Refuse to Surrender

Treating Essential Tremor

What is essential tremor, how is it affecting you, and what can you do about it?

About Essential Tremor

Essential tremor is a disorder of the nervous system that causes a rhythmic shaking of a part of the body, most commonly hands. Essential tremor can also affect your head, voice, arms, or legs.

Often the symptoms begin gradually. People who have mild symptoms may cope for years without treatment, though they are can become frustrated and limited by their tremor. Unfortunately, for many the symptoms get worse and can be severe.

Keeping People from What They Want to Do

People who don’t have essential tremor often don’t understand its impact. They assume the tremor is annoying but no big deal.

You know that essential tremor is a big deal. The symptoms can make even everyday things difficult, like writing, drinking, eating, shaving, and putting on make-up. Essential tremor can make it difficult to work, take care of yourself, and do what you love.

A tremor that keeps you from doing what you want to do is called disabling. What’s “disabling” is unique for every individual. For example, a guitarist would place a high value on being able to play. Other people want to continue working, stay independent, or take care of their families.

How Does Essential Tremor Affect You?

Consider ways that essential tremor is affecting you personally. Ask yourself:

  • What’s difficult day to day?
  • What can’t you do because of essential tremor?
  • Do you avoid certain situations?
  • Do you worry about losing your dignity?
  • Are you at home or alone more than you’d like?
  • How is your family affected?

And does this make you feel:

  • Frustrated?
  • Embarrassed?
  • Anxious?
  • Lonely?
  • Depressed?

Is it time to explore your treatment options?

How Essential Tremor Is Treated

A medication is often tried first. Medications do not help most people, and can have intolerable side effects like sleepiness, dizziness, or thinking problems. Injection of botulinum toxin may provide temporary relief of head tremor, but tends to weaken the hands.1

Another treatment option for you may be DBS Therapy, which uses a medical device to stimulate the source of the symptoms. Consider DBS if:

  • Medications haven’t worked.
  • The tremor is keeping you from what you want to do.

Next: What Is DBS?


  1. Zesiewicz TA, Elble R, Louis ED et al. Practice parameter: therapies for essential tremor: report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2005;64:2008-2020.
Last updated: 24 Jul 2014