Motion Sickness – An Overview

Last Updated on January 7, 2021

Motion sickness is a very common disturbance of the inner ear that is caused by repeated motion such as from the movement of the sea, the movement of a car, the motion of a plane in the turbulent air and the like. In the inner ear, it affects the sense of balance and equilibrium and, hence, the sense of spatial orientation. The susceptibility towards motion sickness varies from person to person. Motion is sensed by the brain through three different pathways of the nervous system that send signals coming from the inner ear, the eyes, and the deeper tissues of the body surface.

When there is an unintentional movement of the body, as occurs during motion when driving in a car, the brain is not coordinating the input, and there is thought to be discoordination among the input from the three pathways. This is what causes motion sickness in people. The inner ear is critical for the development of motion sickness. The conflicting input within the brain also appears to involve levels of the neurotransmitters histamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. In motion sickness treatment certain drugs are used that counteract motion sickness act by normalizing the levels of these compounds within the brain. The symptoms overall of motion sickness include nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

Most cases of motion sickness are mild and self-treatable. However, very severe cases and those that become progressively worse requires a physician with special skill in diseases of the ear, hearing and balance disorders, and the nervous system. Certain rehabilitation and interventions for vertigo, nausea is needed to resolve the sickness. To help soothe it a common thing to do is to simply look out of the window of the moving vehicle and to gaze toward the horizon in the direction of travel. This helps to re-orient the inner sense of balance. Also, chewing gum and ginger have an eerie effectiveness for reducing car sickness in those affected. Fresh, cool air can also relieve motion sickness slightly.

To prevent motion sickness, always ride where your eyes will see the same motion that your body and inner ears feel. Also, in a plane, choose a seat over the wings where the motion is minimized. Do not read while traveling if you are prone to motion sickness, and do not sit in a seat facing backward. Avoid strong odors and spicy or greasy foods immediately before and during your travel. Medications are also a good way also to prevent motion sickness and are best taken before traveling etc, and using such for treatment may be too late to avoid or treat the condition.


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