Talk about Hand Surgery: What to do about Essential Tremors

Birmingham, AL – There are a variety of reasons why some people need hand surgery. Sometimes, those reasons have to do with an external environment, such as blunt force trauma or an unintentional amputation. Other times, it is internal, such as a tumor or the natural wearing down of a joint. Whatever the case, there are a variety of reasons, some more common than others why you would need treatment for your hands. However, there are also conditions with your hands that surgery cannot fix. After all, no part of our body is wholly independent. It just isn’t how our bodies function. Sometimes the symptoms of another issue can be found in your hands. Essential tremors, for example, are one of those symptoms.

What is an Essential Tremor?

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Despite what the name would suggest, shaking in your hands is not a necessary function. The term comes from early 19th-century doctors who would use the term to classify it as a tremor that is not induced by excess alcohol or a brain injury. Eventually, it became a term for a purely hereditary neurological disorder that can cause tremors in the hands.

These tremors can affect more parts of the body, with differing degrees of severity. However, the hands are usually the first to be affected by this type of tremor. It can also affect the head, voice, and arms. While there are certain ways to treat and mitigate the tremors, there is no cure for the condition.

Essential Tremors vs Parkinson’s

Oftentimes most people in Birmingham, AL, as well as the rest of the country, understandably sees the tremors as part of Parkinson’s disease. While it is true that tremors are a sign of Parkinson’s, there are a few key differences involved that most neurologists and hand surgeons can spot right away.

  • Timing of tremors. The essential tremor of the hands usually occurs when you are in the middle of using your hands. Tremors from Parkinson’s disease are most prominent when your hands are at your sides or resting in your lap.
  • Associated conditions. Essential tremor doesn’t cause other health problems, but Parkinson’s disease is associated with stooped posture, slow movement, and shuffling. However, people with essential tremor sometimes develop other neurological signs and symptoms, such as an unsteady gait (ataxia).
  • Parts of the body affected. Essential tremor mainly involves your hands, head and voice. Parkinson’s disease tremors usually start in your hands and can affect your legs, chin and other parts of your body.
hand tremors, birmingham hand, essential tremor
Note how there is little shaking in Parkinson’s spiral compared to Essential Tremor’s spiral

What are the Risk Factors for Essential Tremors?

There are two well-known risk factors for essential tremors. According to Mayoclinic. org, they are:

  • Genetic mutation. The inherited variety of essential tremor (familial tremor) is an autosomal dominant disorder. A defective gene from just one parent is needed to pass on the condition. If you have a parent with a genetic mutation for essential tremor, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the disorder yourself.
  • Age. Essential tremor is more common in people age 40 and older. However, that does not mean that it cannot happen at any age.

As far as the cause is concerned, while hand surgeons and other doctors do not know for certain what causes that mutation, or how it works specifically, there is a working hypothesis floating around.

Web MD mentions “,The true cause of Essential Tremor (ET) is still not understood, but it is thought that the abnormal electrical brain activity that causes tremor is processed through the thalamus. The thalamus is a structure deep in the brain that coordinates and controls muscle activity.

Genetics is responsible for causing ET in half of all people with the condition. A child born to a parent with ET will have up to a 50% chance of inheriting the responsible gene, but may never actually experience symptoms. Its symptoms become more pronounced with age, it is not a part of the natural aging process. “

Ask a Hand Specialist About Treatment

While there is no cure for this condition, there are a variety of treatments available. If there is a more neurological component to the tremors, beta-blockers are a viable option to decrease or stop the tremors altogether. Another thing to consider is physical therapy, so your muscles can adapt your fine motor skills to the shaking. Maybe there is a third option that most people aren’t aware of?

Either way, if it involves your hands, and if you believe you need a hand surgeon in the Birmingham, AL area, read more about us at

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