'Land Sickness': Mal de Debarquement
(MdDS, disembarkment syndrome)

So, you survived sea sickness, maybe even got your sea legs, and now that you are back on dry land all your troubles are over. Or maybe not...?

NEW:
An interesting comment was sent by Patty M. on August 10 2014: Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, have developed a new successful treatment: http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/16505/20140808/new-treatment-offer-complete-recovery-chance-for-rare-disabling-movement-disorder.htm

See also: New Treatment Successful for Rare and Disabling Movement Disorder, the Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (MdDS)

NEW: An interview with Jane Houghton, MdDS sufferer since 2001 and founder of UK support group mdds.org.uk

Whereas many people will briefly experience reverse sea sickness (or drunken sailor syndrome) when they disembark, for a small minority these symptoms can be severe and prolonged. This is known as mal de debarquement syndrome (MdDS, disembarkment syndrome).

MdDS is relatively rare, but is extremely distressing and debilitating for those who suffer from it. It occurs because the brain, having adjusted to the movement of the ship as normal, now finds the sensations of being on firm land unfamiliar and abnormal. Everything feels too stable, leading to dizziness and uncontrollable lurching feelings. Sufferers tell me that they feel like they are constantly walking on a trampoline, and they have to struggle to keep their balance. In some cases there are also nausea and a continuous rocking sensation. The only way to get relief from these symptoms is to go back on a boat, or travel by car or bus.

Mal de Debarquement Syndrome often lasts several weeks, but can last months or even years. Medically MdDS is considered to be a 'self-limiting' - in other words temporary - condition, however the symptoms are likely to become more severe and longer lasting with each subsequent trip on a boat (or sometimes plane). A friend who suffered the symptoms of MdDS for around a week after a two-week cruise several years ago, recently had MdDS for well over a month after another similar cruise.


A video to encourage awareness and learn about what it's like to live with MdDS.


It is impossible to predict whether you will suffer from disembarkment syndrome after a cruise or voyage, although those who have little problem adjusting to the motion of the sea seem to be more susceptible. To try to prevent MdDS it is a good idea to start your sea sickness precautions a couple of days before you board, and then continue them for a few days after returning to land - for example if you are taking ginger, start to take it before you board and continue the same dose throughout your trip and for a few days after disembarking. The same can apply to any medications that you may be taking, although do speak to your doctor first.

If you do suffer MdDS symptoms then it is worth trying the remedies, treatments and medications used for sea sickness and other forms of motion sickness (see this overview of the options available). Many people, however, report that they don't do much to help. To make matters worse, many doctors know very little about MdDS.

There are a number of websites and support groups online:


Comments

Margo Reid on August 24th 2012:
I had what I believe was Disembarkment Syndrome... I was willing to try anything to get my life back after it made me fear that someone would think I was drunk while out feeding my horses, or that I'd seriously hurt myself, like the day I fell hard into the horse's metal gate and cracked a rib.

A friend told me to take Black Cohosh, Valerian Root and Gingko Biloba and within a week of taking them, I was normal. The stuff worked. I have 42 animals, a full time job and 92 acres to mow and I was scared to death to get on my Commercial mower for fear I'd fall off into a ravine.

Those three herbs were a Godsend and when I saw the Medical Mysteries show on TV I knew I had to tell someone what worked for me. It only took a few days, and once the MdDS was gone it was gone. I haven't had to take the herbs again since.

I'm sharing this so that others can at least try it and see if it helps. To my knowledge there are no side effects to any of these herbs and I just got well. I thank God for the gift of balance. It's funny what you can become grateful for.
K on October 27th 2012:
How long did you have the symptoms before you were cured?
How much of each of the Herbs did you take?

Lucy @ Motion-Sickness-Guru.com replies:
Hi K, I contacted Margo to ask similar questions and this is what she replied:

My Disembarkment Syndrome is back, only slightly, but I'm laying in bed and feeling the room start to spin while I'm not doing anything, just lying on my back in bed, and that's the first sign of it. If I tilt my head back it feels like when I was young and drank too much and the room spins. It's not yet as bad as it was before, but I'm not going to wait that long and am starting with the remedy now.

