Relationship between motion sickness, migraine and menstruation in crew members of a "round the world" yacht race

Grunfeld E, Gresty MA

MRC Human Movement and Balance Unit, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, London, UK.

The similarities between the symptoms reported by patients with migraine and those experienced by severely motion sick individuals raises the question of whether the two conditions involve common mechanisms. In women, attacks of migraine may follow the menstrual cycle, and anecdote suggests this may also be true of motion sickness. The aim of this study was to determine whether there was a cyclical pattern in the occurrence of migraine/headache and motion sickness among crew members of a "round the world" yacht race. The participants were asked to complete pre- and postrace questionnaires that related to their susceptibility to motion sickness and headache/migraine; additionally, the female subjects were asked for details about their menstrual cycle. During the race the subjects completed a logbook to record the occurrence of motion sickness (using a four-point scale), migraine/headache (including the type of headache), menstruation, medication consumption and duties aboard the yacht. Female sailors were found to be more prone to motion sickness than the males. Motion sickness was also found to be linked to time at sea, and subjects who suffered migraine during the race were also more susceptible to motion sickness. A distinct pattern was found in the occurrence of motion sickness and headache that related to the menstrual cycle, although motion sickness and headache did not generally occur together in most of the subjects. A cyclical pattern was not obvious for the male subjects.