Motion Sickness (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

How does motion sickness affect our sense of balance?

The symptoms of motion sickness are believed to appear when the central nervous system receives conflicting messages from the other four systems -- the inner ear, eyes, skin pressure receptors, and the muscle and joint sensory receptors. For example, imagine you are riding in an airplane during a storm, and the plane is being tossed about by air turbulence. But your eyes do not detect all this motion because all you see is the inside of the airplane. Consequently, your brain receives messages that do not coordinate with each other. You might become "air sick." Or suppose you are sitting in the back seat of a moving car reading a book. Your inner ears and skin receptors detect the motion of your travel, but your eyes see only the pages of your book. You could become "car sick."

Another example illustrates an actual medical condition. Suppose you suffer inner ear damage on only one side from either a head injury or an infection. The damaged inner ear does not send the same signals to the brain as the healthy ear. These conflicting signals about the sensation of rotation can result in a sense of spinning or vertigo, as well as nausea.

Is motion sickness a serious condition?

Comment on this

Not usually. For most people, motion sickness is just a minor annoyance (although it may not feel so minor at the time). Some travelers, however, can be incapacitated by motion sickness.

When do the nausea and vomiting of motion sickness stop?

The distressing symptoms of motion sickness usually stop when the motion that causes it ceases. But this is not always true. There are people who suffer symptoms for even a few days after the stimulis is over. This is called the "mal d'embarquement" syndrome or, more properly, the "mal de debarquement" syndrome. ("Mal d'embarquement" is embarkment or departure sickness while "mal de debarquement" is disembarkment or arrival sickness.)

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/16/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Motion Sickness - Cause Question: What is the cause of your motion sickness?
Motion Sickness - Symptoms Question: Besides the obvious, what are your main symptoms associated with motion sickness?
Motion Sickness - Remedies Question: If you're prone to motion sickness, what remedies do you take to prevent it? What would you recommend?
Motion Sickness - Worst Case Ever Question: Describe your worst case of motion sickness.