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?

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