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Categories > Brain and Nervous System Disorders > Essential tremor

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Taming the tremors

Essential tremor and Parkinson’s: What’s the difference?

Unlike Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor:

  • doesn’t cause other health problems
  • affects mostly the hands, but may affect the legs, head and voice
  • typically occurs when hands are in use, not at rest.

You may think your trembling hands or shaking head are another part of getting older, but what you could be suffering from is a condition called essential tremor.

The symptoms tend to occur when you’re performing voluntary movements, such as drinking a glass of water or writing. You may notice your have difficulty holding the cup without spilling it or your handwriting has become illegible. Your legs and voice may also be affected.

Essential tremor isn’t dangerous and doesn’t lead to serious complications. However, its symptoms can interfere with daily tasks. Thankfully, you can take steps that may help control symptoms:

  • Avoid caffeine. It makes your body produce more adrenaline, which can worsen tremors.
  • Relax. Stress can aggravate the condition. Try deep breathing, guided imagery, massage, yoga or tai chi to help you mellow out. Regular exercise such as walking can also be a great stress reliever.
  • Rest up. Fatigue seems to intensify symptoms. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. If you’re experiencing sleep problems, talk with your healthcare provider.
  • Work out your hands. Your healthcare provider may recommend exercises using light weights to help strengthen your hands.
  • Join a support group. Its members may be able to share additional tips on managing symptoms.

If self-care doesn’t work for you, your healthcare provider may recommend medications or surgery to help relieve your symptoms. However, medication and surgery can have side effects or risks, so make sure you weigh the pros and cons of each option.


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