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What is Motion Sensitivity?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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A person who frequently experiences bouts of dizziness, head pressure, and balance problems may be suffering from one of many forms of motion sensitivity. The most common types of motion sensitivity are vertigo and motion sickness, both of which can leave an individual feeling lightheaded, unsteady, and nauseated. Most episodes can be relieved by remaining still and focusing the eyes on a fixed object. Severe motion sensitivity, however, should be reported to a doctor who can check for more serious underlying neurological problems.

Motion sickness is typically a reaction to constant movement. Traveling by car on a windy road, experiencing turbulence on an airplane, or moving with the waves on a ship are the most common causes. People who are prone to motion sickness usually become nauseous and dizzy, and symptoms tend to become progressively worse. If an individual is unable to stop moving, he or she may begin to feel lightheaded, woozy, and experience blurred vision.

Symptoms of motion sickness usually begin to disappear once movement stops. To promote quick recovery, a person can try to focus on a stationary object, avoid smoking and alcohol, and drink carbonated beverages to settle the stomach. To help prevent episodes of motion sickness in the future, an individual can consider taking over-the-counter medications available at most pharmacies.

Vertigo is an especially uncomfortable form of motion sensitivity that can result from even the slightest movements, such as sitting up in bed. A person who has vertigo often feels that his or her head is spinning; surroundings appear to be moving around in circles. Vertigo can lead to nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, and balance problems. Episodes of vertigo can be serious enough to cause mental confusion, severe fatigue, and chronic insomnia.

People with mild or infrequent vertigo may be able to find relief by following the treatment measures outlined for motion sickness. More serious problems should be examined by a physician to pinpoint the exact causes of the condition. Many underlying causes can contribute to vertigo symptoms, including migraine headaches, hormonal imbalances, or a range of neurological and balance disorders including Meniere's disease.

Once the cause of motion sensitivity has been diagnosed, the physician can determine the most appropriate treatment. Anticholinergic medications are commonly prescribed to help with neurological imbalances, and migraine pills are effective at relieving chronic headaches. Sometimes, a simple, non-invasive procedure known as canalith repositioning is performed to help the inner ears better control balance and reaction to motion.

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Discussion Comments
By Bhutan — On May 01, 2011

Wow that must be terrible to have that condition. I know that the only time that I develop motion sensitivity is when I am reading in the car. After a while, I start to develop a dizzy feeling and have to put whatever I am reading down and just breathe in and out a little bit because I am afraid of throwing up.

If the car is moving consistently this doesn’t usually happen, but if there is a lot of traffic that is when I start to feel really dizzy and nauseous because of the stop and go motion of the car.

By SauteePan — On Apr 29, 2011

I just wanted to say that my mother in law suffers from severe vertigo and cannot go on any motion rides or watch movies with simulated motion. As a matter of fact, she tried to go a cruise and had to leave the ship because she was vomiting and felt really dizzy.

When she got home her doctor gave her some injections that allowed her to sleep because these bouts with vertigo also gave her migraines. I imagine that it must be hard to have this condition and her traveling ability is limited because of this. She can ride in a car, but she has to sit in the front seat or she will get dizzy. She is very motion sensitive.

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