Neurogenic Bladder: Kegel Exercises

Kegel Exercises and Other Treatment Options

Drug therapy. Different drugs can affect the nerves and muscles of the urinary tract in different ways.

  • Drugs that relax bladder muscles and prevent bladder spasms include oxybutynin chloride (Ditropan), tolterodine (Detrol), hyoscyamine (Levsin), and propantheline bromide (Pro-Banthine), which belong to the class of drugs called anticholinergics. Their most common side effect is dry mouth, although larger doses may cause blurred vision, constipation, a faster heartbeat, and flushing. A new patch delivery system for oxybutynin (Oxytrol) may decrease side effects. Ditropan XL and Detrol LA are time-release formulations that deliver a low level of the drug continuously in the body. These drugs have the advantage of once-a-day administration. In 2004, the FDA approved trospium chloride (Sanctura), darifenacin (Enablex), and solifenacin succinate (VESIcare) for the treatment of overactive bladder.
  • Drugs for depression that also relax bladder muscle include imipramine hydrochloride (Tofranil), a tricyclic antidepressant. Side effects may include fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, and insomnia.

Additional drugs are being evaluated for the treatment of overactive bladder and may soon receive FDA approval.

Surgery. In extreme cases, when incontinence is severe and other treatments have failed, surgery may be considered. The bladder may be made larger through an operation known as augmentation cystoplasty, in which a part of the diseased bladder is replaced with a section taken from the patient's bowel. This operation may improve the ability to store urine but may make the bladder more difficult to empty so that regular catheterization is needed. There is also a risk that the bladder may break open and leak urine into the body. Other risks include bladder stones, mucus in the bladder, and infection.

How do you do Kegel exercises?
The first step is to find the right muscles. Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from passing gas. Squeeze the muscles you would use. If you sense a "pulling" feeling, those are the right muscles for pelvic exercises.

Try not to squeeze other muscles at the same time. Be careful not to tighten your stomach, legs, or buttocks. Squeezing the wrong muscles can put more pressure on your bladder control muscles. Just squeeze the pelvic muscles. Don't hold your breath.

Repeat, but don't overdo it. At first, find a quiet spot to practice—your bathroom or bedroom—so you can concentrate. Pull in the pelvic muscles and hold for a count of 3. Then relax for a count of 3. Work up to 3 sets of 10 repeats. Start doing your pelvic muscle exercises lying down. This is the easiest position to do them because the muscles do not need to work against gravity. When your muscles get stronger, do your exercises sitting or standing. Working against gravity is like adding more weight.

Be patient. Don't give up. It takes just 5 minutes a day. You may not feel your bladder control improve for 3 to 6 weeks. Still, most people do notice an improvement after a few weeks.

Some people with nerve damage cannot tell whether they are doing Kegel exercises correctly or not. If you are not sure, ask your doctor or nurse to examine you while you try to do them. If it turns out that you are not squeezing the right muscles, you may still be able to learn proper Kegel exercises by doing special training with biofeedback, electrical stimulation, or both.

Adapted and excerpted from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health

Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 01/09


Last Modified Date: May 28, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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