Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Physical Therapy Can Improve Motion Sickness

August 17, 2020

Many of us suffer from some degree of motion sickness. This can be triggered by large motions such as sitting in the back seat of a car while zipping around a windy Colorado mountain road, or can be triggered by more subtle things like moving through a grocery store or checking your phone while walking. Some choose to manage these symptoms with medication, but did you know that vestibular rehabilitation with your physical therapist can also improve your motion sickness?

Motion sickness is caused by deficiencies in your optokinetic system, i.e. miscommunication between your eyes, inner ear, and the muscles in your legs. Normally these three systems can make nearly instantaneous adjustments to a moving environment. When these systems get out of sync it can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, and mental fogginess or fatigue.

Treatment for this is to gradually expose your balance systems to greater and greater challenges. Although this is best done under the supervision of a vestibular trained physical therapist, you can test yourself and try to improve your motion sickness by watching this video. If watching this begins to increase your symptoms, then pause and look away until your symptoms return to normal. Watch the video until your motion sickness symptoms improve by 2-3 points on a scale from 0-10, then stop watching the video. Repeat once per day for several weeks and you’ll notice that you’re able to watch for longer with a smaller increase in symptoms.

If you’re having trouble progressing your ability to watch the video, then schedule a free consultation with a vestibular trained physical therapist at Mend. There are a variety of treatments that challenge eye movement, balance, and coordination that can be used to improve motion sickness. These require proper diagnosis and careful progression and are best handled by a vestibular trained physical therapist.