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If you dread road trips, can’t sit through a full movie, and know where all the bathrooms are in your neighborhood, you may have urinary urgency and frequency. Many people have experienced this for as long as they can remember. For others, it starts later in life. It can disrupt your life when you feel like you are always running to the bathroom with a high degree of urgency. Luckily, we have tools to help!

What is urinary urgency?

It is normal to feel an urge to pee when your bladder is full. However, urgency is when that sensation is sudden, strong, and hard to defer. 

What is urinary frequency?

It’s considered normal to go 2-4 hours in between bathroom trips. Urinary frequency is when someone starts going more often than is normal for them. Most people seek treatment when their life is disrupted by how often they have to pee. 

Urinary Urgency How do urinary urgency and frequency relate to each other?

Experiencing urinary urgency often causes urinary frequency. When someone is frequently feeling a very strong urge to empty their bladder, they start to pee more frequently. In turn, this trains the bladder to be more sensitive to filling and give signals of urge more frequently. Unfortunately, it becomes a cycle where someone’s urgency and frequency reinforce each other.

Is urinary frequency different from an overactive bladder?

Overactive bladder is defined as urinary urgency and frequency that occurs during the day and also wakes someone at night. The first line treatment for overactive bladder is the same as daytime urinary frequency – read on for more information! The second line treatment is medication management as prescribed by your doctor.

What can pelvic physical therapy do for urinary urgency and frequency?

  • The most effective way to stop the cycle of urinary urgency and frequency is to use behavioral changes. The pelvic floor muscles are usually less of a contributor to symptoms. However, your pelvic PT may identify that it would be helpful to work on muscle strength and control in addition to bladder training.
  • Your pelvic PT will first work with you to identify patterns in your bathroom habits as well as when and what you drink. A bladder diary is a helpful tool when you’re starting out, because most people don’t know this information without specifically tracking it. 
  • You may find that you have a sensitivity to some bladder irritants. Many people choose to set themselves up for success in managing urgency and frequency by reducing their intake of bladder irritants (at least temporarily). 
  • There may be specific situations in which you notice strong urgency. You may also notice that your urgency is triggered strongly by feelings of anxiety or stress. This is common! Learning to identify the trigger behind the urgency can help you better manage it.

Once you and your PT have identified patterns and triggers, it’s usually helpful to do some sort of bladder training. This gives you control over your bladder schedule, and helps to retrain your nervous system and bladder to be less sensitive. With consistency, you can set a new schedule and keep it that way!

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