Symptoms of tremors and twitching of the muscles in the hand, head, jaw, leg or other body part
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What are Tremors?
Tremors are involuntary shaking movements of any part of the body. They usually affect the hands, lower arms and head. Muscle tremors may occur at any age but are more commonly seen in middle-aged and elderly people. Tremors are often a sign of emotional stress or other environmental factors but may also result from a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s.
While some body tremors are perfectly normal, it is very important to contact your health practitioner if they worsen. If left untreated, tremors or uncontrollable shaking can interfere with normal day-to-day activities and result in further health complications.
How are Tremors Classified?
There are two basic types of tremors:
Resting tremors: These occur when the muscles are relaxed and not in use, for example when the hands are lying in one’s lap. This type of tremor is often isolated to the hands and fingers and commonly accompanies other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Action tremors: These occur when one is voluntarily engaging the muscles, either in a purposeful activity like writing or when maintaining a posture, such as holding one’s arm outstretched. Action tremors are the type most frequently reported.
Common types of body tremors include:
Essential tremor is the most common type of muscle tremor, though its exact cause is unknown. It is an action tremor that often affects the hands and head but may also affect other parts of the body. It can be mild and remain stable for years.
Parkinsonian tremor, as the name implies, is a common symptom of the disease that occurs at rest but may slow down or disappear with movement, making it a resting tremor. These muscle tremors often begin on one side of the body and may move to the other side as the disease progresses.
Dystonic tremor occurs in conjunction with a disorder called dystonia, wherein the brain sends errant messages to the muscles, causing them to overreact. The result is often abnormal body postures from the cramped muscles or the appearance of sustained, unwanted movements. This type of tremor occurs irregularly and may be alleviated by complete rest.
Cerebellar tremor is also known as intention tremor. These often manifest as slow, easily visible tremors in the extremities at the end of a purposeful movement. As the name implies, these muscle tremors are caused by damage to the cerebellum, either from trauma, heredity or disease.
Understanding Tremors as a Symptom
Body tremors can be symptomatic of a variety of neurological, metabolic and lifestyle conditions. The cause of tremors is typically diagnosed based on a complete medical history and physical examination. Additional tests may be ordered if your doctor suspects that the muscle tremor is caused by an underlying condition. These tests include blood tests, urine tests, CT scan, MRI or electromyogram.
The most common symptoms and signs of tremors include:
- Occasional occurrence in episodes or at various intervals
- Movements manifesting in the head, hands, eyelids or other muscles
- Shaky, quivering voice
- Nodding of the head
- Worsening with voluntary movement
- Worsening with strong emotions, stress, exhaustion or in certain postures
What Causes Tremors?
Body tremors develop when parts of the brain or spinal cord have difficulty controlling the muscles throughout the body.
Neurological disorders can cause uncontrollable muscle tremors, including:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Head injury
Other causes include:
- Certain drugs such as amphetamines, corticosteroids, caffeine, antidepressants, antipsychotics, lithium and alcohol withdrawal
- Wilson’s disease
- Over-active thyroid
- Liver failure
- Mercury poisoning
- Lack of sleep or vitamins such as B1 or magnesium
- Stress and anxiety
Help for Tremors
Treatment for muscle tremors depends on a diagnosis of the underlying cause. Medications such as beta blockers or anti-convulsant drugs may be used to treat essential tremors. Individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may be prescribed anti-Parkinson drugs such as levodopa. Head, voice and dystonic tremors have been treated effectively with Botulinum toxin A.
For many, chronic tremors can be addressed with natural treatments, like TremorSoothe™ Tablets. Along with a healthy diet and stress management techniques, this remedy can be an important component of managing tremors not caused by underlying neurological disorders.
Complementary treatment such as physical therapy may also be recommended to lessen tremors, improve muscle control and strengthen coordination. Occupational therapy may also be beneficial in helping to develop practical strategies and to integrate adaptive aids that can reduce the effects of tremor on everyday life.
In very severe cases, surgery in the brain region may also be required. Certain surgical procedures may be recommended, such as thalomotomy in which part of the thalamus is destroyed, and pallidotomy in which a small structure within the brain is destroyed.
1. "Tremor Fact Sheet." National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Accessed March 31, 2019. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Tremor-Fact-Sheet.