Motion Sickness

Motion sickness, also known as kinetosis or travel sickness, is a condition characterized by symptoms of nausea, dizziness, and vomiting that occur as a result of exposure to repetitive or conflicting sensory information from the environment during travel. The technical term for motion sickness is vestibular-somatosensory mismatch.

The vestibular system, located in the inner ear, provides information about head and body movement, while the somatosensory system, consisting of nerve receptors in the skin, muscles, and joints, provides information about the body’s position and movement in space. In cases of motion sickness, conflicting information from the two systems leads to an imbalance and the resulting symptoms of nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.

Causes of Motion Sickness

The causes of motion sickness can be attributed to a vestibular-somatosensory mismatch, which occurs when conflicting or repetitive sensory information from the environment is processed by the brain. Some technical terms associated with the causes of motion sickness include:

Vestibular stimulation: Repetitive or conflicting stimulation of the vestibular system, such as from the movement of a car, boat, or plane, can cause motion sickness.

Somatosensory input: Conflicting or repetitive somatosensory input, such as from reading or playing a video game while in a moving vehicle, can also contribute to motion sickness.

Visual input: The visual system can also play a role in the development of motion sickness, as the visual environment can conflict with the vestibular and somatosensory information processed by the brain.

Adaptation: In some cases, motion sickness can develop when the brain is unable to adapt to new sensory information, such as when traveling on a new mode of transportation or in a new environment.

Sensitivity: Some individuals may be more sensitive to motion sickness than others due to genetic, physiological, or psychological factors.

Understanding the technical terms associated with the causes of motion sickness can help individuals better understand the mechanisms underlying the condition and develop strategies for preventing and managing symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Motion Sickness

The signs and symptoms of motion sickness can include:

  • Vestibular-somatosensory mismatch
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Pallor
  • Fatigue
  • Central vestibular compensation
  • Autonomic responses
  • Nauseogenic
  • Dysequilibrium

These technical terms describe the mechanisms underlying the symptoms of motion sickness, including the conflicting or repetitive sensory information that leads to the symptoms, the brain’s ability to adapt to this information, the physiological responses that can accompany the symptoms, and the state of imbalance or unsteadiness that is a common symptom of motion sickness.

Treatment for Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is a common condition that occurs when there is a discrepancy between what the eyes see and what the inner ear senses. Physiotherapy can help to manage the symptoms of motion sickness.

A typical physiotherapy program for motion sickness may include:

Education and advice: Physiotherapists can provide information on what causes motion sickness and ways to reduce its symptoms.

Vestibular rehabilitation exercises: These exercises can help to improve the function of the inner ear and reduce the symptoms of motion sickness.

Balance training: This may include exercises to improve standing balance and walking, as well as more advanced balance activities that challenge the vestibular system.

Gaze stabilizationization exercises: These exercises help to improve visual stability and reduce dizziness during head movement.

Relaxation techniques: Physiotherapists may teach relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and visualization, to help reduce anxiety and stress related to motion sickness.

It’s important to note that the specific physiotherapy treatment for motion sickness will vary based on the individual and the severity of their symptoms. A physiotherapist can develop a personalized treatment plan based on a thorough assessment of the individual’s specific needs and symptoms.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about motion sickness please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Chung, J., Kim, Y., & Kim, H. (2020). The effectiveness of vestibular rehabilitation therapy for motion sickness: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Physical Therapy Science

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