Many Malaysians enjoy the seasonal trek back to their hometowns during major holidays such as Chinese New Year and Hari Raya. However, many will also dread the motion sickness that is experienced while traveling whether by car, boat, or airplane.
Motion sickness stems from a sensory confusion in the brain that cascades into bodily sensations and effects that make us feel sick. Fortunately, it is preventable as well as treatable.
What Causes Motion Sickness
Your brain perceives information and stimuli from your inner ear and tells the rest of the body where you are spatially – whether we are upright or upside down, stationary or moving. When this information matches the visual sensory and stimuli through your eyes, all is well and good.
The onset of motion sickness can be sudden, and some people may be more prone to it than others. Women tend to experience it more than men, and children more than adults. Those with a history of migraine headaches are also more likely to suffer from motion sickness. In some individuals, prolonged experiencing of the form of travel that initially causes motion sickness may in time result in adaptation, leading to improvement in the condition.
How TCM Explains Motion Sickness
TCM has historically made the connection between the brain, eyes, and vital organs like the Liver when it comes to understanding the mechanism of motion sickness.
“When there is Excessive Phlegm and Dampness in the body, motion sickness might occur as well, presenting with dizziness, nausea as well as chest tightness and headaches. This often stems from a Deficiency in the Spleen, as the function of transporting body fluids is impaired.”
How to Address and Prevent Motion Sickness
The following five tips can be kept in mind when you plan your next trip. They encompass an understanding of what triggers motion sickness in those who are more susceptible to it.
1. Optimise your visual spatial comfort
One of the best ways to avoid motion sickness or to alleviate the symptoms is by being deliberate about what you’re looking at and where you sit in a vehicle.
“During a ride, one should refrain from using their mobile devices or reading books, and instead focus their gaze on an object in the distance. Make sure to roll down the windows in cars and improve the ventilation in the environment wherever possible. In rides where seats can be selected, pick a seat near the windows and preferably in the middle of the ride where the repetitive motions are felt minimally. By correcting these actions, the effects of motion sickness can be kept to a minimal,” advises Physician Peh.
2. Keep things simple for your stomach
Try not to overburden your digestive system when you’re getting ready to go on a trip. “There are certain lifestyle and diet changes one can perform when they are prone to having motion sickness. For instance, heavy meals and greasy, spicy foods should be avoided, including alcohol or drug intake,” Physician Peh says.
“Excessive alcoholism or consumption of fatty and oily foods leads to the accumulation of
3. Take anti-motion sickness medication the right way
If you’re up for trying it, you can take anti-motion sickness medicines such as dimenhydrinate. The key, however, is to take it shortly before the trip begins and before the motion sickness sets in. Other than oral medication, there is also the scopolamine skin patch that can be applied to the hairless part of the skin behind the ear about four hours prior to travel, to be left in place for about three days.
As with other medication or drugs, substances in these medicines interact with receptors in the body and inhibit certain bodily processes that present as symptoms of motion sickness.
4. Try herbal remedies
“Certain TCM herbs also have functions to reduce nausea and dizziness, such as ginger and peppermint. For those who frequently experience motion sickness, candied ginger slices can be brought along for convenience or ginger-flavoured tea or peppermint sweets. Such herbs are often included in the personalised TCM formularies prescribed when you consult a licensed TCM physician. Take ginger in moderation, especially if you’re on blood-thinners such as warfarin or aspirin,” suggests Physician Peh.
5. Palpate acupressure points
TCM also offers another modality that can help resolve motion sickness – acupressure. Physician Peh shares that there are useful acupoints which can be pressed when symptoms such as dizziness, increased perspiration, or fatigue kick in.
One such acupoint is nei guan (PC6, 内关), which is commonly used to alleviate nausea and vomiting. It can also help to reduce chest tightness and relax heart palpitations. Located on the inner wrist, the acupoint is about three finger widths from the base of the wrist and between the two tendons in the wrist. One can press this spot firmly up to a minute while engaging in slow breathing. Currently, there are many acupressure wristbands targeting this acupoint as well.
One other acupoint is he gu (LI4, 合谷), found on the webbing between the thumb and the index finger. It is commonly used to relieve headaches and many other discomfort and pain issues within the body. Pressure can be applied in the similar way and frequency here, which can help to alleviate indigestion as well. “However, do note that this acupoint should not be stimulated for pregnant women,” Physician Peh reminds.
Motion sickness doesn’t have to be a fact of life, and you don’t have to be that person who gets sick when it comes to planning trips. With enough preparation and forethought, you can travel comfortably.
- Department of Health, State Government of Victoria, Australia. 2014. Motion Sickness. [Accessed 16 May 2022].
- Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Motion Sickness. [Accessed 16 May 2022].
- Cleveland Clinic – Health Essentials. 2020. Motion Sickness: Best Fixes If Traveling Makes You Ill. [Accessed 16 May 2022].
- Frontiers in Neurology. 2017. A Historical View of Motion Sickness—A Plague at Sea and on Land, Also with Military Impact. [Accessed 16 May 2022].
- Current Therapeutic Research. 2020. Clinical Evaluation of the Use of Ginger Extract in the Preventive Management of Motion Sickness. [Accessed 16 May 2022].
- Experimental Brain Research. 2022. Chewing gum reduces visually induced motion sickness. [Accessed 16 May 2022].
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