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MS Tremors and Shakes

I’ve had a tremor since as long as I can remember. It started with my just my hands and as I’ve gotten older has progressed to my head as well. I’ve done a lot of research, and found that people with MS can suffer from different types of tremors. According to nationalmssociety.org, these tremors are:

  • Intention tremor– This tremor is greater during physical movement; there is no shaking when the person is at rest. The tremor develops and becomes more pronounced as the person tries to grasp or reach for something, or move a hand or foot to a precise spot. This is the most common and generally the most disabling form of tremor that occurs in people with MS.
  • Postural tremor– Generally is greatest when the limb or the whole body is being supported against gravity. For example, a person who has a postural tremor will shake while sitting or standing, but not while lying down.
  • Resting tremor– Generally is greater when the body part is at rest and is diminished with movement. This is more typical in people with Parkinson’s than with people with MS.
  • Nystagmus– Produces jumpy eye movements.

Nerves and stress seemed to make them worse

Tremors in people with MS occur because there are lesions along the complex nerve pathways that are responsible for coordination of movements. Having dealt with tremors most of my life, I can very much relate to how debilitating and embarrassing they can become. I noticed my tremors were at their worst when I was in college. This is also the time when I was on the most medication for my MS, which I’m almost convinced ended up making my tremors more severe. My tremors seem to happen most when I am nervous or extremely stressed. What once was just in my hands is now in my head also. There have been times where no matter how hard I try to relax and breathe the tremors will not subside. The severity of my head tremor was at one time so bad, that I hated looking at people because I knew that my head would shake. Some times between the tremors and the nervousness I felt like my whole body would be trembling. It humiliated me. As I said, I was in college, and the last thing you want when you’re in your early twenties is for people to be staring at you because you can’t stop shaking.

I tried everything

I tried everything from prescription medications like Topamax, relaxation techniques, even trying giving up caffeine and stimulants just to try and make them stop. I would tense up so badly to try and stop them that I would have intense upper back and neck pain. I would even clench and grind my teeth. The tremors made me want to isolate myself anytime I could because they caused me severe anxiety. I would have days where I woke up thinking it would be a good day, and then the tremors would come full force and ruin all of my plans. The tremors caused a lot of funny looks and people asking if I was ok. I am almost convinced that some days they were so bad that I looked like I was having a seizure. I’ll be honest, at one time I abused my Xanax because I didn’t know how else to keep them under control. I also would drink heavily before I knew I would be somewhere that would cause me to be nervous and shake…It was the only way I knew I would be able to relax, as well as look and feel “normal”. It is one of the worst feelings in the world not knowing how to control what is happening in your body.

Thankfully my tremors are now much more controlled. I did have another bad head tremor towards the end of my pregnancy with my son, but luckily it went away after I gave birth. I do believe my tremors were worsened by extreme stress from school, working full time and just that time in my life in general. Now my tremors seem to generally appear when I’m nervous or under stress. I also notice them after a day where I have done too much in the heat. I feel that where my tremors were at one time uncontrollable and constant, that now they are more controllable and less frequent. I am so grateful that they are now controlled, because at one point I worried that they would just be another difficulty I would have to learn how to handle with my MS. I wanted to write this article to see if any others with MS have also at one time dealt with or currently deal with the horrible thing that is tremors. I know I can’t be the only one! So, it’s your turn…how have tremors with MS affected your life?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Leiah
    1 year ago

    Hi all, thanks for sharing your experience. My mom has MS for almost 22 years and lately tremors (limbs and head) got quite evident and disturbing for her. What thing did you find to be the most useful/helpful in fighting them? Thank you!

  • Elsa Elaine
    2 years ago

    Dear Calie, I was diagnosed with MS 11 years ago and am now 62 years old. I have an intention tremor in my hands, and it is worse in my right hand. It’s beginning to be more of a problem than it used to. It seems to have worsened within the last 3 months which, incidentally, is when I switched from Copaxone to Gilenya. My handwriting, which used to be very clear and pleasing, is now jagged. I tend to print more than write a fluid line because I can’t keep a cursive line fluid any more.
    It also affects my ability to type on a keyboard and to place the computer cursor accurately.
    The other day I lifted a full cup of coffee and for the first time ever it sloshed over the top.
    I find all of these symptoms depressing and disheartening. I’m retired and had wanted to take up drawing but I’m afraid my lack of control (I’m right handed) will be too frustrating.
    –Elsa

  • dgricar
    6 months ago

    I too have tremors in my hands. I also paint as a pastime. I find painting with oils easier. There are ways of fixing the mistakes. Drawing is tough but erasers are your friend. Hope this helps. I haven’t used cursive for awhile now. Just for signatures and you can’t how bad it looks. So don’t give up.

  • Sebastian Mortensen
    2 years ago

    I certainly do, dear Calie, and being a yoga teacher, I am even more aware of my legs not shaking at the wrong time. I have them in my legs and hands, the ones intention tremors. I was on a date once where the guy started teasing me as I drank from a glass of wine and he saw my hand shaking. He interpreted this as me being nervous about the date…

    Regarding the legs, I do lots of calf and hamstring stretches every day and I find that this helps me keep them under control. As for the hands… Can’t really think of anything.

    I recently started taking CBD oil and it has done wonders so far.
    Have you tried it yet?

  • Julie
    2 years ago

    When I closed on my house last year I told them there was no way they were going to accept the contract because of my hand tremors. She told me she had seen worse. Since then I have noticed that when I’m under stress the tremors tend to be really bad.
    I also asked my neurologist about my “head bobbing”. He used Katherin Hepburn as an example and called it Essential Tremors. He didn’t think it had anything to do with MS except that it is also a neurological problem. While my hands tend to calm when I am at rest my head continues while I am trying to sleep. He didn’t offer anything that would help me with control of it.

  • Nancy W
    2 years ago

    I have tremors in several places in my body. Like most of my symptoms, they are not noticeable to others at first but are very annoying to me. One is in my face. It was the newest symptom that lead to my diagnosis in 2003. It made me look like I was sneering and made my right eye so jumpy that sometimes I would cover it to see when I was driving. I had it treated several times with Botox injections which would wear off in about 3 months. Fortunately, the last time I treated it, it didn’t come back bad enough to treat it. I still have it in my jaw which causes me to clench and break my teeth.

    The other tremor and s in my leg. This is a posteral tremor that is worse when I sit in a high stool. No bar stools for me. If my feet are flat on the ground, it does not occur.

  • Mascha
    2 years ago

    As i am reading this i have hand tremor. A few years ago I didn’t have this,or at least not often. Now it’s in my arm and hand.
    And more when stressed or have done too much.
    Thanks for your great article:)

  • Erin Rush moderator
    2 years ago

    I am sorry you are dealing with a tremor issue, Mascha. As you can see, you are not alone in this! I hope you get some relief from the tremors. Thank you for commenting. We’re glad to have you as a part of this community. Best, Erin, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member.

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