I take them just each just like the bottle recommends: Valerian root, three capsules 30 minutes before bedtime. My thoughts about this is, Valerian Root helps you sleep and if you achieve REM sleep your body heals in REM and the Valerian helps you achieve REM sleep.

Ginkgo Biloba 120mg once a day. Ginkgo Biloba increases blood flow, that's why it helps people whose brains are aging. Anytime more oxygenated blood cells can feed and regenerate cells it heals them. If REM sleep is achieved, then increased blood flow, it increases healing while you're basically shut down, like turning off a cell phone and putting it on a battery charger. Black Cohosh one pill three times a day. I'm not sure what it does, but it got me normal with no side effects.

I did the research on everything before taking it and found little info on the Black Cohosh, so and was cautious with it to assure I wouldn't have an allergic reaction.

I heartily recommend anyone considering any of these herbs try each, one at a time and make themselves aware that they don't have an allergic reaction to any of them and if they do they'll know which one they are reacting to. I slept well, I healed and now when I can feel it coming on, I can just take it again for about a week. I just quit taking it when my symptoms subsided. Not sure why it's back, but I feel confident that it will solve the issue again. I don't want to be falling over in the barn lot anymore anyway.

I hope this helps. Margo
Margo Reid on November 2nd 2012:
Hello again...

I think I have determined what, at least my, Disembarkment Syndrome is being caused by, by concentrating on when it actually appears for me. I have 102 acres and 60 of them must be mowed to keep grass for my horses. I pass the time on my mower by downloading books on tape and use earbuds to listen to them for sometimes 6 hours at a time on my IPod. When I insert the earbuds, they put pressure on the small bones inside my ears. Our inner ear is where we derive balance control. Anyone who's had an inner ear infection has stumbled around when they've had one, due to swelling, causing misalignment. I think, at least some of us, are experiencing our issues by pushing the earbuds in, which pressures the tiny bones out of their proper alignment, thereby causing this fine balance within the ear to be pushed out of level. I suggest simply, ask anyone who currently uses earbuds to stop their use completely for a month and see if their body heals and rights itself and the small bones inside the ear don't shift back to level again. I think my personal remedy sped up my ear's recovery, as my balance is almost normal again. I'd encourage those, with this condition, who use earbuds, to stop completely and replace them with common headphones again, to keep from applying undo pressure onto these delicate bones and causing their misalignment and the malfunction of our inner ear's delicate function.

I'd love to know how many ailing people use earbuds. It may be like anything else, some people have a susceptibility with just one hour's use or it could take 6 hours a day for 6 days for another's inner ears to malfunction. Omitting earbuds for a month might give us all a clue if these are too dangerous to be used, and it could cause the manufacturer to modify them, to make them more suited to the delicacy of these bones within our inner ear.

I hope it's as simple as that. Should this be the culprit, I'd love for someone to get the word out, as there are lots of folks using earbuds and if this is the problem, some may have already done too much damage and will be unable to recover and heal their inner ear bones back to their normal position. That would be sad, since this illness effects you, even while you are asleep.

Have a blessed weekend...
Margo
DaveK on November 25th 2012:
My story/cure: Went on a 10 day cruise. Came back and went to work. Knew something was not right. Told my wife that I was concerned because I didn't feel "right" or "all there" in the present due to these sensations of rocking. Thought maybe it was a side-effect of a stroke or something. She suggested we go right away to our doctor. On the way there, I told her no need as the sensation stopped (which is common when driving, I find out later). Ended up going to the doctor later. I was PROPERLY diagnosed. He then sent me to a neurologist and also to an ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist. The neurologist agreed with my doctor while the ENT doctor said it was tennitus. I asked the ENT dr why then, did it stop when I was driving in a car? He had no answer, was NOT familiar with the term of "disembarque syndrome" and, apparently, unwilling to learn about it so he dropped the ball at that stage.

So, my family dr. properly diagnosed me and there it sat. I had difficulty "really" concentrating on anything because of the nagging sensation and it seemed to get worse when I was tired.

