Reviewed by Veena Angle, MBBS, MD and Physician Wong Si Xuan
Prone to Hand Tremors? There Could Be an Underlying Reason for the Disorder
Published | 5 min read
Hand tremors can occur for various reasons. Treatment options will be recommended after ascertaining a person’s symptoms.
If hand tremors impair your ability to perform daily tasks, then this article is for you! It’s usually noticeable in:
- Elderly people
- People who consume caffeinated beverages
- People who are anxious, angry, stressed, or tired
The involuntary movement may be due to genetics or could also indicate underlying health problems. Discover more about hand tremors and how to curb ‘the shakes’ effectively.
The Causes of Hand Tremors
The uncontrollable shaking can be classified as action, postural, or resting tremors. Action tremors often accompany a voluntary body movement. Postural tremors occur when the affected body part voluntarily moves against gravity. Resting tremors, meanwhile, happen when a body part is at rest and wholly supported against gravity.
Physical and psychological disorders
A few of the health disorders that can increase a person’s risk of hand tremors are:
- Mercury poisoning
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Kidney or liver failure
- A stroke
- A traumatic brain injury
- An overactive thyroid
- Medications that help manage asthma, or neurological and psychiatric disorders
Body constitution imbalances
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that hand tremors stem from two factors. “One factor would be Blood, qi (vital life force), or Kidney and Liver yin (passive energy) Deficiencies. Another factor would be the presence of Wind, Fire, Phlegm or and Stagnation, which can trigger blockages in the meridians of the body,” explains Eu Yan Sang TCM physician Wong Xi Xuan.
Ways to Halt Hand Tremors
A physical examination and thorough review of a person’s medical history are necessary for diagnosing hand tremors. During a physical check, physicians will assess them based on:
- Their frequencies and amplitudes
- Whether they affect one or both sides of the body
- Whether they transpire when the muscles are at rest or performing an action
In addition, physicians may also order a neurological examination to determine if a person has impaired balance, increased muscle stiffness or speech abnormalities. Blood or urine analyses may tell if a thyroid malfunction or medication use provokes tremors. These steps can help physicians prescribe treatment options that manage the condition.
Separately, TCM practitioners will recommend alternatives that support clinical treatment modalities that replenish deficiencies or eliminate pathogens that aggravate blockages in the meridians. Physician Ng also advises people to make specific lifestyle changes to reduce their vulnerability to the condition, such as:
- Staying physically and mentally active
- Managing emotions and practicing stress-relief habits
- Getting sufficient rest and not overworking the mind and body
- Consuming a balanced diet and avoiding excessive caffeine, overly greasy or sweet foods
Beta-blockers can help treat essential tremors in certain people. It may also be beneficial for certain people who are diagnosed with action tremors. However, these drugs need to be taken strictly under guidance and should not be taken if you suffer from certain heart ailments or asthma. If a person doesn’t respond to beta-blockers, anti-seizure medications may be used.
Herbal ingredients and acupuncture
A person with Kidney and Liver yin Deficiencies tend to present with mild tremors, which can be accompanied by symptoms like:
- Blurry vision
- Lower back pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Weakness in the lower limbs
Soft turtle shell (bie jia, 鳖甲), donkey hide gelatin (e jiao, 阿胶) and Rehmannia root (shu di, 熟地) can be used to restore Kidney and Liver yin. A stimulation of the san yin jiao (SP6, 三陰交) and tai xi (KI3, 太溪) acupoints can also be used to achieve similar effects.
Heat-Phlegm and Wind can also obstruct the meridians of the body, and set off the following symptoms:
- Stomach bloat
- Chest tightness
- Hand tremors
- Bitterness in the mouth
- Phlegm in the throat
Ingredients such as Thunberg Fritillaria Bulb (zhe bei mu, 浙貝母), bamboo shavings (zu rhu, 竹茹) and Pinellia rhizome (ban xia, 半夏) can be consumed to remove Phlegm in the body. Applying pressure to the feng long (ST40, 丰隆) acupoint can also help.
Physical, occupational and speech-language therapy
Undergoing physical therapy will people with hand tremors improve muscle coordination, function and strength. Typically, these exercises will involve the use of weights, splints, and customised plates and utensils for eating.
Speech-language pathologists evaluate and treat communication, swallowing, and speech and language disorders. Occupational therapists will teach a person who’s been diagnosed with tremors how to perform daily activities differently.
If a person has severe hand tremors or doesn’t respond to drug therapy, as a last resort, a physician may suggest surgical interventions like deep brain stimulation or radiofrequency ablation.
Deep brain stimulation is the most common procedure for treating tremors. It uses electrode implants to send high-frequency signals to the thalamus – a part of the brain that coordinates and controls some involuntary movements – and disables a tremor.
Radiofrequency ablation is the method of choice for this treatment type. It uses a radio wave to generate an electric current that heats up a nerve and numbs its signalling ability.
Early intervention can help people with hand tremors avert symptoms of the condition. If you wish to use traditional therapies, speak to a TCM practitioner beforehand. The syndrome diagnosis and reasons behind hand tremors will differ according to an individual’s body constitutions. Thus, the treatment options offered will help bring out the best possible effects and prevent contraindications.
- NHS. Tremor or shaking hands. [online] [Accessed 29 March 2022]
- MyHEALTH. TREMORS IN AN ELDERLY PATIENT. [online] [Accessed 29 March 2022]
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Tremor Fact Sheet. [online] [Accessed 29 March 2022]
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