Essential tremor is a condition that causes parts of the body to shake involuntarily. Seven million people in the United States live with this condition, which is often confused with Parkinson's disease. Essential tremors can affect men and women of any age, although they are more common in older adults. Parts of the body most often affected by tremors are legs, arms, trunk or abdomen, and head. In some cases, the voice may shake when speaking. While there is no definitive cure for essential tremor, several treatments may help.
Physical exhaustion can be a major contributor to essential tremors. It does not directly cause the condition, but inadequate sleep can worsen episodes. Getting a good, full night's sleep every night can help lessen this problem. It may help to make a sleep schedule with a routine for bed and wake times. This ensures the individual gets the right amount of sleep.
Some essential tremors occur due to high emotions or stress. To avoid this, you can employ certain relaxation techniques, including simply sitting in a quiet place and breathing slowly and fully from the abdomen for a short period. Muscle relaxation exercises -- tensing and them completely relaxing each muscle one by one -- can get rid of tightness and promote relaxation. Meditation can also help by clearing the mind and encouraging calm.
Some medications can make essential tremors worse. Pills for epilepsy, for example, can cause more tremors in the body. Some antidepressants have the same effect, as do inhalers for asthma and other conditions. If you suspect medications could be contributing to a rise in essential tremors, speak to your doctor. Never change or stop taking medications without first consulting a medical professional.
Caffeine can make anyone feel extra jittery, so it is no surprise that it is one of the substances best avoided if you have essential tremors. Drinks like coffee and energy drinks can make the condition much worse and cause unnecessary discomfort. Cutting out foods and drinks that include caffeine, such as some soft drinks and some chocolate, can go a long way toward lessening the intensity of the tremors.
Beta blockers are typically used to treat high blood pressure. In some cases, they may treat tremors as well, by stabilizing the body. Beta blockers can cause side effects such as lightheadedness and fatigue, however, and should not be used by people with heart or respiratory problems.
This one might sound a bit strange, but the same injectable botulin that can smooth out lines and wrinkles can also treat a large number of physical conditions. It is a proven treatment for bladder problems, migraines, and excessive sweating, as well as head, hand, and voice tremors. It does have some side effects, however. Many people who use cosmetic injections for voice tremors may find that it causes difficulty with swallowing and a raspier voice. When used for hand tremors, it may lead to weakness in the fingers or wrists.
Focused high-intensity ultrasound uses magnetic resonance images (also known as MRI) to focus ultrasound waves that then destroy the damaged tissue in the thalamus that causes essential tremor. This may sound like a bizarre, complex treatment, but it is more simple than it appears, and is non-invasive. The patient can be awake throughout the entire procedure.
In some cases, tranquilizers can treat essential tremor. These should only be taken under the instruction and care of a doctor, though, as some are known antidepressants, which may cause further problems for people with essential tremor. Tranquilizers essentially calm the body to a point where it does not tremble or shake as often, providing temporary relief.
While it may sound extreme, there is a surgical option to treat essential tremor; deep brain stimulation (DBS) consists of surgically implanting electrical leads in the thalamus, which controls the muscles and is thought to be from where essential tremors originate. This surgery is for people who do not get better with other, more conventional medical therapies.
Occupational therapy helps one adjust to living with a condition such as essential tremor. In this case, it involves working with an occupational therapist to make some lifestyle changes to improve livelihood. For example, the therapist may recommend buying eating utensils that have bigger handles, that are easier to hold. Pull-on clothes with no buttons can also make life easier, as tremors can make it almost impossible to do up or undo buttons. Wearing weights on the wrists may also help hand stability.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.