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Can older people ride roller coasters?

roller-coasterQuestion: Roller coasters and other wild rides provided so much enjoyment in my youth, but as I've gotten older, riding these rides leaves me feeling ill, with nausea, dizziness and/or headaches that last for hours afterward. What's going on?

Dale Avers, RPT, PhD

Dale Avers, RPT, PhD

Answer: “You have described not-uncommon symptoms related to the vestibular system contained in the inner ear,” says physical therapist Dale Avers, DPT, PhD, who directs Upstate‘s post-professional program for physical therapists who want to obtain their doctorates.

“As we get older, the vestibular system gets less efficient, meaning it doesn‘t respond as easily to motion of the head or to movement around us. Normally the inner ear responds to movement automatically, so we aren‘t aware that it is working until the movement is too much for our vestibular system to handle.

“When that happens, such as riding a roller coaster or even riding in a car or airplane, we experience motion sickness, which are symptoms you describe.

“The good news is that you can train the vestibular system to be less sensitive, although the training isn‘t fun. Basically you have to provoke the symptoms so that the vestibular system becomes more tolerant.

“Or, you can just avoid those roller coaster rides.”summer cover

This article, an "Upstate Answers" column, appears in the summer 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.