hands

Tremors are involuntary muscle contractions that can cause body parts to shake. Hand tremors are pretty common. In some cases, the issue can be completely normal and in others, further medical evaluation is needed. Mostly all patients with the condition will agree that using their hands for daily tasks can be difficult at times.

All about tremors

Everyone has a slight tremor when moving or maintaining a particular posture. This is called physiologic tremor.

Physiologic tremors are often so small that a person does not see or notice them. Hand tremors may be more noticeable when a person holds their hands out straight in front of the body or when they are stressed or anxious. Tremors can range in intensity and mostly affect hands but can occur elsewhere on the body:

Head

Arms

Legs

Torso

Voice box (larynx, shaky voice)

What brings on a tremor?

It is normal to have a slight tremor. A tremor can become more noticeable with…

Age

Stress

Low blood sugar

Anxious

Lethargy

Too much caffeine

Heat or cold temps

Overactive thyroid

Liver or kidney failure

Mercury poisoning

Inherited degenerative disorders

Neurological conditions that can bring on tremors…

Multiple sclerosis (MS)—A degenerative disease attacks the brain and spinal cord, making it difficult for the nerves to relay messages. MS can cause a number of tremors.

Parkinson’s disease—A disease that involves a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain that plays a critical role in motor movement. About 75 percent of people with the disease have tremors, whether resting, action, or mixed.

Stroke—Someone who has had a stroke can show many tremors depending on which area of the brain was affected.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)—Tremors after brain injury, also known as post-traumatic tremors, are a rare side effect of TBI. They mostly occur after damage to the  cerebellum.

Dystonia—The condition is caused by damage or degeneration of the brain (e.g. after a brain injury or stroke) or exposure to particular drugs. Patients usually have a shake in their hands when they are performing a task rather than at rest.

Medications

There are certain drugs within the following categories that can bring on hand tremors…

Asthma drugs

Antidepressants

Seizure meds

Cancer meds

Antibiotics

Amphetamine

Corticosteroids

Meds that suppress the immune system

Heart meds

Antiviral meds

Essential tremor

The most common cause of shaky hands is essential tremor, which affects adults most often. Essential tremor is not well understood. It’s thought to be caused by a disruption in the normal functioning in parts of your central nervous system, such as your cerebellum.

This type of tremor runs in families sometimes. In fact, about 50 percent of cases of essential tremor are thought to be genetic, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

If your shaky hands are caused by essential tremor, there’s no cure, but there are ways to manage it. The condition, which often begins in adolescence or in your 40s, may worsen as you get older.

Researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes the neurological interruption or how to stop it. They’re also unclear about whether it’s a degenerative process.

Can you stop hands from shaking?

Many people have resorted to trying a few of the suggestions below for help in controlling their shaky hands…

Lifestyle changes: The following lifestyle changes may help to reduce hand tremors in people with enhanced physiologic tremor (more noticeable form affecting hands and fingers on both sides):

  • avoiding vigorous exercise
  • avoiding excess alcohol consumption
  • avoiding stimulants like caffeine and amphetamines
  • Treating underlying conditions: Hand tremors that occur due to an underlying condition, such as hyperthyroidism or alcohol withdrawal, typically improve following treatment for the underlying condition.
  • Psychological techniques: People who experience tremors due to anxiety or panic attacks may benefit from practicing relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness and breathing exercises.
  • Switching medications: Tremors can be a side effect of taking certain drugs. A person who experiences tremors while taking a medication should report the side effect to their doctor. The doctor may be able to adjust the medication dosage or switch the person to a different drug.
  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach people exercises to improve the following:
    • muscle control, functioning, and strength
    • coordination
    • balance
  • Occupational therapy: An occupational therapist can help people living with tremors to continue to engage in their usual daily activities.

What therapies treat shaky hands?

A doctor may recommend one or more strategies to help ease the symptoms of essential tremor. Suggestions may include:

  • Using heavier objects: You may need to replace lightweight or delicate objects, such as glasses, silverware, or plates, with heavier versions. The extra weight may make the items easier to handle.
  • Using specially designed utensils and tools with special grips: Gripping and controlling items like pens, pencils, garden tools, and kitchen utensils may be difficult if you have shaky hands
  • Wearing wrist weights: The extra weight on your arm may make control easier.

What about surgery?

A doctor is unlikely to recommend surgery as your first treatment option. Surgical treatments are typically reserved for people who have a severely disabling tremor. Surgery may become an option as you age or if the tremor is not helped by medication.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who suddenly develops tremors in their hands or other parts of their body should see their doctor for a diagnosis. A provider will need to rule out more serious causes, some of which may require prompt medical treatment. While there’s no cure for most hand tremors, prescription medications and lifestyle changes may provide relief, depending on the cause.