Tremor

Topic Overview

Tremor is an involuntary shaking movement that is repeated over and over. Although it may affect any part of the body, tremor most often affects the hands and head. Your voice may also shake. Occasionally the feet or torso may also shake.

Essential tremor, which sometimes runs in families, is one of the most common types of tremor. It is shaking that is most noticeable when you are doing something like lifting a cup or pointing at an object. The shaking does not occur when you are not moving. Medication can help reduce the shaking. Brain surgery can be helpful in some cases.

Tremors can also be caused by conditions or medications that affect the nervous system, including Parkinson's disease, liver failure, alcoholism, mercury or arsenic poisoning, lithium, and certain antidepressants. Side effects from other medications can also cause tremors.

If you notice a tremor, observe it carefully and note what seems to make it better or worse before calling your health professional. If a cause is discovered, the disease will be treated rather than the tremor.

Home Treatment

  • Stress reduction can sometimes help to reduce tremors. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
  • Add a little weight to your hand by wearing a heavy bracelet or watch or holding something in your hand. This may reduce some tremors and restore more control to your hands.
  • Drink beverages from half-filled cups or glasses, and use a straw.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. Fatigue often makes a tremor worse.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake.

When to Call a Doctor

Call your doctor if:

  • You suddenly develop a tremor or if an existing tremor becomes worse.
  • Tremor interferes with your ability to do daily activities or keeps you from taking part in social events.
  • You suspect that tremor may be a side effect of a medication.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD  20824
Phone: 1-800-352-9424
(301) 496-5751
TDD: (301) 468-5981
Web Address: www.ninds.nih.gov
 

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, is the leading U.S. federal government agency supporting research on brain and nervous system disorders. It provides the public with educational materials and information about these disorders.


American Academy of Family Physicians
P.O. Box 11210
Shawnee Mission, KS  66207-1210
Web Address: www.familydoctor.org
 

The American Academy of Family Physicians produces a variety of health-related educational materials. Its Web site offers a health library and bulletin board, news, and comments sections.


WE MOVE
204 West 84th Street
New York, NY  10024
E-mail: wemove@wemove.org
Web Address: www.wemove.org
 

WE MOVE is an Internet resource for movement disorder information. The organization is dedicated to educating people about the latest treatment options for neurologic movement disorders. WE MOVE also has information on support groups and hosts discussions and chat rooms on the Web site.


References

Other Works Consulted

  • Ropper AH, Brown RH (2005). Tremor section of Tremor, myoclonus, focal dystonias, and tics. In Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 8th ed., pp. 80–86. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

Author Monica Rhodes
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Denele Ivins
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Barrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Karin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology
Last Updated March 5, 2009

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