Why is my hand shaking? What causes hand tremors and when to worry

Brain Health

by Margi Patel, MD

Jan 26, 2023

Have you ever noticed your hand shaking while you pour your morning coffee or stand in line at the grocery store? Shaky hands, the medical term for which is “hand tremor,” are more common than you might think. Some people may disregard them if they are not very noticeable or bothersome in day-to-day activities. But shaky hands can affect your quality of life by interfering with things like writing, typing, handling silverware, or carrying glasses, plates, phones and other objects. In many cases, they can also be socially embarrassing, and thus limit your social interactions and visits.

Here’s what you should know about hand tremors, their causes and the latest treatments.

Causes of shaky hands

There are several causes of tremors. Minor, occasional tremors may be nothing to worry about—but some can be more insidious.

Among the most common causes are:

The characteristics of your tremor will give your physician a clue as to what the cause might be. For example, tremor in Parkinson’s disease mostly starts on one side of the body and appears worse when your hand is resting on an object or by your side.

Tremor in essential tremor syndrome can affect one or both sides of the body, often with one side worse than the other. You will probably notice this type of tremor mostly when you hold your hand in a posture or your hand is moving.

Everyday stress and anxiety can also cause tremors or can make tremor due to another cause worse. In fact, this is common in people who have hand tremors. Various relaxing techniques can help in such cases and so can getting care from a psychologist or taking anti-anxiety medications. Speak with your doctor about this so you can come up with the best way to manage your anxiety.

When to worry about shaky hands

In general, if you notice the tremor happens all the time, not just when you are anxious, stressed or had too much caffeine, it might mean it is time to get them looked at by a physician who specializes in tremor syndromes.

Treatments for tremor

There are various medications that can be used for treating hand tremors, depending on the cause. In some cases, like essential tremor or Parkinson’s disease, there are new techniques that use botulinum toxin injections, gamma knife, ultrasound or electrical stimulation to help alleviate the tremors. In most cases, you should notice significant improvement with the right treatment.

Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing hand tremors, or find a movement disorder specialist near you today.

About the Author

Dr. Patel is a board-certified neurologist on staff at Baylor Scott & White Neurology—Dallas. She received an additional two-year fellowship training in movement disorders at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. She has specific interests in managing patients with tremor, Parkinson’s disease, chorea and dystonia, among other movement disorders. Dr. Patel, an elected lifetime member of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, has published numerous research articles and book chapters, presented posters at various conferences, and has been awarded clinical and research grants in her specialty. She has participated in the clinical education of medical students and residents while serving as a chief resident and fellow, as well as a member of the dean’s committee and house staff council at her training institutes.

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