IC & Driving: Tips For Surviving Long Drives & Rides


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

About the Author:

My Google Profile+ Jill Heidi Osborne is the president and founder of the Interstitial Cystitis Network, a health education company dedicated to interstitial cystitis, bladder pain syndrome and other pelvic pain disorders. As the editor and lead author of the ICN and the IC Optimist magazine, Jill is proud of the academic recognition that her website has achieved. The University of London rated the ICN as the top IC website for accuracy, credibility, readability and quality. (Int Urogynecol J - April 2013). Harvard Medical School rated both Medscape and the ICN as the top two websites dedicated to IC. (Urology - Sept 11). Jill currently serves on the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Panel (US Army) where she collaborates with researchers to evaluate new IC research studies for possible funding. Jill has conducted and/or collaborates on a variety of IC research studies on new therapeutics, pain care, sexuality, the use of medical marijuana, menopause and the cost of treatments, shining a light on issues that influence patient quality of life. An IC support group leader and national spokesperson for the past 20 years, she has represented the IC community on radio, TV shows, at medical conferences. She has written hundreds of articles on IC and its related conditions. With a Bachelors Degree in Pharmacology and a Masters in Psychology, Jill was named Presidential Management Intern (aka Fellowship) while in graduate school. (She was unable to earn her PhD due to the onset of her IC.) She spends the majority of her time providing WELLNESS COACHING for patients in need and developing new, internet based educational and support tools for IC patients, including the “Living with IC” video series currently on YouTube and the ICN Food List smartphone app! Jill was diagnosed with IC at the age of 32 but first showed symptoms at the age of 12.


  1. Paula Cheryl June 2, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    When I take a vacation trip these suggestions work for me: a vehicle with great suspension, chair cushion which I use off and on during the trip, wear a denim skirt with no panties – that way I am not sitting on a seam in jeans or other pants, and an area in the back of the vehicle where I can lie down on my back with my feet elevated. This takes all the pressure off my bladder and usually leads to a short nap. Also have Medical Access Card which was helpful when we flew to Alaska two years ago. And last but not least, an understanding husband who stops for a potty break anytime I need it.

  2. roller22 June 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    I use Depends. They are good for three uses. I do this for car trips, bike rides, movies, meetings, etc. The first few times, I cried. But now I see it as a way to enjoy my life. I wish I had started using them earlier. If money is an issue, I find them at St. Vincent de Paul, etc, cheap.

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