Overcome seasickness

Marianne, January 2018

Seasickness is a real handicap that prevents many people from sailing or, as is the case for me, makes life at sea difficult. I refused to take medication to avoid the side effects of drowsiness because I wanted to stay awake to swim with the animals. And during outings in search of cetaceans, the sea is often calm and the eyes always fix the horizon, so I have never been very sick. But for the long navigations, I tried several methods of which I will announce to you knowing that we react all differently:

• Absolutely avoid Hunger, Cold, exhaustion and fear. Before I said to myself “no matter anyway I’m sick”. No! Always be vigilant, force yourself to nibble regularly and be well covered with clothes suitable for sailing.
• Tablets: I love the “mercalm” which is effective on me and I am unable to take the drugs that we must suck and not swallow (like “cocculine“) when I’m nauseated, even if it is advisable to take them before being sick. A sailor very accustomed to sick people advised me the “stugeron” which according to him is the most effective. But it’s not for sale in France, you’ll find it in England, Belgium, Spain, or here without a prescription.
Scopoderm patches that are glued behind the ear. They are effective for many people including me, but in fact they prevented me from vomiting and I remained nauseous. As soon as they were no longer effective (after about 3 days) I vomited immediately. And finally I felt better after vomiting rather than constantly nauseating. I had severe vision problems for several days, I could not read at all! These patches are only sold on prescription and are not reimbursed (43 euros for 5 patches, start by putting one patch and then two if you are very sick).

Image-1• Wristbands that press on an acupuncture point inside the wrist, to tell the truth I do not adhere too much because the point is so precise that I have the impression that there is a chance on 100 for press in the right place. I have it but I never put them.
• In my Do In class, I learned that crossing little fingers helps to get the motion sickness out of the way. I tend to squeeze my little fingers hard and it made me contracted instead of trying to relax …

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But as I will be spending a lot of time at sea,I was interested in vestibular rehabilitation. The hospital of the Clermont-Tonnerre armies in Brest offers this work but it was necessary to stay there for at least 10 days. So I preferred to speak to a specialist physiotherapist who knows how to cure motion sickness.

Seasickness is due to a sensory conflict between sight, inner ear and proprioception from the plantar arch. When nausea occurs, it is like a protective system that informs the incoherence of perceptions: the inner ear perceives a movement (the swell) but the feet, they do not move and do not give the same information to the brain , or the view (unless we fix the horizon and inform the brain “yes it moves”, that’s why we are so sick inside a boat!). Vestibular rehabilitation is the process of reproducing this sensory conflict so that the brain can gradually find solutions and adapt effectively,  maintaining balance and without vegetative signs.

With my physiotherapist we do various static and dynamic exercises where we give different information to the brain: it disrupts the balance on a trampoline, cushions, a balance board, foam mats … The vision is also disrupted by a optokinetic ball or simply by closing the eyes. The inner ear is constantly solicited since it is always necessary to make movements of the head (left / right or from top to bottom). This little video illustrates exercises to do:

The difficulty of the sessions increases gradually. When optokinetics is well tolerated, part of the sessions can be started with specialized virtual reality software; their interest is to reconstruct conflicts in a “truer” way and therefore more difficult.

I practice these exercises as often as possible, several times a day at the beginning of the care and at least 4 times a week now, this, in addition to sessions. It’s a bit restrictive, you just have to think about it and discipline yourself. After 3 months of rehabilitation I embarked 3 weeks on a sailboat and I really felt the difference! I could come and go inside the boat, I only vomited twice and the sea was really agitated. I feel less nauseous, just smeared. But I feel intense fatigue, but I can be active and do not stay locked in my bunk.According to the Brest hospital, in 2010 a study proved the effectiveness of this method for 70% of patients (out of 100 people). 

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It remains a method that I have not tested, glasses filled with liquid that allow the eye to give the same information to the brain as the inner ear, when we understand the sensory conflict, it seems logical and effective. I only know one person who has tested these glasses and has not been convinced at all. But I still want to try it because I repeat, we all react differently ! And that allows a total look with its fluorescent yellow hooded sailing jackets!

And last important thing for those who do not suffer from seasickness: especially do not ask constantly “how are you?” to a sick person because the least answer really costs us, just turn the head and answer “no” is about the equivalent of a marathon with a one-legged!

Photos et vidéo:  Aurélie d’Estalenx, Le mal de mer.

Thanks to Aurélie d’Estalenx, physiotherapist, 6 Bd St Marcel 75005 PARIS. 0145351921.

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