The most common signs and symptoms of motion sickness include:
Motion sickness happens when the body, the inner ear, and the eyes send conflicting signals to the brain. This most often happens when you are in a car, boat, or airplane, but it may also happen on flight simulators or amusement park rides. From inside a ship's cabin, your inner ear may sense rolling motions that your eyes cannot see. On the other hand, your eyes may see movement on a "virtual reality" ride that your body does not feel. Even viewing a 3D movie may cause symptoms of motion sickness.
Once a person gets used to the movement and the motion stops, symptoms may come back (although usually only briefly). Sometimes just thinking about movement can cause anxiety and symptoms of motion sickness. For example, a person who had motion sickness before might get nauseous on an airplane before take off.
The following are the most common risk factors for motion sickness:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and find out what usually causes the problem, such as riding in a boat, flying in a plane, or driving in car. Your doctor does not usually need laboratory tests to make a diagnosis.
There are several ways you can try to prevent motion sickness:
If you have motion sickness on a plane, try these tips:
If you have motion sickness on a boat, try these tips:
You can use medication to control your symptoms, but people who travel often may want to learn to control, and prevent, symptoms. Mind-body practices, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and biofeedback, may help. Other alternatives include:
Medications for motion sickness may cause drowsiness. Pilots, ship crew members, or anyone operating heavy equipment or driving a car should not take them. These medications may help:
A comprehensive treatment plan to treat motion sickness may include a range of complementary and alternative therapies. Ask your team of health care providers about the best ways to incorporate these therapies into your overall treatment plan. Always tell your provider about the herbs and supplements you are using or considering using.
Following these nutritional tips may help reduce symptoms:
Herbs may strengthen and tone the body's systems. As with any therapy, you should work with your provider before starting any treatment. You may use herbs as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures alone or in combination as noted.
Some studies suggest that acupressure may help reduce symptoms of motion sickness in the same way as acupuncture, although the findings are inconclusive. An acupressure practitioner works with the same points used in acupuncture, but uses finger pressure rather than needles. Acupressure bands are available commercially to help prevent motion sickness. Studies suggest these bands may help delay the onset of symptoms.
Traditionally, the acupuncture point known as Pericardium 6 is said to help relieve nausea. It is on the inside of the wrist, about the length of 2 fingernails up the arm from the center of the wrist crease. Many travel stores sell wrist bands with built-in buttons that apply acupressure to this point.
Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for motion sickness based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.
There are "combination" remedies that include these remedies together. Although a classically trained homeopath may frown upon such combinations, some find them easier and effective for home use.
Biofeedback Training and Relaxation
In a study of 55 pilots who had to stop flying due to motion sickness, 76% of them got over their motion sickness and were able to return to work after a biofeedback training and relaxation program. The pilots sat in a tilting, rotating chair to bring on motion sickness, while biofeedback instruments recorded skin temperature and changes in muscle tension. The pilots used relaxation techniques, such as deep muscle relaxation and mental imagery, while in the chair. Over time, the pilots got used to the rotating chair and no longer felt sick as they learned to relax.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to reduce the anxiety, some people simply develop symptoms just be thinking about movement or motion sickness. In a study of 50 pilots who occasionally had motion sickness, 86% of them got better after cognitive behavioral therapy. During this therapy, people are slowly exposed to a situation that causes motion sickness until they have some symptoms, but not until the symptoms become overwhelming. As they get used to the movement, they build confidence and their anxiety goes down.
In a study of 46 people with motion sickness, those who took slow, deep breaths had fewer symptoms than those who breathed normally or counted their breaths. Rapid and shallow breathing often makes symptoms of motion sickness worse. While it makes sense that slow, deeper breathing would help lower anxiety, more studies are needed to see whether breathing techniques really help reduce other symptoms.
Although motion sickness usually goes away after the motion stops and causes no lasting harm, it can be devastating for people whose jobs involve constant movement, such as a:
People who do not travel often may get used to movement during a trip lasting several days. Even those who travel often may find that symptoms get better as they are more often exposed to motion. However, people who get anxious before a journey often have worsened symptoms of motion sickness. They may need help such as biofeedback and relaxation training.
Beers MH, Porter RS, et al. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. 18th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 2006:1642-1644.
Chepyala P, Olden KW. Nausea and vomiting. Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 2008 Mar;11(2):135-44.
Chrubasik S, Pittler MH, Roufogalis BD. Zingiberis rhizoma: a comprehensive review on the ginger effect and efficacy profiles. Phytomedicine. 2005 Sep;12(9):684-701.
Ernst E, Pittler MH. Efficacy of ginger for nausea and vomiting: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. B J Anaesth. 2000;84(3):367-371.
Hoffman T. Ginger: an ancient remedy and modern miracle drug. Hawaii Med J. 2007 Dec;66(12):326-7.
Koretz RL, Rotblatt M. Complementary and alternative medicine in gastroenterology: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2004; 2(11):957-67.
Levine ME, Gillis MG, Koch SY, Voss AC, Stern RM, Koch KL. Protein and ginger for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced delayed nausea. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Jun;14(5):545-51.
Lien HC, Sun WM, Chen YH, Kim H, Hasler W, Owyang C. Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2003; 284(3):G481-9.
Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders. 2012.
Schmal F. Neuronal mechanisms and the treatment of motion sickness. Pharmacology. 2013; 91(3-4):229-41.
Solamini AG. Are there side effects to watching 3D movies? A prospective crossover observational study on visually induced motion sickness. PLoS One. 2013; 8(2):e56160
Villard SJ, Flanagan MB, Albanese GM, Stoffregen TA. Postural instability and motion sickness in a virtual moving room. Hum Factors. 2008 Apr;50(2):332-45.
Wang HK. The therapeutic potential of flavonoids. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2000;9(9):2103-19.
White B. Ginger: an overview. Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jun 1;75(11):1689-91. Review.