If commuting or taking long car rides exacerbates your bladder or pelvic pain symptoms, you are not alone. The first epidemiological studies on IC found that 50% of patients reported pain and discomfort while sitting in a car. The vibration from bumpy roads, as well as constant starts and stops, are jarring to the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. Throw in restricted restroom access and/or the perception that a restroom might not be available, it’s only natural that patients find rides stressful and unenjoyable. Fear not! Here are some strategies that can help.

A smooth suspension is a must

Small, sporty cars and trucks are well known for having poor suspensions that intensify every bump in the road. Do an experiment. Try renting a larger, heavier car that has a smoother suspension and ride. After my bladder pain began, I spent a year test driving every car I could find and, ultimately, the ones that were the most comfortable were larger SUV’s and sedans. I currently drive a Buick SUV and it’s been perfect for tender bladder and pelvic floor. I also loved driving the Volvo sedans but their seats were just too hard, with very little padding. My toosh needs good cushioning!

Going on a train ride?

It’s no secret that Business and First Class train cars have better suspensions and more comfortable seats. If you’re planning a long train trip, this is a must. I had one of my worst flares ever and ended up in the Emergency Room after riding in the cheap seats on Amtrak for a five hour trip.

Bring a Restroom Access Card

If you’re worried that you’ll be denied access to a restroom, try showing an ICN Restroom Access card. These come in handy in any situation where restroom access might be limited, including plane flights, train rides and private facilities.

Try using an ICN Bladder & Prostate Friendly Chair Cushion

Some seat structures are just too uncomfortable, especially if you have vulvar, urethal or testicular pain. The donut shaped pillows don’t work because they put pressure on your urethra and stretch the perineum awkwardly. The ICN’s Bladder & Prostate Friendly Chair Cushion reduces pressure on your tender bits and is much more comfortable. The Waffle Chair Cushion is ideal for patients who have tenderness in the gluteal muscles.

Carry TravelJohns

Some patients allow themselves to become housebound because they worry that they will not be able to find a restroom or, worse, get stuck in a traffic jam. Try carrying the TravelJohn, an ingenous portable urinal for men and women that is small enough to fit in your purse, glove compartment or pants pocket. In fact, I always have a handful in my car for emergencies! Each contains a small, yet strong plastic bags with a custom fitting that fits perfectly over your tender bits. When you urinate into them, a chemical instantly solidifies the liquid it to avoid leakage. Simply throw away in any trash can. These are ideal for planes, trains and cars!

The Go Girl allows women to pee standing up so that you can avoid nasty or dirty bathroom seats. As the company says, It’s neat, discrete and very hygienic.

Some patients just keep beach towels and thick plastic bags in their car. Put the towel in the bag, sit and go. Seal with a twist tie and then wash at your earliest opportunity. Others make sure that they drive a four door car. They open the back door and the front door, to create a private area for emptying their bladder by the side of the road. There ARE ways!

Don’t drive impaired

Under no circumstance should an IC patient drive while taking strong pain medications. You risk not only your health, but those of other drivers by driving impaired. If pain is an issue, consider using a TENS unit in your car until you get home. In my early years, when driving was especially hard, I would GENTLY slap my thigh while driving. This acts similarly to a TENS unit and diverted my attention away from the pain. In other cases, a heating pad could be very helpful in taking the edge off. BodiHeat adhesive pads are perfect for driving because they deliver constant steady heat and can be worn in the car, at work and on planes.

Treat your body kindly

You would not run a marathon on a broken leg, so try not to run a marathon on a painful bladder or pelvic floor. If you are in an active flare, rest frequently and keep your drives short. There may be times when you should not get in the car, especially for longer car rides or vacations. Assess your pain that morning. If you are in a major flare, it may be best to pass on that car trip knowing that the vibration will probably make you much more uncomfortable by the end of the trip. Many patients report ruined vacations because they sat in the car far too long.

What do you do to help make car rides more comfortable?

I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas! The more ideas and coping strategies the better! Post them below in the comments area!

By Jill Heidi Osborne, ICN President & Founder