SO, for 2+ years I walked around in this state. Couldn't trust myself on any type of ladder either. Now, I am going to tell you what age I was when all this happened as it is relevant later. I was about 47 yrs old. I also need to disclose some other SEEMINGLY irrelevant data. I've been to TWO concerts in my life. One, when I was about 17, at which point I decided I didn't LIKE going to concerts and then, the other I attended when I was 49yrs old. WHY would a 49 yr old, who doesn't like concerts, BE at a rock concert at the age of 49 you ask? Well, when he has a 16yr old daughter who he won't let go to a concert unsupervised, that's why.

The group, Shinedown (not relevant other than knowing it wasn't a classsic symphony type of cure). The seating, wasn't "seating". It was standing (MAY have been relevant in making my brain continue to have to balance myself). I believe the standing is affectionately referred to as a "mosh pit". Hope you don't bruise easily. Anyway, 2 hours later, we walked out of this concert and my ears were RINGING LOUDLY. So loudly, that when my daughter spoke to me it was like how, in the movies, what a soldier would hear from his partern right after a bomb would go off and all he would hear is the SOUND of a voice but not the actual words they were saying.

The next morning, I woke up and the rocking sensation was simply GONE along with the loud ringing I went to bed with. The realization of WHY things felt different didn't hit me until I had been up for a while.

I put two and two together and realized what had happened.

I immediatlely went to all the websites I had uncovered when looking for a cure to get the word out and posted my cure experience. I wanted to help other people but not a single response from anyone or site administrators. Not even to ask any follow up questions. So much for ".org" sites. Maybe there's more money in being part of the problem than in the cure. Over the years, I came across multiple "band aid" projects like "vibration pads", for example. All of them seemed to deal with the SYMPTOMS of disembarque but NOT the cause.

What I experienced was a "sensory reset" - plain and simple, and it addressed the CAUSE via sensory overload and recalibration. I can't be cured twice, so I'm left to wonder if something as simple as loud headsets for 2 hours (same as concert time) could do the same thing. But my conclusion is that it needs to be something loud and for a significant duration of time that the brain tries to again, learn to compensate for it JUST as it compensated to create the problem in the first place.
Colleen on December 14th 2012:
DaveK, I am VERY interested in your cure, as I believe I am still suffering the effects of car sickness experienced yesterday. My head is swimming and my body tends to sway whether I'm sitting or standing... the nausea is unbearable at times. I will be trying this sensory overload of sorts this evening because something has to give! I can't stand 2 days, let alone 2 years!
andres on January 19th 2013:
davek... interesting story. Not sure people in here appreciate what you are saying. I got MdDS 20 years ago, and it lasted 5 years... then one day disappeared. The problem is I didn't know it was MdDS, and no doctor ever got the diagnosis OK.

So, I went in a cruise on January 6... and now I have it back again. I'm so worried, especially because the sites say that the subsequent times last longer. So I assure you I will try your formula, because I know what it's like to be sick for years. Willing to do anything to cure it.
DaveK on January 22nd 2013:
Colleen... Andres... Any luck?
G-m Nan on February 21st 2013:
I am so thankful I finally found some site that is up to date on MDDS. It is so interesting to hear your stories. Two years ago I was finally told I had mdds after all my life, or most of it, thinking I was a bit crazy.

I am 74 and when I was in high school I belonged to Mariner Scouts and we would go out on a boat and when I would get back on land a few hours later, walking on land I was so unsteady. It never seemed to go away. At times it was worse - like I was rocking, and waves would be worse at times.

I keep going because I thought sometime odd was going on. Finally I told my doctor. I had lots of hearing tests, rotating tests, MRI, just about everthing you could think of. All were normal. Finally she sent me to a neurolgist and he knew what was wrong, but nothing much can be done about it, live with it!!

Riding in a car does not help me, it is worse. I have bad days and worse days. It is nice to hear I am not alone. My mdds has lasted for years and years. Just was at my doctor and she knows very little about it, but says I will have it the rest of my life. I just wanted to know if anyone had migrane headaches? I also had them since I was 6 yrs old.

