NZ Woman's Weekly
Tremors: symptoms, causes and possible treatments

Tremors: symptoms, causes and possible treatments

There are lots of reasons why you might end up having the shakes – here are some of them.

WORRYING SIGNS

Hold your hand out  at, palm up, and put a piece of A4 paper on it. Chances are you’ll see the paper moving as your hand shakes slightly. This is part of the body’s normal response to certain stimulation, but it’s when the tremors are noticeable, happen frequently and interfere with our ability to do everyday things, such as pour hot drinks, that we start to worry.

IN THE GENES

Some forms of tremors run in the family. These include a common form of the shakes known as essential tremor, associated with old age. It starts out mild but gets progressively worse over time. Spreading from the hands to the head, tongue, legs and trunk, being tired, stressed or having low blood sugar doesn’t help. Symptoms generally occur after the age of 40 and if you have a parent with it, you’ve got a 50% chance of inheriting it.

EASING SYMPTOMS

Shakes due to factors such as excess alcohol, low blood sugar or anxiety should get better when you fix the problem. Other types of shaking may improve if the underlying medical condition responsible for them can be treated. In other cases, drugs may be able to ease the symptoms but not eradicate them completely. Tremors caused by a movement disorder called dystonia, which results in involuntary muscle contractions, can respond well to Botox.

EVERYDAY FACTORS THAT CAN MAKE YOU MORE PRONE TO SHAKING INCLUDE:

  • Withdrawal from alcohol, drugs or nicotine
  • Side effects of using drugs and alcohol
  • Caffeine overdose
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Low blood sugar
  • Extreme exercise using your arms, such as pull-ups
  • Medications, including some used for asthma

TREMORS CAN ALSO BE DUE TO AN UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITION

These include:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Liver failure
  • Heavy metal poisoning

SURGICAL OPTION

If the shakes make your everyday life impossible, your doctor may recommend surgery. People with severe Parkinson’s and essential tremors can undergo a procedure that creates lesions in the brain that can lead to the tremors subsiding. They may also respond to a treatment in which electrodes are implanted in the brain and a hand-held device sends electrical impulses to temporarily disable tremors.

HEALTHY OUTLOOK

It’s not a cure, but in some cases lifestyle changes may lessen the shaking. Removing stimulants from your diet can help so it’s a good idea to cut back on products containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, chocolate and cola drinks. You may also want to try reducing your alcohol intake, practising relaxation techniques and getting plenty of sleep.

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