If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), you know they can cause incredible pain and discomfort.
And they’re extremely common: More than half of all women will experience a UTI in their lifetime, and though less common, men can get them as well.
UTIs occur when bacteria enters the urinary tract, infecting parts of the urinary system including the bladder, urethra, and kidney.
The symptoms of a UTI can result in disturbed, restless nights with burning sensations, frequent urges to urinate, and sometimes abdominal or flank pain and cramping.
While UTI treatment requires a course of prescription antibiotics, there are also home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that can help relieve pain so you can sleep.
In this article, I’ll go over a few of these remedies, the common symptoms of UTIs, ways to prevent future infections, and discuss when it’s time to speak with a healthcare provider about your symptoms.
Home Remedies for UTI Pain Relief
OTC pain medications like phenazopyridine (Azo), acetaminophen, and ibuprofen can all offer some relief for UTI pain.
There are also other effective home remedies you can try, most of which are likely already in your home.
Drink plenty of water
Drinking water and other non-carbonated, low-sugar fluids helps dilute your urine and flushes bacteria from your bladder.
Proper hydration can also prevent further bacteria growth.
Studies show that increasing your overall water intake can decrease your risk of recurrent UTIs.
On average, it’s suggested that women get at least 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) and men 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water per day, but that number varies from person to person, and about 20 percent of that water will likely come from food.
Your goal should be to see clear or light yellow urine, and to urinate at least every four hours.
Empty the bladder
It’s important to fully empty your bladder to prevent the further growth of bacteria, especially when you have a UTI.
Frequent urination is essential in helping to rid your bladder of harmful bacteria, and prevent the worsening of your infection. So don’t hold it! Go when you have to go.
Avoid food and beverages that may irritate the bladder
The most common bladder irritants are alcohol, caffeinated drinks, carbonated beverages, and spicy dishes.
Both caffeine and alcohol have been found to increase bladder spasming, which can make UTI pain worse. And when men and women increased their intake of coffee or soda, they had higher chances of getting UTI symptoms.
Use a heating pad
Applying a warm heating pad or hot water bottle to your lower abdomen can help minimize bladder pressure and reduce abdominal and low back pain or cramping.
Herbal remedies and vitamins
No herbal remedy has been proven to treat or prevent a UTI, and not all are tested for safety, so it’s best to discuss any herbal treatments with a healthcare professional first.
There are some herbal supplements that may have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties that can be helpful in treating UTI symptoms.
Studies have shown that certain herbal supplements, like garlic extract, have strong anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the growth of bacteria, including E. coli.
Other natural supplements like D-mannose, a sugar naturally found in foods like cranberries and apples, may have antibacterial properties which can help relieve UTI discomfort. Both can be taken in the form of a capsule.
Cranberry extract or cranberry juice or a vitamin C supplement may also help a UTI go away faster by changing the pH balance of your urine to help keep bacteria from growing.
While not proven to treat a UTI, these may help you feel better faster.
Symptoms of a UTI
UTI symptoms may vary depending on your age and sex, the type of infection you have, and the severity of your infection.
If you have a UTI, you may experience any of the following:
- An intense, persistent, and frequent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation or pain when urinating or just after urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Cloudy urine
- Blood in the urine
- Strong or foul-smelling urine
- Pelvic pain in women
- Pain in the side, lower abdomen, or back
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Depending on the type of UTI you have, you may have more specific signs and symptoms.
Symptoms can be similar for a bladder infection or a more serious kidney infection, and in some cases, a vaginal infection or sexually transmitted infection can also cause similar symptoms.
This is why it’s best to visit a healthcare professional for a diagnosis and treatment.
How to Prevent a UTI
While some individuals may be at higher risk for a UTI, there are plenty of lifestyle changes you can practice to prevent infections.
- Stay well hydrated: Drinking water will help dilute your urine and continually flush bacteria from your bladder.
- Try cranberry juice: Some studies suggest that cranberries contain an active ingredient that can prevent bacteria like e.coli from adhering to the bladder or urinary tract. Be mindful of the ingredients, as some cranberry juices can be quite high in sugar. Look for pure cranberry juice or take a cranberry extract supplement.
- Don’t fight the urge to urinate: Urinating frequently can help flush bacteria from the bladder, and reduce your risk of recurring UTIs. Try not to hold in your pee for too long.
- Practice good personal hygiene: Always wipe from front to back after using the bathroom to prevent the transferring of unwanted bacteria to the urethra. While menstruating, women should change tampons and pads frequently.
- Use the bathroom immediately after sexual activity: During sexual activity, including masturbation, bacteria from the rectal area can get pushed towards the opening of the urethra. Peeing right after sexual contact helps to flush any bacteria out of the urinary system and prevents infections.
- Avoid douching or any internal cleansing of the vagina: Douching can not only irritate the urethra, but it can also change the natural protective pH balance and bacteria in the vagina. This can put you at risk not only for a UTI, but also vaginal infections.
- Switch to breathable, cotton underwear: Bacteria thrives in warm, moist environments, so avoiding synthetic, tight-fitting underwear and thongs can help prevent infections.
- Wear breathable clothing: Avoid tight fitting clothes that can trap moisture and encourage bacterial growth.
- Change up your birth control: Certain forms of birth control, like diaphragms and spermicide, can change the natural bacteria that occurs in the vagina, making it easier for harmful bacteria to grow.
- Avoid fragranced soaps and bath products: Highly fragranced bath and shower products, even those that are advertised for genital use, can cause irritation and can change the natural protective pH of the vagina which can lead to infections. Bubble baths and bath bombs especially can cause this type of irritation.
When To See a Healthcare Provider
Conversations about urinary symptoms can be uncomfortable, but if you’re experiencing symptoms consistent with a UTI, it’s best to seek medical advice. Your provider can order tests if needed, discuss treatment options, and help you understand the cause of your infection, as well as providing strategies to prevent recurrences.
The sooner you seek help, the sooner those painful symptoms will be gone—and you can go back to getting a good night’s sleep.
How K Health Can Help
Did you know that you can get UTI treatment online through K Health?
We have clinicians available 24/7 to get you the care or medication that you need.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Evidence of the Impact of Diet, Fluid Intake, Caffeine, Alcohol and Tobacco on Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms: A Systematic Review. (2017).
How to prevent a urinary tract infection | Understanding UTIs, Part 2 (2020).