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What are Hand Tremors?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Hand tremors are a slight to significant shaking of the hands, which can occur for many different reasons. These reasons can be completely benign and the shaking can be so minor or only associated with certain activities, that it is rarely bothersome. Some people suffer from more significant tremors that are caused by serious conditions. It is always wise to determine the medical cause of hand tremors to rule out potential underlying problems.

One of the most common causes of hand tremors is essential tremor, which most presents in people who are older than 65. Many people automatically assume a person with a tremor that is especially noticed in between activities or when starting an activity, has Parkinson’s disease. This is not always true, and essential tremor is quite different than conditions like Parkinson’s. Though it may be linked to cerebellum activity in the brain, which may not adequately coordinate muscle movement, it not always a serious condition, or one that necessarily requires treatment.Even though studies indicate involvement of the cerebellum, this may be a normal human variation instead of indicating brain damage.

Sometimes more than one person from a family has an essential tremor, and though these are most common in older adults, they can occur in younger people too. The part of body affected isn’t always the hands, and some people might have a slight trembling in their voices or show tremors in other parts of the body. When several people from the same family have essential tremor, it’s usually called familial tremor.

There are other things than can cause tremors in the hand or in other parts of the body. Conditions like Parkinson’s disease can result in it, some medications create tremor, and alcohol withdrawal may cause it to a great degree. People who are tired or stressed out could develop hand tremors, and they may be common in people who drink too much caffeine or who have conditions like anxiety and panic disorder.

Most people who experience a tremor from something like drinking too much coffee will notice it abates in a short while. When hand tremors don’t go away, a person should get medical attention. Doctors will likely want to know the history of when tremors started, when they’re most common, and whether anyone else in the family has them. They can perform numerous tests to determine cause, or at least to rule out very serious causes.

Some people have tremors that are very severe and they do require treatment. Treatment could include various medications to reduce tremors. Sometimes people have surgical procedures like deep brain stimulation, but this would generally not be an option for those with very minor and occasional shaking of the hands.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Ruggercat68 — On May 29, 2014

I've noticed I'll get involuntary hand tremors if I tried to hold something still for too long. It's like the tremors get worse if I try to control them mentally. I think it's mostly muscle fatigue that causes the shaky hands, but I also suspect it's a nervous thing, like the yips in golfing. If I'm trying too hard to keep my hands steady, they'll shake even more.

I'll get a tremor in one hand if I spend too much time on my computer keyboard. I think using the mouse for long periods of time triggers it. I'll take a long break and maybe a few analgesic tablets before getting back to my writing.

By Cageybird — On May 29, 2014

I remember my grandmother would get hand tremors from time to time, but she wasn't that old at the time. It was only later that I figured out it was related to her alcoholism. Many alcoholics develop hand tremors if they reach a certain level of intoxication, or sometimes when they haven't quite had enough alcohol to stop the shakes. She could barely hold a glass when she was in that condition, but then she'd have a few more drinks and she'd get steady again.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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