What Body Tremors Can Tell You About Your Health

Body tremors are involuntary movements of the muscles. They are repetitive motions and can present themselves as twitching or rhythmic shaking. The movement is unintentional and of all involuntary movements, tremors are the most common. Although they usually affect an individual’s head, hands and arms, they can sometimes occur in other areas of the body such as the trunk or feet. Tremors are not life-threatening, but they can make it difficult for individuals to perform simple, every-day tasks.

What Are the Symptoms?

Tremor symptoms are shaky, rhythmic movements of different parts of the body. Other symptoms can include a shaky voice, difficulty holding a pen, an unsteady hand when trying to write and difficulty eating. Other symptoms can vary depending on the type of tremors.

When body tremors develop while the muscle is relaxed, it is known as Resting Tremor. This is usually seen in the hands as they are resting near the trunk while standing. Tremors that occur during movement are known as Action Tremors. Action Tremors can occur in any part of the body as it is being unconsciously moved, such as when the leg is lifted to walk. It can also occur in the limbs as they are being outstretched, or in body parts that are being moved consciously, such as when touching a finger to the nose during a medical exam.

What They Can Tell You About Your Health

Tremors can affect individuals of any age, but they are more common among middle-aged people and the elderly. Body tremors occur equally among men and women and can be a temporary condition that disappears after some time, can occur occasionally, or can come and go intermittently.

  • Tremors can sometimes occur as a result of physical or emotional triggers, such as stress or physical exhaustion.
  • Caffeine and certain medications can trigger tremors in sensitive individuals. Examples of medications that are associated with tremors include Lithium, blood pressure medication, certain antidepressants, corticosteroids and drugs that treat heart arrhythmias.
  • One of the most common types of tremors is Essential Tremor. This condition, often hereditary, results in shaking only when the person is moving. It can be successfully managed with medication.
  • Tremors can occur as a side effect of conditions that affect the nervous system. Some examples of these conditions include Parkinson’s Disease, alcoholism, drug withdrawal, Mercury poisoning and liver failure.
  • Tremors can occur as a result of disorders of the part of the brain responsible for muscle control in the body. Neurological disorders that can cause tremors include Multiple Sclerosis, strokes and neurodegenerative diseases. Traumatic brain injury can also lead to tremors.

How Are Tremors Diagnosed?

A doctor will perform a complete physical examination. During the exam, the doctor will be able to identify if the body tremors are triggered by movement or if they occur while at rest. The doctor will perform basic neurological tests to check for weakness, muscle atrophy and problems with reflexes. Your doctor will take a detailed family history to rule out hereditary conditions. Laboratory tests will be ordered to check your blood and urine for abnormalities in your thyroid function and your metabolism. A chemical screen will be ordered to check for higher than normal levels of certain chemicals, such as arsenic and mercury, which are known to cause tremors. Your doctor will evaluate the results of your physical and determine if additional tests, such as MRI or CT Scan are required.

What Treatments Are There?

While there is no cure for body tremors, there are treatments available that may be able to help control symptoms. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is crucial. Once the underlying cause is discovered, your doctor will be able to determine what kinds of treatment, if any, may help get your tremors under control.

  • If tremors occur as a side effect of medication, your doctor may be able to switch to a different medication. Sometimes tremors will disappear if the dosage is lowered. 
  • For tremors that develop because of drug addiction or alcohol abuse, enroll in support groups or treatment centers to help break the addiction.
  • Tremors that occur as a result of stress or anxiety may respond well to controlled relaxation techniques such as deep relaxation, yoga or meditation. Staying well rested and avoiding caffeine can significantly help control stress-related tremors.
  • For tremors that do not respond to treatment, there are steps you can take to help perform daily tasks. Use a straw for drinking to prevent spillage from shaky hands. Wear shoes that have a non-slip rubber bottom to prevent falls from shaky legs. Replace buttons and fasteners on clothing with Velcro strips.

Other Considerations

Depending on the underlying cause, some Tremors will respond well to treatment of the underlying condition. Tremors that do not disappear after a few days could signal a serious underlying condition and should be checked by your health care practitioner.

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