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Motion Sickness: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Prevention

Many people including some famous heroes have been prone to motion sickness since times in memorial. During the middle years of discovery, Columbus too was affected by motion sickness. Dreadful motion sickness was considered to be one of the most dreaded horrors that were silently tolerated by the slaves too especially in that age. Charles Darwin was another person suffering from motion sickness especially sea sickness while Lawrence of Arabia suffered from car sickness.

Motion Sickness

Definition of Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is known by a common man as Travel sickness. It is also termed as kinetosis in scientific terms. Kinetosis or motion sickness is a situation in which there is a disagreement between visually apparent movement and the vestibular system’s movement sense.

Types of Motion Sickness

Motion sickness can broadly be classified into 3 types. They are:

  • The one that is caused by a kind of motion that can be felt but not seen.
  • The one that is caused by a kind of motion that can be seen but not felt.
  • The one that is caused by a kind of motion that can be felt and seen but where both the systems do not correspond to each other.
  1. Motion Sickness Caused by Motion that can be Felt but not Seen

    In this kind of motion sickness, the motion is sensed by the vestibular system but it is not detected by the visual system. There are further 5 subcategories of this type of motion sickness namely, car sickness, air sickness, centrifuges, wooziness due to spinning and sea sickness.

    Car Sickness

    Some of the major features of this most common type of motion sickness are as listed under:

    • This type of motion sickness results in the failure to read a novel or even maps during travel.
    • It causes nausea and vomiting.
    • It is a result of the sensory disagreement that occurs in brain because of the varied sensory inputs.
    • The main reason for this sensory conflict is that the eyes catch the motion whereas the rest of the body senses stillness.
    • The effect of this sickness is worsened when a person looks down but, can be lessened by looking outside the vehicle.

    Air Sickness

    This type of sickness is caused by air travel. It is a very specific form of motion sickness and is similar to car sickness apart from the fact that it occurs in an airplane. Some of the features of this type of motion sickness are as follows:

    • The person in this type of sickness is able to sense motion but is not able to see it.
    • Airplane at times can tilt sharply and if not at the window seat, the passenger can only see the inside of the plane as stationary.
    • Also, at times the outside view can become fruitless by clouds and hence prevent the passenger from looking out.


    Centrifuges are the rotating equipments that are used in amusement park rides and also in astronaut training. The Rotor and Gravitron used in these can cause sickness to many people. In the case of centrifuges, interior of the centrifuge doesn’t move while it appears to move from outside.

    Wooziness Due to Spinning

    When a person rotates and then suddenly stops, the fluid in the ear takes time to stop and senses motion while the eyes do not see any motion.

    Sea Sickness

    Water sickness or phobia is almost related to one another. Following are the major features of sea sickness:

    • It is characterized by a nauseated feeling.
    • Vertigo also can be seen in the extreme cases.
    • It is caused by the shaky motion of the water craft.
    • Poor atmospheric and visibility conditions like fog or clouds also tend to worsen this sickness.
  2. Motion Sickness Caused by Motion that can be Seen but not Felt

    In this case the vestibular system senses negligible or completely no motion but the motion can be seen with eyes. This is also known as the visibility induced motion sickness. It includes the motion sickness due to films, video games and also space sickness. This kind of sickness is difficult to cure and needs a lot of time and patience.

  3. Motion Sickness Which can be Seen as well as Felt but Both do not Match With Each Other

    In this type of motion sickness what is sensed by visible system does not match the thing sensed by vestibular system. A common example of this sickness can be seen when riding a vehicle for a long duration on bad roads with lots of pits and potholes. Due to the poor road quality, the eye senses the slow speed but ears sense a lot of speed due to consistent jerks.

Signs and Symptoms of Motion Sickness

The initial symptoms of motion sickness include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Pale skin
  • Cold sweating
  • Increasing rate of saliva production.

Some additional symptoms have also been reported by some people. They are not common in all, but a few experience these symptoms. They are:

Women also have complained about this problem during their periods and pregnancy. Also, people with migraine too experience the motion sickness.

Causes of Motion Sickness

The major cause of motion sickness is the conflict between the visual sense and the sensing of the inner ear. The brain captures the details of where a person is and how is he or she moving. It repeatedly updates that with the information it obtains from eyes and vestibular system which is a network of nerve fibers and fluids that are located in the ear. These provide a sense of motion and balance to the brain. Whenever the information mismatches, brain tends to become unable to update the information resulting in confusion that causes motion sickness.

Risk Factors of Motion Sickness

Children aged 3-12 are more prone to motion sickness. Women taking dietary supplements are also prone to this disease. The risk factors that are associated with Motion Sickness are:

  • Loss of rational ability
  • Stress
  • Prolonged nausea.

Diagnosis of Motion Sickness

When someone complains of the factors associated with motion sickness, the doctor first asks for the medical history of a person. They then take the information regarding the symptoms. Physical examination of the body is done by the doctors to check for the symptoms. Motion sickness can easily be diagnosed on the basis of following:

  • Symptoms as described by the patient
  • Type of the activity that the patient was involved in when he first realized the symptoms.

Treatment of Motion Sickness

The treatment for motion sickness mainly involves medications and devices or bracelets.

Medication to Treat Motion Sickness

Some of the common medicines used to cure motion sickness are Dramamine, Stugeron and Bonine/Antivert.

Devices and Bracelets to Cure Motion Sickness

There are multiple available devices that can easily be used to cure motion sickness. These devices are as follows:

  • Head Worn Computer Device: This device has a transparent display and it alleviates the motion sickness by giving the patient’s head a correct positioning.
  • ViBAN: It is an eye wear device that blocks the outside motion.
  • Motion Sickness Bracelet: This is a wristband made up of elastic. It contains a minute sized object which is of the size of a pea. This hard object puts pressure on a particular spot underside of wrist. Pebbles and marbles are used as pressure object or the hard object in this device. It uses the principle of acupressure.

Apart from this, keeping still and looking at stable objects form the basic treatments. The patients of motion sickness are advised to relax more and also to stay calm. As far as the natural treatment is concerned, ginger root is an antiemetic and is effective in controlling motion sickness.

Prevention of Motion Sickness

In order to prevent motion sickness, following tips are suggested:

  • Drinking more water.
  • Sitting on the front facing seats in vehicles.
  • Foods with odor must be avoided.
  • Fresh air vents must be kept open in vehicles.

To help cope with motion sickness, it is important for a patient to take proper care of himself by eating a balanced diet. It is also important to practice some relaxing techniques like meditation that can help the patient to stay calm.


  1. MedlinePlus. (2021). Motion Sickness. https://medlineplus.gov/motionsickness.html

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 28, 2023

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