What causes tremors?
Tremors are a common MS symptom, often appearing alongside problems with coordination. An MS tremor is an involuntary shaking or trembling movement. The tremors are variable from person to person. They might be strong enough to cause you to spill a drink, or it might be so mild that no one would notice you having one. For some people it can be severe, making it hard to eat a meal for example, but this is less common. The tremors can be progressive, or they can come and go.
MS tremors are caused by damage to the myelin sheath in an area of the brain called the cerebellum, and the nerves leading to and from it. The cerebellum controls your coordination and balance.
Tremors can also be a result of demyelination in other parts of the brain such as the basal ganglia and the thalamus — these areas of the brain control movement.
If you have MS tremors, it is likely that they disappear as soon as you are completely relaxed, for example in bed at night. If the tremors don’t go away when you are lying down in bed then there may be another cause, such as another neurological condition or the side effect from some medications like asthma inhalers.
The effects of MS tremors
MS tremors are mild for most people with MS. A small number of PwMS find that it is more severe.
The tremor can affect your balance and gait and also can affect your hands, arms and head. This can make daily tasks, from writing to dressing, more challenging, and can make working very difficult. Doing a job which requires delicate handiwork such as a decorator or a surgeon can be impacted by this particular symptom. The tremors can affect your whole body, or just one part.
Getting help and support
It is vital that you get the right help and support as if they are severe, MS tremors can have a major impact on your self-esteem and your sense of independence. You might find that talking to others who are experiencing MS tremors helps. By connecting with others in an MS community where people have positive stories and tips to share, can help you to develop a positive mindset and learn how you can best deal with this symptom.
Anxiety can make your tremors worse, so making sure that you find ways of relaxing such as meditation can help you to relieve stress. You might find that you also want to speak to a counsellor for some coping strategies.
You can also become part of the OMS community in a number of ways:
- Through an OMS Circle
- Go to an OMS event
- Listen to the OMS podcasts
- Join the OMS community forum
- Sign up to the OMS newsletter
- Share your story
- Read the OMS community blog posts
An occupational therapist will be able to advise you on how you can adapt your home to help deal with tremors, and the possible assistive devices which might make your daily activities easier — things to help with activities such as writing or cooking.
Physical therapists can help advise you if tremors affect your mobility, and they will be able to advise on specific exercises to increase your muscle strength.
What are the next steps?
If it seems like there is too much information and you don’t know where to start, read through our next steps – we are here to support you.