A tremor is an involuntary movement that affects one area of the body, most commonly the arms, hands or head. Tremors may appear as a persistent shaking, trembling or nodding, and they can range from mild to severe, with more severe tremors interfering with everyday activities like writing, drinking and holding objects.
Tremors can cause different symptoms depending on the underlying cause and other factors. The most common symptoms include:
the rhythmic shaking of the hands, arms, legs or head
problems holding items
difficulty writing or performing tasks requiring fine motor control
problems walking or performing other gross motor activities
Tremors can be caused by several underlying medical conditions, including:
stroke or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
degenerative brain diseases
other issues affecting the nervous system
Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause tremors, and sometimes, the cause of a tremor cannot be determined. Tremors are more likely to occur in older people, and in some people, symptoms may be exacerbated by stress.
Treatment of tremors can be problematic, especially in patients in whom a specific underlying cause cannot be identified. Having a comprehensive physical examination, including an in-depth medical history, plays an important role in diagnosis, and other tests like blood tests, diagnostic imaging studies or nerve studies may also be performed. Patients with Parkinson’s disease may benefit from prescription medications or from deep brain stimulation, a state-of-the-art therapeutic intervention that uses a tiny implanted device to send electrical impulses to a specific portion of the brain. The device is implanted beneath the skin and can be adjusted to suit the patient’s symptoms. When tremors cause pain or discomfort or interfere with normal activities, physical therapy may be helpful in enabling patients to learn how to help control movements, reduce discomfort and improve function.