Tremors are involuntary muscle spasms that can occur in many areas of the body. While twitching muscles can affect the eyes, legs, face, vocal cords, and other body parts, tremors are often associated with the hands. Living with hand tremors can be frustrating and make daily activities such as eating or dressing oneself difficult. Approximately 10 million people in the United States experience some form of hand tremors.
There are numerous types of tremors and reasons why they happen. Some are temporary and go away on their own, and others are linked to more severe health problems. Learn more about what causes hand tremors, how to stop shaky hands, and when to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional about hand tremors.
What causes tremors?
Many things from diet and lifestyle changes to medications and health conditions can cause hand tremors. Shaky hands in the morning could be the result of fatigue or too much caffeine. Shaking in the elderly could be due to a vitamin deficiency or a medication side effect. Tremors can also be a warning sign of alcohol withdrawal, stress, anxiety, blood pressure problems, and other health conditions.
Types of hand tremors
Treatment options for tremors of the hands may also vary based on what type you have. A healthcare professional can help you determine which type of hand tremor you or a loved one has. Here are some common types of hand tremors.
A physiologic tremor could be a side effect of a medication. Corticosteroids, amphetamines, and some asthma medications are known for causing temporary hand tremors. Medicines used to treat neurological and psychiatric conditions can also produce physiological tremor.
Physiologic tremors can also be a symptom of the following:
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
Parkinson’s disease tremor
Many people often associate shaking hands and limbs with the neurological disorder Parkinson’s disease. Nearly 80% of individuals with Parkinson’s have tremors, which often occur in the resting state (called resting tremors). Patients with further developed Parkinson’s disease can have continuous and severe tremors, which seriously interfere with everyday tasks such as eating or tying their shoes.
Hands shake rhythmically and involuntarily with essential tremors. Although essential tremors are neurological, it is not in the same category as tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease. Essential tremors are treatable and sometimes avoidable, but not curable. Extreme temperatures, stress, anxiety, smoking cigarettes, and caffeine can trigger and worsen essential tremors.
Psychogenic tremors are often the result of a psychological condition such as stress, anxiety, trauma, or psychiatric disorder. Spasms and involuntary body movements can develop from a rapid increase in blood pressure and heart rate associated with stress.
A cerebellar tremor can occur when the cerebellum or pathways to the brain have been injured or damaged. Stroke patients can develop tremors if the cerebral arteries are damaged. A tumor is another example of damage to the cerebellum, causing hand or body tremors.
Medications that cause tremors
Hand tremors are the potential side effect of numerous medications. Prescription drugs used to treat depression, asthma, cancer, and acid reflux are among many that can cause shaky hands. Some antibiotics, weight loss medications, and antivirals are also on the list of drugs that can result in temporary hand tremors.
Antidepressants and antipsychotics
Although effective in treating depression, shaky hands are a side effect of many antidepressants. Antipsychotic medications also cause tremors which are known as tardive dyskinesia. Common medications include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, doxepin, amoxapine
- Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro
- Mood stabilizers, such as lithium, Depakote, Lamictal
Side effects of asthma or bronchodilators can lead to movement disorders in the fingers and hands. Prescription inhalers or nebulizers such as Proventil and Ventolin (albuterol) are among those that stimulate the nervous system, potentially causing shaky hands. The hand tremors are only temporary, lasting 30 to 60 minutes after using the medication and are not to be considered harmful.
Acid reflux medication
Prilosec (omeprazole) can also cause hand tremors as a side effect. Omeprazole interferes with vitamin B12 absorption, which is an essential vitamin for the nervous system. Shakiness should stop upon discontinuing the use of the drug.
Reglan (metoclopramide) has the potential side effect of muscle spasms, but you should notify your healthcare professional if you experience this side effect. Reglan can also interfere with other medications (even over-the-counter pain meds), so it is important to tell your doctor if and what other medications you are taking.
How to stop shaky hands naturally
Hand tremors can be annoying, embarrassing, and affect how you live. Lifestyle changes and natural remedies such as altering your diet, exercise, therapy, and even surgery are options for relieving hand tremors. Natural home remedies could significantly reduce or eliminate shaky hand symptoms and reduce the need for medicinal or surgical treatment.
A Mediterranean diet full of fruits and vegetables can have a positive effect on overall health, but it’s also been studied against neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s, and essential tremors. The diet includes vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole-grain cereal, and unsaturated fatty acids. Fish is also allowed, but it can sometimes be contaminated with mercury, which could make tremors worse. People on a Mediterranean diet should limit their dairy, meat, poultry, and alcohol consumption.
Water is another form of medicine. Drinking the recommended four to six cups of water a day can keep the body hydrated as well as flush toxins from the body that could be contributing to hand tremors.