I hope some doctor would look into a cure. Please let me know if anyone hears any news on a cure.
Blessings to each one of you. Nan
Karen on March 8th 2013:
Have been dealing with this sensation the past 11 months. I woke up with racing heartbeat and extreme dizziness. Cardiologist says heart is fine but something impinging on vasal vagal nerve in neck. I found that I lost the curve in my neck and problem with c1 and c2. Neurologist confirms issue with neck but not serious enough to operate, is advising physical therapy with neck traction to alleviate symptoms. I feel like I am walking in a moonwalk as a 45 yr old is negatively affecting the quality of life!
Stephanie K on April 2nd 2013:
I got Disembarkment Syndrome from a cruise I went on in Dec 2005 (I was 28 years old at the time). Clonazepam was the only thing that would mask the symptoms. It isn't a cure and it is very addictive. I went on another cruise in 2008 thinking it would reverse the effects (big mistake). That does not work. I can't take clonazepam forever because I am ready to start a family. I got pregnant in Jan 2013 and that has been the only natural rememdy. My "cruise vertigo" went away entirely... then I miscarried in March 2013 and it came back. I sit here at work feeling it right now. I am thinking it is hormonal especially knowing most people who suffer from it are women. I have suffered from this for over 7 years now!
Stephanie K on April 2nd 2013:
BTW I have tried every type of remedy out there with no help. I have tried herbal things, repositioning crystals in my ears, balance therapy, another cruise, exercise... the only thing that has helped are driving and being pregnant. Sometimes if I wake up on the weekend and am in constant motion all day I won't feel it until I stop. Sitting behind a desk a work all day makes me feel it all day and it gets worse as the day goes on.
Eileen on June 9th 2013:
I have had the condition for ten years,not permanently but after ferry trips and gradually getting worse e.g. lasting 2 months. Recently returned from Kenya - I had given up on boat travel - but now I have it again. Definitely worse when relaxed or tired. The rock concert treatment sounds a good idea as long as I don't end up with permanent ringing in my ears.
KiwiKaz on June 14th 2013:
Went on a cruise in 2000, very rough almost everyone had seasickness, I didn't. It hit me when I got on dry land. 2008 operation to neck, damaged c1/2, c2/3, c4/5, c5/6... unsure if all is connected. After spending 5 years recovering I am heading off on another cruise this week. I am now a little scared. I have also have experienced bad ear/hearing after flying and concerts. All seems connected...
Sabrina on August 13th 2013:
I'm new to MdDS. Just two weeks ago I went on a summer family cruise. I was fine on the boat but as soon as I walked on land it started. The sensation of the gravity pull is so strong. I am going to try the herbs. Thank you for speaking out on this and sharing.
Eileen on August 14th 2013:
I'm a different Eileen (to the one who commented above). I went on an 8 day cruise in 2002 and was fine... until I disembarked! The swaying... almost a gravitational pull like the tides... and heavy body sensation... started immediately and lasted for many months. After an MRI etc., the doctor diagnosed me with reverse seasickness and showed me some exercises (which didn't really help). It went away eventually and I told myself "NEVER AGAIN FOR A CRUISE!"

Well, eleven years is a long time and I forgot about it. I just returned from my second cruise in my lifetime and IT'S BACK!!! Aye Yai Yai! I'm so mad at myself. My brain is floating back and forth in my head, I feel drawn to the ground, am fatigued, can't get much done... etc. etc. etc.
Survivingandwondering on September 4th 2013:
Hello everyone,
How in the world do you absolutely know for sure if you have this - IF you have NOT been on any travel, plane, boat-- ?
MikeB on January 5th 2014:
As I read DaveK's description of his cure, my first reaction was to attribute the cure to the mosh pit, not the sound level. I suffered the symptoms of MdDS after a cruise last year, but my symptoms cleared up after two to three days without any special intervention (other than a few naps during the workday). I just returned from a 7-day cruise and stumbled on this site while looking for MdDS prevention tips.

