Tremors Complications

For those suffering from severe tremors regular activities like drinking or eating and ones that involve high motor skills like writing can be severely affected. Women with tremors may have difficulty putting on their makeup. Dressing up and combing one’s hair would be a bit more challenging. You may even have communication problems especially in the case of essential tremors where instead of nodding your head in agreement, your tremor forces you to shake your head that may seem to indicate that you are in disagreement with something a person says.
In certain cases, tremors can lead to problems in voice box function resulting in speech problems (dysarthria). Some people with tremors also experience learning and vision difficulties (cognitive skills), and problems with balance. Problems with balance are particularly dangerous since they could result in falls and accidents especially in older people.

In terms of its impact in a person’s emotional health tremors can result in negative mental conditions like anxiety and depression as well as social handicap or even alcoholism.  Unfortunately there are a number of sufferers who are extremely affected by this condition. Tremors can have a debilitating impact in one’s life and it can potentially affect a person’s social prospects and employment as well.


Linda Meyer is a licensed acupuncturist and the founder of Healthy by Nature Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Center in Lake in the Hills, IL.

Tremors – Definition

Tremor is an involuntary, throbbing oscillatory (to-and-fro) movement of the muscle in one or multiple regions of the body.  Tremors can affect the legs, trunks, voice, face, head, arms and hands and is the most often experienced involuntary movement of the body. A lot of tremors happen in the hands.  In certain individuals, tremor can be a sign/symptom of a neurological disorder or a side effect of certain medications.  Anyone can experience tremors. Curiously, the most common form of tremor, occur in healthy people.  This condition is not serious although it may be a cause for embarrassment for those who have it and make it difficult to do regular tasks and activities.

One of the best ways to describe and understand tremors is to define them based on their types. Resting tremor happens when muscles are relaxed (i.e., when the hands are hanging next to the trunk when walking or standing or when the hands are resting on the lap. Tremors can also be the shaking of the limb regardless If the person is resting or not.  Usually this condition occurs in the fingers or hands and is most often seen in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. A tremor that happens during movement of an affected part of the body is called an action tremor. Action tremor has many sub-classifications. A tremor that happens when you maintain a position against gravity (like outstretched arms) is defined as a postural tremor. Tremor that is seen during movement of a body part (such as moving the wrists up and down) is known as a kinetic tremor. Intention tremor is defined as an intentional movement toward a target like touching your finger to your nose during a medical exam. Tremor that occurs when speaking, handwriting or any highly skilled task is classified as a task-specific tremor. A tremor occurring during voluntary muscle contractions not accompanied by any type of movement is called isometric tremor.

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Coping with Tremors

Even if essential tremor is not a dangerous condition, having it has got to be one of the most distressing experiences in a person’s life more so if his symptoms are severe. Basic routines like picking up an object, writing, drinking or eating can be quite frustrating and difficult to do.  If the tremor progresses and worsens, some may become embarrassed and feel anxious in social gatherings, which only serve to aggravate the situation.

The easiest reaction it can cause some people with this condition is to avoid potentially embarrassing situations by withdrawing from friends and family altogether. Actually, there are many solutions, (not including the treatment your doctor recommends) that can enable you to cope well with your tremor. This includes keeping yourself socially active that will help you maintain your physical and emotional health among others.

Know more about your tremor and let others understand your situation. This means:

  • Learning as much as you can about essential tremor to help you live much better with this condition.
  • Explaining your tremor problem as truthfully and as simply as possible to people.
  • Doing so will make them more understanding and more acceptable of your problem sparing you then from any embarrassment.
  • Participate proactively in your treatment plan by talking to your doctor about your symptoms and the best treatment for them. The more knowledge you gain about your tremor and its treatment, the easier you can adapt to your situation making your life much easier and less distressful.
  • Give yourself enough sleep and rest. Tiredness makes your tremor get worse.
  • Use a straw when drinking fluids and keep your cup or glasses only half-filled.
  • Hold something a bit heavy on your hand or wear a heavy watch or bracelet. This can lessen the tremor’s intensity and give you more control of your hands.
  • Use auto dial on the phone
  • Avoid uncomfortable or awkward positions.
  • To avoid rattling your cup and saucer when you drink, put a napkin between the saucer and cup when lifting to drink.
  • Avoid chocolate, tea, coffee and sodas and other items that contain caffeine
  • Avoid specific medications like asthma or thyroid medicines before going to a social gathering. Be sure to check with your doctor first.
  • To help reduce tremors during a social occasion, try taking a small dose of beta-blocker before the occasion.
  • Although a small amount of alcohol can help reduce tremor in some patients, the alcohol may cause a negative effect with certain tremor medications you are taking.
  • Find ways to relax and reduce stress


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Causes of Tremors

It is normal for people to experience certain degrees of tremor.  For some people, problems in certain parts of their brain (especially in the cerebellum and basal ganglia) cause problems in body movement.  Neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease; certain diseases like liver failure, thyroid disease, stroke and multiple sclerosis; and drugs like steroids, amphetamines and alcohol can cause tremors. The cause of essential tremor, a very common form of tremor, is still a mystery although it is thought to be inherited.

A tremor is basically a type of involuntary movement one sees the most in people. It can affect any part of the body. Tremors frequently affect the hands but they also affect the head, chin and the legs from time to time and can even affect a person’s voice in certain cases. Usually both sides of the person’s body are affected by tremors. In certain types of tremors like tremors caused by Parkinson’s disease, the tremor affects one side of the body.

Tremors are more evident when the person is moving, holding something or at rest. Tremors can also be classified into certain categories. These include:

Isometric tremor – This tremor happens when a person holds a physical position for a long time (like stretching your hands horizontally and holding a heavy object for a long time).

Task–specific tremors – These tremors are caused by a condition called dystonia.

Intention tremor – Intention tremors can occur in people with multiple sclerosis. They can be the result of diseases and conditions like traumatic brain injury, normal aging, insulinoma, hypoparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism, low blood sugar, brain tumors, fragile X syndrome, Guillain–Barré syndrome, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, Wilson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, alcohol withdrawal, alcoholism and stroke.

Resting tremor – This is a kind of tremor often caused by Parkinson’s disease.

Action tremor – There can be many causes of action tremor, but head injury and multiple sclerosis are the two most common causes of this type of tremor.

Factors that May Cause the Tremor to Worsen or Improve

Certain medicines may cause tremors to develop or worsen although most people seem not to be aware of this fact. Taking in a large amount of caffeine or not having eaten for a considerable period of time can also cause tremors in the body. Physical or severe emotional stress usually exacerbates the tremors. When you begin to shake after standing up, you have what is known as an orthostatic tremor.

It can be good on your part to observe what improves your tremor.  Sometimes, if you are suffering from essential tremors, for some unknown reason, drinking alcohol in moderation can be beneficial as it helps improve your essential tremor.  In the case of orthostatic tremors, this condition usually improves after you sit down.

Kine Fischler is a licensed acupuncture physician and the clinical director of Willow Tree Wellness Clinic in Portland, OR.