Coping with Essential Tremor (ET)

By: Nicky Pilkington

Have you ever seen people in public whose hand or hands shake? Have you thought to yourself, they must have Parkinsonís or maybe they have had too much to drink? Sometimes you may even make fun of them or try not to be around them...

Each day "you" get up and brush your teeth, button your shirt, tie your laces, and can hold a cup of coffee, but people with advance tremor can only do this with great difficulty. Most people with ET don't have a social life and go to great lengths to hide their shaking. They avoid having to hold anything and will often use two hands when they do. In public or around strangers most will avoid eating and drinking until they can do it unobserved.


Essential Tremor is the most common form of tremor. ET was called benign tremor but there is nothing benign about it. It is often mistaken for Parkinsonís, and can affect people of any age.

The disorder will usually get worse with age. Today, there are more than 20 different kinds of tremor, so people suffering with ET must be diagnosed carefully.

ET can be involuntary, oscillating, wobbling, rhythm tic, or a movement or shaking of your head, arm, hand, or torso or a combination of these.

It can occur on one side, or both sides of the body. Common types of tremor are: Resting, Postural, Task Specific, Essential and Parkinsonís.

A family history will be present but not always. Millions of people are affected by tremor in the United States alone. ET is a neurological disorder that is more common with aging but can be present at any age, even in the teen years.

Postural tremor occurs in the arms and hands during movement and no action or drugs are known to cause the problem. Head, voice and neck tremor may or may not be present.

ET causes uncontrollable shaking of the hands, voice, torso, head, legs and other parts of the body and will increase in severity when trying to perform an action of any kind.

If you have the disorder or know someone who has, seek out a neurologist who has training in this field.


Many different drugs are available to treat ET, such as Propananol, Primidone, Sotalol, Atenolol and various others.

Before much was known about the disorder, even valium was mistakenly prescribed as a treatment. While the different drugs may help, they are not a cure. They will not completely do away with the symptoms of the disease, but will help to improve the lives of those affected. Many individuals with ET find that drug treatment eventually becomes ineffective and other forms of treatment may be required (surgery).

When all else fails to control the disorder surgery may be required. Brain stimulators are used which interfere with or block the bad signals sent by the brain. This type of surgery has fewer complications than other surgery and is also reversible.

While surgery may sound like a scary procedure, the results can make it all more drugs, a social life, a job you have always wanted, and no more trying to hide the symptoms of the disease.

With a little knowledge and persistence most people suffering from ET can learn to live a normal and productive life.

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