Rocking dizziness and headache: A two-way street

Yoon Hee Cha, Yongyan Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic rocking dizziness, often described as the feeling of being on a boat, is classically triggered by prolonged exposure to passive motion. Patients with this motion-triggered sensation of rocking, which is also known as mal de debarquement syndrome, often develop new onset headaches along with the dizziness. Chronic rocking dizziness has also been noted in vestibular migraine, occurring without a motion trigger. We sought to clarify the association between both motion-triggered (MT) and non-motion-triggered (non-MT) chronic rocking dizziness and headache history. Methods: Our methods included questionnaire and interview study of subjects with either MTor non-MT chronic rocking dizziness. Results: Onset of headaches was earlier in patients with non-MT rocking dizziness (median 26 years: MT; 16 years: non-MT). In MT subjects, there was a bimodal peak of age of onset of headache (2029 years and 4049 years). Most headache met criteria for migraine in both groups. By the time that chronic dizziness occurred, both groups had a comparable prevalence of migraine headache (41%: MT; 46%: non-MT). Pre-existing headache usually worsened after the onset of dizziness. Discussion: Though rocking dizziness does not meet current criteria for vestibular migraine, migraine physiology may predispose to, develop in, or worsen with the onset of chronic rocking dizziness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1160-1169
Number of pages10
Issue number14
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIH/NIDCD) grant R03 DC010451 and the MdDS Balance Foundation Early Career Award.


  • Rocking dizziness
  • chronic subjective dizziness
  • mal de debarquement syndrome
  • vestibular migraine


Dive into the research topics of 'Rocking dizziness and headache: A two-way street'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this