What Does a Hand Tremor Mean?


A tremor in the hand can occur without a cause of an underlying condition. Shaky hands are not always a sign of a life-threatening symptom, but it can have an impact on daily activities. Most people have a slight tremor in the hands, and it may be especially noticeable when holding the hands straight out in front of the body. Tremors can range in severity, and several conditions can cause more noticeable shaking.


What is a tremor? A tremor is an involuntary, rhythmic muscle contraction that causes shaking. Tremors are most common in the hands, but they can also occur in the arms, head, vocal cords, torso, and legs. Tremors can be intermittent, happening every so often, or constant. Sometimes tremors develop on their own, and other times they signal an underlying health issue. Shaky hands may lead to difficulty writing, driving, or other everyday tasks. A resting tremor occurs when the muscles are relaxed, such as when the hands are resting on the lap. Anaction tremor happens when the muscles are contracted because of voluntary movement.


What causes shaky hands? In some cases, the cause is unknown, but tremors often result from neurological conditions, movement disorders, or other health problems.

Some neurological conditions that can cause shaky hands include:


  • Multiple sclerosis (MS): A tremor often develops when the disease damages areas in the pathways of the central nervous system that control movement.

  • Stroke: An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery, preventing blood from reaching the brain. This can cause lasting damage to neurological pathways and lead to tremors.

  • Traumatic brain injury: Physical injury to the brain can also damage nerves that play a role in coordinating movement. Hand tremors may occur when an injury affects certain nerves.

  • Parkinson’s disease: More than 25 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease have a related action tremor, as well as a more common resting tremor in one or both hands. Tremors usually begin on one side of the body, and they may spread to the other side. Shaking may become more pronounced during periods of stress or strong emotion.

Movement disorders that can cause hand tremors:

  • Psychiatric conditions, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Inherited degenerative disorders, such as hereditary ataxia or fragile X syndrome

  • Alcohol abuse or withdrawal

  • Mercury poisoning

  • Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid

  • Liver or kidney failure

  • Anxiety or panic

Certain drugs can also cause hand tremors, such as:

  • Some asthma medicines, amphetamines, caffeine, or corticosteroids

  • Medicines used to treat certain psychiatric and neurological disorders

Ways to try to stop your hands from shaking:

If an underlying condition is responsible for the tremor, it will usually get better with treatment. If a tremor is a side effect, it will often go away when medication is switched.


The following may also help:

  • Lifestyle changes: Limiting or avoiding substances that can cause tremors, such as caffeine and amphetamines, can reduce or eliminate a person’s shaking.

  • Physical therapy: This can improve muscle control, functioning, and strength while enhancing coordination and balance. An occupational therapist can help people living with tremors to continue to engage in daily activities.

  • Psychological techniques: If anxiety or panic is responsible for a tremor, a person may benefit from practicing relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises.

When to seek treatment If you have noticed a new or increased tremor in your hands, make an appointment.


Source: Medical News Today

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