The Dystonia Society

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Essential tremor is uncontrollable shaking or trembling of part of the body that lasts for at least a few seconds. It is a common movement disorder which usually affects the arms and hands, but, can also affect the head, jaw, face, feet and tongue as well as the voice. Tremor of the head will occur with the shakiness being a yes-yes or a no-no movement which can lead to people feeling embarrassed and stigmatized.

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Everyone will have a very minor tremor when, for example, holding hands out in front of the body. People also experience a more noticeable tremor when the adrenaline levels in the body become raised, for example if someone is stressed, angry or anxious.

Tremor is considered to be a movement disorder when it becomes so severe and pronounced that it is difficult to carry out normal activities. Factors which make essential tremor worse are stress, anxiety, anger, strenuous activity, caffeine and some prescribed medicines. It is not normally present when resting, however activities such as drinking, tying shoe laces and writing will tend to make the tremor worse.

For more information on Essential Tremor go to

Idiopathic Dystonic Tremor is a tremor which has developed spontaneously or due to an unknown cause and occurs in conjunction with dystonia. It can present in two distinctive age groups (20-30 years) and (50-70 years) but this is not always the case.

Dystonic tremor can affect multiple body parts but usually it affects the hands, head and sometimes the voice. Dystonic hand tremor is also called writer’s cramp where it also presents with cramps and pain on performing tasks such as writing or playing musical instruments.

Dystonic tremor can have a significant impact upon day to day living and treatment is similar to that for essential tremor, i.e. avoiding stimulants such a caffeine; avoiding stressful situations. People find that a small amount of alcohol can help to reduce the symptoms. Some doctors will prescribe oral medication and botulinum toxin is also used.

If you would like more information, please called our helpline on 0845 458 6322.

If you would like to read a more detailed article on tremor click here.



The Dystonia Society provides the information on this page as general information only. It is not intended to provide instruction and you should not rely on this information to determine diagnosis, prognosis or a course of treatment.It should not be used in place of a professional consultation with a doctor.

The Dystonia Society is not responsible for the consequences of your decisions resulting from the use of this information, including, but not limited to, your choosing to seek or not to seek professional medical care, or from choosing or not choosing specific treatment based on the information. You should not disregard the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider because of any information you receive from us. If you have any health care questions, please consult the relevant medical practitioner.

Last reviewed March 2013


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