A tremor is an uncontrollable and unintentional rhythmic movement of one part or one limb of your body. Tremor can happen in any part of the body and at any time. It’s regularly the result of a problem in the part of your brain that regulates muscular movement.
Tremors are not always serious, but in some instances, they may show a serious disorder. Most tremors can’t be easily treated, but they’ll often go away on their own.
It’s important to note that muscle spasms, muscle twitches, and tremors are not the same thing. A muscle spasm is the involuntary contraction of a muscle. A muscle twitch is an uncontrolled fine movement of a small portion of a larger muscle. This twitch may be visible under the skin.
Types of Tremors
Tremors are classified into two types:
Resting tremors happen when you’re sitting or lying still. Once you start to move around, you’ll notice that the tremor goes away. Resting tremors usually affect only the hands or fingers.
Action tremors occur during the movement of the affected body part. Action tremors are further classified into subcategories:
- Intention tremor occurs during targeted movements, such as touching your finger to your nose.
- Postural tremor occurs when holding a position against gravity, such as holding your arm or leg outstretched.
- Task-specific tremors occur during a specific activity, such as writing.
- Kinetic tremors occur during movement of a body part, such as moving your wrist up and down.
- Isometric tremors occur during the voluntary contraction of a muscle without another movement of the muscle.
In extension to type, tremors are also distinguished by their appearance and cause.
1. Essential tremor
Essential tremor is the most popular type of movement disorder. Essential tremors are normally postural or intention tremors.
Essential tremor may be mild and not progress, or it may slow progress. If the essential tremor progresses, it usually starts on one side and then affects both sides within a few years.
Essential tremors weren’t considered to be associated with any disease methods. Nevertheless, recent studies have connected them to mild degeneration in the cerebellum, which is the part of the brain that controls motor movement.
Essential tremors are sometimes associated with:
- mild walking difficulty
- hearing disability
- a tendency to run in families
2. Parkinsonian tremor
Parkinsonian tremor is normally a resting tremor that’s often the first sign of Parkinson’s disease.
It’s caused by damage to parts of the brain that control movement. The onset is usually after age 60. It begins in one limb or on one side of the body and then progresses to the other side.
Dystonic tremor occurs. Comirregularlyplete rest can relieve these tremors. This tremor happens in people who have dystonia.
Dystonia is a movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contractions. The muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive motions or abnormal postures, such as twisting of the neck. These can occur at any age.
The cerebellum is the section of the hindbrain that controls movement and balance. Acerebellar tremor is a type of intention tremor caused by lesions or damage to the cerebellum from:
- a stroke
- disease, such as multiple sclerosis
It may also be the result of chronic alcoholism or overuse of some medications.
If you have chronic alcoholism or are having trouble managing medications, speak to a healthcare professional. They can help you create a treatment plan that works best for you. They can also connect you with other professional resources to help you manage your condition.
A psychogenic tremor may present as any of the tremor types. It’s characterized by:
- sudden onset and remission
- changes in the direction of your tremor and the affected body part
- greatly decreased activity when you’re distracted
Patients with psychogenic tremors often have conversion disorder, a psychological condition that creates physical symptoms, or another psychiatric disease.
An orthostatic tremor usually occurs in the legs. This is a rapid, rhythmic muscle contraction that occurs immediately after you stand.
This tremor is often perceived as unsteadiness. There are no other clinical signs or symptoms. The unsteadiness stops when you:
- are lifted
- start walking
Physiologic tremor is often caused by a reaction to:
- certain drugs
- alcohol withdrawal
- medical conditions, such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), electrolyte imbalance, or an overactive thyroid
A physiologic tremor usually goes away if you eliminate the cause.
What causes tremors to develop?
Tremors can be caused by a variety of things, including:
- prescription medications
The most frequent causes of tremors are:
Medical conditions that can cause tremors to include:
- traumatic brain injury
- Parkinson’s disease, which is a degenerative disease caused by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells
- multiple sclerosis, which is a condition in which your immune system attacks your brain and spinal cord
- hyperthyroidism, which is a condition in which your body produces too much thyroid hormone
Tremors are regarded as normal. When you’re under a lot of stress or experiencing anxiety or fear, tremors may occur. Once the feeling subsides, the tremor usually stops. Tremors are also often part of medical disorders that affect the brain, nervous system, or muscles.
You should see your doctor if you develop unexplained tremors.
During a physical examination, your doctor will observe the affected area. Tremors are apparent upon visual inspection. However, the cause of the tremor can’t be diagnosed until your doctor performs further tests.
Your doctor may request that you write or hold an object to evaluate the severity of your tremor. Your doctor may also collect blood and urine samples to check for signs of thyroid disease or other medical conditions.
The doctor may order a neurological exam. This exam will check the functioning of your nervous system. It will measure your:
- tendon reflexes
- muscle strength
- muscle tone
- ability to feel a touch
Your doctor may also order an electromyogram or EMG. This test measures involuntary muscle activity and muscle response to nerve stimulation.
How are tremors treated?
If you get treatment for the underlying condition causing the tremor, that treatment may be enough to cure it. Treatments for tremors include:
There are some medications that are commonly used to treat the tremor itself. Your doctor may prescribe them for you. Medications may include:
- Tranquilizers, such as alprazolam (Xanax), may relieve tremors that are triggered by anxiety.
- Anti-seizure medications are sometimes prescribed for people who can’t take beta-blockers or who have tremors that are not helped by beta-blockers.
- Beta-blockers are usually used to treat high blood pressure or heart disease. However, they have been shown to reduce tremors in some people.
Botox injections may also relieve tremors. These chemical injections are often given to people who have tremors that affect the face and head.
Physical therapy may help strengthen your muscles and improve your coordination. The use of wrist weights and adaptive devices, such as heavier utensils, may also help relieve tremors.
Brain stimulation surgery
Brain stimulation surgery may be the only option for those with debilitating tremors. During this operation, the surgeon inserts an electrical probe into the portion of your brain responsible for the tremors.
Once the probe is in place, a wire feeds from the probe into your chest, under your skin. The surgeon places a small device in your chest and attaches the wire to it. This device sends pulses to the probe to stop the brain from producing tremors.