Caffeine is a stimulant, so reducing or eliminating it from your diet can also minimize hand tremors. Caffeine is in coffee, tea, sodas, and other beverages and chocolate. If you consume caffeine regularly and abruptly stop, you can also experience tremors from caffeine withdrawal. After discontinuing caffeine, shaky hands and other withdrawal symptoms may last up to 10 days. Weaning yourself from this stimulant could prove to be a practical approach to avoid hand tremors.
Alcohol is another contributing factor to hand tremors. As a depressant, alcohol affects the central nervous system. Hand tremors can occur when drinking alcohol excessively as well as from alcohol withdrawal.
Vitamin B12 is essential to maintain a healthy nervous system. A deficiency of vitamin B12, B-6, or B-1 could lead to the development of hand tremors. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 for adults is 6 mcg, but you may need more if you take a medication that hinders vitamin absorption.
Vitamin B12 can be taken in a capsule form, injection, or found in everyday foods. Eggs, milk, meat, and most animal products naturally contain vitamin B12. Many cereals have been fortified with vitamins as well.
Hand and wrist exercises
Your healthcare provider may refer you to a physical or occupational therapist for treatment or recommend exercises you can do at home.
Squeezing a stress ball or hand grip for two to 10 seconds, releasing, and repeating 10 times on each hand can be an easy exercise to incorporate into your day.
Rotating the wrists in a circular motion can keep tendons and ligaments flexible. Moving the hands with intention can keep synovial fluid from building up, which prevents or reduces tremors.
Curling a light hand weight with arms resting on a table and your palms facing up can also strengthen and fine-tune your muscle control.
Weighted hand glove
A weighted glove is a piece of adaptive equipment designed by occupational therapists. The gloves come in various weights. The gloves offer an individual with tremors more hand stability and can reduce the patient’s need for surgery.
Stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems can trigger hand tremors. Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, creating a relaxing atmosphere, practicing yoga, and meditating are all worth exploring if stress contributes to tremors.
Massage therapy can also heal muscles in the hands affected by tremors while reducing stress in the mind and body.
Fatigue is another common cause of shakiness, as getting plenty of rest is important for the body and nervous system to function correctly. The average adult needs approximately seven to nine hours of sleep.
Medications for tremors
Tremors may be treatable with a variety of medications. Beta blockers, anticonvulsants, anti-seizure medications, and amino acids are among some of the commonly prescribed drugs to reduce shaky hands.
A 5% progesterone cream can block adrenaline and be a useful aid in reducing shaky hands, according to Micheal E. Platt, MD, the owner of Platt Wellness Center and author of Adrenaline Dominance. This topical solution is available over-the-counter (OTC) and can be rubbed onto the skin of the hands to relieve symptoms.
Mysoline (primidone) is a commonly prescribed medication used to treat seizures, but can also be useful in reducing hand tremors. This prescription drug is a barbiturate anticonvulsant, and it helps stabilize the brain’s electrical pulses.
Levodopa is an amino acid that can help reduce tremors by replenishing the body’s dopamine supply. Commonly used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, levodopa may also help treat other forms of tremors. Individuals who take levodopa should avoid proteins found in foods such as meats and iron supplements, as these could decrease the medicine’s absorption factor.
Beta blockers (or beta-adrenergic blocking agents) block adrenaline, also referred to as epinephrine, and reduce blood pressure. Lower blood pressure can reduce the onset of tremors. Beta blockers such as metoprolol, propranolol, nadolol, or bisoprolol treat health issues, including tremors.
In addition to or lieu of prescribed beta blockers, beta-adrenergic blocking agents can be found naturally in many foods. Nuts, seeds, bananas, leafy greens, poultry, and meats contain beta blockers. Eating these foods could help reduce anxiety, contribute to overall wellness, and possibly reduce tremors.
Surgery for hand tremors
In some cases of tremors, especially essential tremors, surgery may be necessary. A minimally invasive process of inserting a neurostimulator into the brain called deep brain stimulation (DBS) is available. Similar to a pacemaker, the neurostimulator device sends an electrical pulse that can prevent tremors from occurring.
A thalamotomy is another surgery for individuals with essential tremors. This particular surgery interferes with the thalamus on one side of the brain. This surgery is often performed on the side of the brain opposite side of your dominant hand. The results of the operation will then impact and relieve symptoms of the dominant hand. Side effects of the surgery are often temporary but can include speech difficulties, confusion, and balance issues.
When should someone see a doctor for shaky hands
If you have hand tremors, seeking professional help sooner than later could prevent the worsening of a severe medical condition. Medications that slow the onset and progression of neurological disorders could be an essential step to managing your wellness. On the other hand, your healthcare professional may inform you that you just need to reduce stress in your life or switch to decaf. Either way, finding out why you have hand tremors should be a priority.