to generally be low risk. This includes bladder training.
You may feel some discomfort while holding your urine, particularly after starting bladder training or after adjusting the interval between bathroom trips. Distraction techniques can help you to manage this sensation.
If you have any concerns regarding your bladder training, it’s important to raise them with your doctor.
Sometimes, holding your urine for an extended amount of time can contribute to a UTI. This is because holding your urine too long can allow bacteria to multiply in your urinary tract without being flushed out.
This is unlikely to happen with bladder training, however. While it may feel like a long time at first, the amount of time you’re holding your urine during bladder training isn’t that unusual.
Typically, an individual should aim to urinate at least once every 3 to 4 hours, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Achieving this level of urinary frequency is exactly the goal of bladder training.
Bladder training is one of the primary treatments for OAB. It involves teaching your bladder to be able to hold urine for a longer period of time. This helps to lower the number of times you need to use the bathroom in a day.
In addition to setting up a regular bathroom routine, bladder training has other components as well. These include using distraction techniques, managing your fluid intake, and keeping a diary.
Bladder training can be quite effective at reducing many of the symptoms associated with OAB. If you have OAB and would like to try bladder training, talk with your doctor about how to get started.
Last medically reviewed on April 21, 2022
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