Lower Back Pain and Frequent Urination: What's the link?

Frequent urination, along with other types of urinary incontinence, is often a symptom of an underlying condition or disorder. Back pain may also be a symptom of the same condition, in which case incontinence and back pain  might occur at the same time.

Lower back pain and leaking urine  can be caused by a number of things, from age, weight gain and pregnancy to more serious conditions, such as kidney and prostate problems and spinal disorders. Below is a guide to the common causes of back pain and bladder disorders – if you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak to a doctor to get a proper diagnosis. 

Can lower back problems cause bladder problems?

While there is research on back pain as a cause of urinary incontinence,  the exact reasons for the link between the two are unclear. Some people experience bladder leakage as a result of pain or pressure being put on the back, which may have a physical or neurological source. Evidence suggests that in some cases, the contracting of the muscles which hold or release urine may also trigger back pain; however, more research is needed to determine why.

What causes lower back pain and frequent urination?

Although the exact relationship between back pain and bladder problems is unclear, there are certain conditions that increase the risk of experiencing both symptoms. These include: 
 
• Age – Back pain becomes more common with age as the joints, discs and cartilage start to wear away. The pelvic floor and muscles that control the bladder also weaken, particularly for women during the menopause, which can cause urine leakage.
 
• Pregnancy – Many women experience back problems and incontinence during pregnancy, due to the pressure being put on the back muscles and bladder. 
 
• Childbirth – Women may also experience lower back pain after giving birth, due to the stress put on it during labour. Urine leakage may also continue after giving birth, as labour weakens the pelvic floor muscles.
 
• Obesity – Carrying extra weight puts pressure on the back and bladder muscles. This can lead to back pain and stress incontinence, while  also weakening the bladder over time. 
 
Prostate problems – Lower back pain can sometimes be a symptom of prostatitis or prostate cancer. An enlarged prostate  may also block the urethra causing bladder problems, and many men experience incontinence after prostate surgery. 
 
• Kidney problems – The kidneys are part of the urinary system, and kidney problems can affect bladder function. Pain in the kidneys can often register as lower back pain, due to their positioning. 

Lower back pain with a urine infection

Experiencing lower back pain at the same time as having a urinary tract infection  may be a sign of kidney infection. Ordinarily, UTIs will not develop into kidney infections. Occasionally however, bacteria can travel up from the bladder into the kidneys. As a result, UTI-induced kidney problems can seem to cause back pain,  as the kidney infection registers as pain in the lower back and groin. 
 
If treated immediately with antibiotics, a kidney infection will normally go away without causing lasting harm. If, however, a kidney infection goes untreated, it can become serious and in some cases even life threatening. 

Spinal disorders and bladder dysfunction

What part of the spine controls the bladder?

The sacral micturition centre sits at the base of the spine, and is the part of the spinal cord that controls your bladder and sphincter. This area contains nerves which send signals between the brain and bladder, and instructions to relax the urethra. As a result, urinary problems and incontinence can occur if the spinal nerves affecting bladder  are damaged.

Neurogenic Bladder Disorder

Injuries to the spine that result in nerve damage are often linked to Neurogenic Bladder Disorder (NBD) – urination issues caused by neurological impairment. In the case of NBD, the spinal nerves affecting bladder  may cause the bladder to become overactive,  often resulting in frequent urination, urgency, or total loss of bladder control. 

NBD is often caused by spinal cord injuries (SCI), which affect the body’s ability to carry nerve signals. Herniated discs, lumbar tumours, and spinal fractures may also cause back pain and spinal nerve damage, leading to bladder dysfunction. 

Spinal stenosis and bladder problems

Spinal stenosis is a common condition where the spinal column narrows, putting pressure on the nerves there. As a result, the nerves which control bladder function compress, often leading to neurogenic bladder dysfunction. Lower back pain presenting alongside NBD urinary issues could therefore be a symptom of spinal lumbar stenosis. 

Managing back pain and loss of bladder control

Treating the underlying condition can often relieve the accompanying symptoms. If you’re suffering from bladder and lower back pain,  incontinence or both, it’s important to seek a professional medical opinion. They will be able to provide you with a formal diagnosis and treatment to help you manage your back pain and urine leakage. 
 
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, medication can sometimes help with back pain and urinary issues. More serious back problems may be treated with a brace or compression garment.
 
In many cases, incontinence can be improved with Kegel exercises  to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Lifestyle changes such as exercise and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can also help to relieve pressure on the bladder, as well as reducing lower back pain and frequent urination at night  . In the meantime, our range of incontinence products can help to protect you from mild to moderate leakage. 

Women

For women who experience bladder leakage.

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Men

For men who experience bladder leakage.

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