A frequently asked question (FAQ) that I hear very often from people is “ Why can’t I ride on a rollercoaster? ”
Sometimes I hear, “I haven’t been able to ride on a rollercoaster for years, but when I was a kid I was able to.”
My answer is that sometimes we can be genetically predisposed to what’s called “motion sensitivity.” This means maybe it runs in our family – our grandparents, our parents, maybe some of our siblings – to complain of sensitivity to motion. This complaint may occur while riding in plane, riding in a train, riding on a rollercoaster, or riding on a boat.
If that sort of thing [genetic motion sensitivity] runs in our family, it may be that we can’t completely resolve the discomfort but we can learn how to live with it in a way that doesn’t impair our life, a way that allows us to live a full and active life with tools and strategies to manage our symptoms.
But recently I’ve had a run of new patients who came to me – young women in their 30s and 40s – and their only complaint they say to me is ” Why can’t I ride on a rollercoaster with my young sons ?.” When I did a vestibular evaluation for them, it turned out they had BPPV which is the most common vestibular cause of vertigo.
Now keep in mind they weren’t complaining of any vertigo or any balance problems. Their only symptom was not being able to ride the rollercoaster.
After we treated their BPPV by getting the crystals in the inner ear to go back to where they’re supposed to be or “home base,” then all these patients that I recently treated were able to go back on rollercoasters with their young children and not have a flare up in symptoms.
So what I would recommend, if you are someone who asks ” Why can’t I ride on a rollercoaster ?”, is for you to seek out a Vestibular Specialist in your area for an evaluation.
You can find a Vestibular Provider at vestibular.org, which is the Vestibular Disorders Association. Then you can find someone to evaluate your inner ear and treat it, or educate you on how to manage your symptoms if this is something you are going to have to learn to live with.
If you want to learn more about BPPV and Vertigo, check out our valuable resource, VertigoDetective.com
This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content and any comments by Dr. Kim Bell, DPT are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The details of any case mentioned in this post represent a typical patient that Dr. Bell might see and do not describe the circumstances of a specific individual.
I have had BPPV for 15 years now. I got it after riding a roller coaster called “The Ring of Fire” at a local fair. I was screaming for the guy to stop the roller coaster but he kept going around and around till I was limp in my seat. After he stopped, I was assisted off and laid on the ground for almost 2 hours. I felt so sick and it was like my head was stuck to the floor. I had to have someone take me home because I could not drive. For about one week after that, I suffered vertigo attacks. I would be walking normally then all of a sudden fall to the floor. And the weird thing is I always fell to the left. I finally went to the hospital after I fell alone at home and was stuck on the floor. I was only 21 years old at the time. I was diagnosed with BPPV. Then the onslaught of treatment occurred. Epley maneuver, meclizine, physical therapy, waiting it out,… I even had one doctor try to prescribe me lithium. I gave up. I just learned to live with this terrible dizziness. No boats, no roller coaster, I couldn’t even sit in the back seat of a car anymore. After a few years, someone said I should go to the doctor again and see if they have any new treatments for it. I did, And he put me through a horrible but very necessary test/exam. I watched a moving dot on video goggles and some other things. He then blindfolded me and had cold air blown into my ear. And that’s when I grabbed onto the exam table because I felt like I was being blown off of it. I then started to throw up. He tried to give me lithium and prescribed me PT. I did not take the lithium (I was breastfeeding) and PT did nothing but make me dizzier. So here I am, 15 years later… living with the regret of ever stepping foot on that stupid roller coaster. Talk about life-changing.
Did your doctor explain about the point of the PT exercises? PT is supposed to make you dizzier. It’s re-training your brain to adjust. But if you are consistent with it daily, over 4-6 months it will get drastically better. You should notice significant improvement within six weeks. I’m so sorry that happened to you, but don’t give up hope! I’ve been through the same thing and recovery is possible.
Was this at a fair in Oshkosh WI? I actually remember sitting behind a girl on a ride called the ring of fire and her harness was loose a few of us surrounding that girl including myself screamed for them to stop the ride and they never did. I could never go on fair rides after that ordeal….regardless I’m sorry this happened to you!