Do your hands quiver, shake, or tremble sometimes? Tremors are involuntary muscle contractions, and they may or may not be a cause of concern, depending on what’s causing them. They are often rhythmic, or make parts of the body that they affect appear like they are trembling or shaking. Hand tremors, for example, can vary in terms of intensity and severity. There are also many potential different causes of hand tremors, and they can differ in nature.
In general, tremors occur in different body parts – not just the hands – and it’s not always serious.
Almost everyone will experience some type of tremors sometimes, as tremors can occur mildly and therefore seem unnoticeable at times. For example, after a strenuous cardio workout or heavy lifting, you may notice a bit of shaking or trembling in your hands or legs that goes away on its own.
Tremors often occur in the hands. While they may just pose as a small inconvenience, especially if you have to write a check, in severe cases, excessive hand tremors may disrupt the quality of life of an individual. Sometimes, tremors require movement therapy and medical intervention.
Two Common Types of Tremors
- Physiologic tremors
Physiologic tremors are so small that you do not necessarily see or feel them enough to notice. They are the result of bodily processes, such as blood flow and the pumping of blood from the heart.
These are normal tremors that one feels when maintaining a certain pose or posture. Usually, you will find this occurs in the hands, arms, torso, legs, or the voice box, causing a shaky or quivering voice. However, this type of tremor may also occur in other parts of the body.
- Enhanced Physiologic Tremors
Enhanced physiologic tremors are more noticeable tremors. These tremors may affect the hands and fingers. It often occurs when regular physiologic tremors are amplified by stress, or fatigue. These tremors often do not require medical care unless they are the cause of underlying medical conditions that need muscle coordination therapy.
Tremors can be further classified into:
1. Resting tremors
2. Acting tremors
As its name suggests, resting tremors occur even when the muscles are relaxed, like in someone with Parkinson’s Disease.
Action tremors occur with the voluntary movement of muscles, like when you are working out or pushing your hand out against gravity.
What Causes Hand Tremors?
Hand tremors can be frightening when you notice it. However, as we’ve established, we all have them from time-to-time, and they are a normal occurrence.
While hand tremors may be common, they can be amplified in certain cases. In extreme cases, hand tremors may be symptoms of a more serious underlying medical condition. In other cases, these enhanced tremors are usually caused by hormonal and stress-related factors. If you or someone you know experiences hand tremors, below is a list of 7 potential causes or amplifiers of hand tremors ranging from serious ones to those that are not actually a great cause for concern.
1. Hand Tremors due to Muscle Fatigue
After hurdling a grueling workout, you may find that you experience some hand tremors or shaking. While it may prompt you to worry, do not be alarmed. Often, studies state your hands shake after workouts because of muscle fatigue, especially workouts that involve the use of your wrists, hands, and upper extremities. When working out, you excite your muscles with contractions. Too much of this from strenuous exercise can overwhelm the motor units responsible for movement, causing you to tremble. If this happens to you, take a quick rest and your motor units will return to normal, producing more controlled and less trembly motions.
2. Trembling Hands from Intense Emotions Such as Anxiety or Stress
Stress is one of the most common causes of hand tremors, as stress amplifies physiological processes. Hand tremors are one of the common physical side effects of stress. Stress can come in two forms, eustress (good stress usually occurs when you are excited about something) and distress (the bad stress that you feel in unwanted situations). In these periods, like when you are overcome by extreme excitement for an important event, or extremely worried about a test, your physiological tremors may be more pronounced.
Remember that many people find that their hands tremble or shake when they’re nervous about something, or stressed. It’s not all that uncommon.
3. Excess Caffeine Consumption
Caffeine can also cause tremors and jitters to become more noticeable. This is because caffeine acts as a brain stimulant and blocks out drowsiness, which is often your body’s signal for rest. It, therefore, boosts your alertness, encouraging increased blood flow and higher blood pressure. This can lead to palpitations, which explain the shaking in your hands after a cup of coffee or other caffeine-loaded items like tea or chocolate.
4. Tremors as Side Effects from Certain Medications
Certain medications are known to amplify tremors. This is usually the case for asthma medication and bronchodilators, which cause a spike in blood pressure. Steroids may also amplify tremors. Tremors that arise from medications can usually be detected, as you will often feel them immediately or a few minutes after taking your prescription. In this case, do not be alarmed, as the shaking will subside on its own, usually within 30 minutes to an hour.
5. Parkinson’s Disease
Yes, it is possible tremors are happening due to a serious disease such as Parkinson’s, but this is much less likely. Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder caused by the breakdown of certain nerve cells in the brain region which controls movement. Parkinson’s patients may experience tremors as one of their symptoms. They may experience resting tremors, which can even occur when the patient is asleep. Parkinson’s patients also experience action tremors. They often occur in the hands and can interfere with the daily activities of the patient. In this case, movement therapy is often recommended to patients as the disease affects mobility.
To rule out Parkinson’s as a cause of your tremors, speak to your doctor.
6. Multiple Sclerosis
Tremors are also rarely a result of a serious illness called Multiple Sclerosis or MS. This is an autoimmune disorder where the nerve cells of the spinal cord and brain lose their myelin sheath, which is the insulating layer of the nerves and cells that allow the quick transmission of electrical impulses. This may cause movement disorders, like paralysis, and tremors. Moreover, this disease can follow a variable life course and may go from benign to life-threatening.
Your doctor will be able to tell you if it’s possible you’re developing MS, but it’s more likely that your tremors are being caused by something less serious.
7. Diabetes or Low Blood Sugar
Diabetes patients may experience tremors when facing bouts of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia triggers the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine. The brain relies on these hormones to spike blood sugar levels when your blood sugar is low. The sudden release of hormones causing a rapid spike in blood sugar levels can cause a fast heartbeat which may lead to tremors. It may also result in sweating, anxiety, and hunger.
Tremors: The Bottom Line
Don’t freak out if you have trembling hands. Tremors are not always serious or rooted in severe medical illness. Sometimes, tremors are just a result of stress, not enough food that day, excess caffeine, or a strenuous workout. However, regardless of the cause, if you begin to notice that these tremors become more frequent occurrences and that you can no longer pinpoint the trigger, do reach out and book an appointment with your doctor. Note that even mild causes like stress, can progress when left unchecked.
Take a CircleDNA test as the results will provide you with genetic insights including your genetic stress tolerance, and any diseases related to tremors that you’re genetically at higher risk of developing.