Anyway, back to the mosh pit theory: though I am 48 years old, I still like the type of music that inspires mosh pits at concerts and have been in mosh pits off and on for over 25 years. If DaveK's cure was related to the concert (and not just a coincidence), then I think the most likely explanation is the type of physical activity that occurs in a mosh pit. It sounds like DaveK was not actually slam dancing. It sounds more like he was standing in a crowd where mosh pits were probably spontaneously forming and dissolving. The effect on a passive participant would be the need to balance against people pushing, sometime aggressively, from different directions and quite often unpredictably. I can image that action for two hours could prompt the balance circuitry in the brain to "reset" as DaveK described it. The loud music may have helped, but I doubt loud music alone would have any effect.
Dee on January 29th 2014:
Hello everyone,
I have had all of the symptoms of Disembarkment Syndrome for over a year now including not being able to drive and or ride a bike without experiencing the symptoms very bad. I get my worse symptoms when I walk and am spacey and kind of floating when I am still, sitting or laying down. I have had all of the usual tests that have all come back normal. I did not take a cruise or plane flight when all of this came on!!?? Is it possible to have all the symptoms of this syndrome without taking a cruise or flight????
Beth on February 26th 2014:
Dee, yes you can get MdDS without being on a cruise! I am spontaneous, 3 years now without any relief. May have to try the concert thing and see if it works. Would love to hear how DaveK is doing now.
Elaine Young on April 25th 2014:
I endured the symptoms of this horrible sickness for the first time in 2013 by going on a really turbulent flight (the landing was aborted due to inclement weather - really scary!). The symptoms passed after about 6 or 7 weeks. I then got the same sickness for the 2nd time by going on a mini cruise to Holland in January 2014. It was a really rough crossing to Holland and back to the UK.
I still had the symptoms of walking on a sponge plus an up-and-down feeling while sitting or lying down in March. In March I went on a flight to Miami from the UK then a 11 night cruise (rough waters) plus a turbulent 8 hour flight back home. I thought I would be really suffering when I got back, but all the symptoms have completely disappeared. So now I am wondering if going on a turbulent flight or cruise again actually resets the brain. No symptoms at all now. It's really strange. Thought I would share it with you.
Pat on May 6th 2014:
Hi All,
I've suffered with this for many many years and hate it. The awful tiredness, falling, banging myself, and the moving of everything around.
Dee, the difference is that with vertigo etc. the room spins, and with MdDS it feels like the floor is coming up to meet you, e.g. like trying to walk on a turbulent airplane.
I've had many episodes and this illness is really miserable. One thing that has helped me is to use eardrops/oil to clean out my ears the week before a long journey. I actually went on a train journey last week and didn't have to have any time off work. I don't know if my ears were filled with wax or it's in my mind but it's really helped loads.
Beth on July 30th 2014:
Hi, I was diagnosed about 3 years ago after my second bout of symptoms after a boat ride. The first time I had symptoms it lasted about a month and my Dr kept telling me I must have had an inner ear infection - jeez the amount of antibiotics she put me on! We assumed, when the symptoms went away, that her diagnosis was right. Then a year later after another boat ride the symptoms came back, much worse!
My doctor referred me to an ENT this time and he diagnosed me with MdDS and basically said there was nothing he could do. I was a mess. Tired, depressed, nauseous and no support from anyone because it's "all in your head". The symptoms finally went away and I stayed away from boats!
A year ago I went on a boat but loaded up on Dramamine first and the symptoms didn't come back. BUT then a few weeks ago I slept overnight on a friend's boat (I didn't THINK that in dock would be as bad) and now the symptoms are back full force. No one really understands or has any sympathy and I can see myself falling apart again. I was thinking maybe this group had some advice?
Barbara on July 31st 2014:
I returned from an 8 day cruise ten days ago and have had a rocking feeling almost constantly since returning. I am posting this today because I want to add my name to the list of people who have this condition. I have another cruise scheduled next weekend with my husband to celebrate our anniversary.
If this does not go away then I will cancel it. I have never had motion sickness of any kind and have been around the water all of my life. I am hoping this is temporary. Good luck to everyone. I will repost if and when this goes away.
Patty M. on August 10th 2014:
Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, have developed a new successful treatment: http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/16505/20140808/new-treatment-offer-complete-recovery-chance-for-rare-disabling-movement-disorder.htm
Mel on August 18th 2014:
First was diagnosed MdDS after sleeping in a houseboat during very stormy weather about 5 years ago. Side effects lasted 3 months. Then off to the Bahamas two years ago for a rocky boat ride... side effects lasted 6 weeks. Have had great sucess this entire summer while boating and flying by taking behind the counter sudafed if I have any sinus congestion, then about 1/2 way through boating or plane ride take 3 Advil and 1/4 full-strength Dramamine. No lingering issues at all. Feels great to participate in activities my family enjoys.

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