What Is an Action Tremor?

Damage to the cerebellum may lead to the development of action tremors.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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An action tremor is a tremor which is associated with voluntary movement. For example, someone who experiences tremors after pushing a button could be said to be experiencing an action tremor. Tremors in general, not just action tremors, are a cause for concern, because they indicate that someone has a neurological problem which needs to be addressed, or it may get worse. A neurologist is usually the medical professional to see for tremors, although the neurologist may recommend additional medical care providers to get to the bottom of the problem and to help the patient cope.

Tremors are among the most common of neurological symptoms, and there are numerous different types. It is important to distinguish between tremors because the causes and treatment approaches for different kinds of tremors are different. In the case of the action tremor, also known as a kinetic tremor or intention tremor, the patient has a problem with the cerebellum which causes shaking after voluntary movements. Any number of things can cause issues to arise in the cerebellum, ranging from exposure to toxins to progressive neurological disease.

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If an action tremor is identified, a patient should go to a neurologist for evaluation. The neurologist can examine and interview the patient, and request medical screening such as brain scans and blood tests to identify potential causes of the tremor. The neurologist can also discuss techniques which can be used to manage an action tremor, keeping a patient more comfortable and more functional, as tremors can disrupt daily activities and limit independence for patients.

Over time, action tremors can get worse. In some cases, this is because a patient has a degenerative condition which cannot be cured, although it may be managed to slow the progress of the disease. In other instances, this may be because a doctor has not yet identified the cause of the tremor. Progression of a tremor can actually be a useful diagnostic clue, indicating that the doctor's approach to the problem is not working and thereby ruling out causes the doctor may have hypothesized.

It is important to distinguish an action tremor from a resting tremor. With an action tremor, involuntary movement such as shaking occurs when the patient initiates a voluntary movement. With a resting tremor, the patient experiences shaking and tremors when he or she is not moving. Resting tremors are famously associated with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative neurological condition seen most commonly in elderly adults.

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roser
Post 4

@goldenmist - It probably goes without saying, but it may be worth trying to quit smoking altogether, especially if you’re only a casual smoker. What is most likely causing your tremor to worsen after you’ve been smoking is the withdrawal effects from not having nicotine on a regular basis.

goldenmist
Post 3

@roser - I drink and smoke on occasion. Not heavily though – I only smoke about a pack a week, usually over the weekend and then I abstain throughout the week – but I have noticed that my tremor usually is worse if I’ve been smoking. I don’t drink any kind of soda or coffee anymore since I spilled coffee all over my laptop so caffeine isn’t the issue. I do drink chamomile tea on occasion which helps.

roser
Post 2

@goldenmist - I have the same problem, especially when it came to taking tests at school or if I'm nervous. You’ve probably been asked this before, but do you drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes? I found cutting out alcohol and tobacco helped me immensely. It probably goes without saying that caffeine isn’t going to help, either.

I’m on primidone which works well for me. I think there’s less risk of developing tolerance with primidone than diazepam so it might be worth speaking to your doctor about.

goldenmist
Post 1

It’s really important to get this treated as soon as possible because it can quickly grow out of control and become a real hindrance on your life. I’ve had a problem with trembling hands for as long as I can remember but never thought too much of it until it got to the point that I could barely write legibly, especially in a test situation.

One test my neurologist did was have me draw a spiral in comparison to someone who doesn’t have a tremor and compare the two and then have me repeat the exercise a few months later to see if it had gotten any worse. You can try this at home if you’re concerned, but really you should see a neurologist straight away. It could be a simple case of hyperthyroidism which is treated pretty easily with medication.

I take Valium for essential tremor now but I think I’m starting to develop a tolerance to it and it’s not as effective. It’s amazing how something so simple can affect your daily living so much. The amount of times I’ve spilled coffee and dropped things is ridiculous.

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