Motion Sickness: It’s in Your Head, but You’re not Imagining it

With the warmer months rapidly approaching, we are not far off from road trip season! While we love packing up the car and heading out on an adventure, the extended hours in the back seat might put some people at higher risk for motion sickness. So let’s take a deeper look at why some people can read in the car and enjoy their trip, while others succumb to a headache, dizziness, and nausea. 


First, we need to understand how the brain and body control balance. The balance control of the body is called the cerebellum, sometimes even called “the little brain,” and it does a lot of work! From maintaining balance to controlling movements, this little brain has a big job to do. The cerebellum controls balance by using feedback from the vestibular system (those squiggly looking tubes in your inner ear) as well as proprioceptors from all over the body, all the way down to your feet, in order to tell the brain where you and your limbs are in space. Kind of like keeping track of a classroom full of kids (thank you teachers!). 

The cerebellum and the rest of the central nervous system are wrapped up in a protective sheath, kind of like saran wrap. This saran wrap has 3 layers: the pia, which attaches directly to the brain and spinal cord and houses the central nervous system’s blood supply, the arachnoid, which is very fibrous (like a spider web) and has no blood supply, and the outermost layer is the dura which is very thick and sturdy. The dura also attaches to the foramen magnum (the hole at the bottom of the skull where the brain becomes the brainstem, and the first two vertebrae at the top of the neck. So any torquing of these bony structures, as seen in primary structural shift, causes stress and pulling on the dura. This tension on the dura in turn causes tension on the other layers of saran wrap and stress throughout the rest of the central nervous system, causing the cerebellum and other structures not to be able to do their job efficiently. This can lead to secondary symptoms, in this case, when taking a bumpy ride in the back seat, the little brain has to work even harder to process signals from those proprioceptors throughout the body, often leading to headache and feelings of nausea. 


Structural chiropractic care aims to gently correct primary structural shift, increasing stability and easing the tension that leads to these secondary symptoms. So before you pack up the car and pile the family in for your journey, be sure to schedule a consultation to find out if this type of care is right for not only you, but for the kiddos in the bumpy backseat!