Overactive Bladder Syndrome (OABS) is not an unusual condition with an estimated 350,000 Irish people affected. It can affect both men and women of all ages and can significantly impact on their quality of life.  But what is OABS and how can seeing a specialised pelvic health physiotherapist help?

What is Overactive Bladder Syndrome (OABS)?

OABS is a medical problem that affects the way your bladder behaves. It is an involuntary sudden contraction or squeezing of the muscle of the wall of the bladder even when the volume of urine in your bladder is low. Basically, the bladder is working overtime and the muscles are giving the wrong messages to the brain causing the bladder to feel fuller that what it actually is. This involuntary contraction gives rise to urgent need to urinate, frequently needing to go to the toilet during the day, having to get up during the night at least twice and in some cases accidentally leaking urine.

How does the bladder work?

The bladder is a hollow, balloon shaped muscle that stores urine until you find an appropriate time and place to urinate. It swells as it gets full and can hold up to 300-500mls comfortably. A number of muscles work together to keep urine in the bladder and therefore maintaining your continence. The opening and closing of the bladder is controlled by sphincter muscles and supported by the pelvic floor muscles. Nerves from the bladder to the brain give the signal to empty when full. As the bladder fills and reaches its limit nerve signals can intensify. When you decide to go to the toilet to pass urine the brain signals the muscular bladder wall to tighten squeezing urine out of the bladder. At the same time, the brain signals the sphincter and pelvic floor muscles to relax.

How is OABS diagnosed?
Diagnosis of OABS is after discussion with your GP or in some cases a specialist pelvic health physiotherapist. They will ask about your symptoms. OABS symptoms are sudden urgent desire to urinate that is difficult to suppress, frequently urinating and getting up more the twice at night to urinate. A bladder diary is a good tool to help assist diagnosis and the information gathered from the bladder diary can then be used as part of the treatment plan. Your GP may also want to do a test known as urinalysis to make sure there is no infection or any other medical conditions causing the symptoms. A very small minority of people will have to be referred on for specialist tests.

How can seeing a specialist pelvic health physiotherapist help treat the symptoms?

If you have been diagnosed with OABS or suspicious that you may have the symptoms don’t lose hope as there are a lot of treatment options available. Seeing a specialist pelvic health physiotherapist can help you with lifestyle modifications which can easily be incorporated into your daily routine to effectively manage your symptoms i.e. reducing caffeine intake. The physiotherapist can provide you with strategies to manage the urge and bladder retraining techniques. They will also teach you how to strengthen your pelvic floor. Sometimes, treatment can involve a multidisciplinary approach where the physiotherapist will work with your GP and/or specialist to help you achieve your goals.