Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Tremors

What Is a Tremor?

A tremor is when a body part moves or shakes and you can’t control it. Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have some form of tremor they can’t control, in different parts of their bodies, like their head, arms, or legs.

What Are the Types of Tremors?

  • Intention tremor. There’s no shaking when you’re at rest. It starts when you try to reach or grasp something or move your hand or foot to a precise spot. This is the most common form of MS tremor, and it usually causes the most problems in day-to-day life.
  • Postural tremors. You shake when you sit or stand, but not when you lie down.
  • Resting tremor. You move more when you’re sitting still and less when you move. This is more common with Parkinson’s disease than MS.
  • Nystagmus. This type causes jumpy eye movements.

Why Does MS Cause Tremors?

This disease damages the protective sheath (myelin) that covers the nerves in your brain and spinal cord. Tremors result from damage to a part of your brain called the cerebellum. It controls your balance and coordination and smooths out the actions that you make when you move your limbs and eyes or speak.

Medicines That Treat MS Tremors

These problems are one of the hardest MS symptoms to treat. There aren’t any drugs made just to treat MS tremors. Your doctors will probably prescribe drugs for another condition, like:

Nonmedicinal Tremor Treatments

  • Braces: These can hold your joint still and stop extra movement. A brace on your ankle or foot can make it easier to walk. They can help control your arm, hand, or neck, too.
  • Deep brain stimulation: This experimental approach is mostly used for people who have tremors from Parkinson’s disease. A doctor implants electrodes into your brain. Wires connect them to a gadget in your chest. You use it to send your brain signals that stop the tremors.
  • Medical cannabis: There’s little evidence that cannabis can help with tremors, but study results are mixed and usually only include small numbers of people.
  • Physical therapy: It can show you exercises that increase your range of motion, improve your posture and balance, and make your body more stable
  • Speech therapy: If you have tremors in your lips, tongue, or jaw, a health professional can work with you to slow your speech, make it clearer, and control the volume.
  • Occupational therapist: This person will set you up with special tools called adaptive or assistive devices. They can help you grab things from up high or off the floor, pull up a zipper, or hold a fork more easily.
  • Weights: Adding extra weight to a body part can help keep it still. You can also add weights to commonly used items like forks, pencils, pens, eating utensils, canes, and walkers.

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Tremors and Depression

Tremors can be tough to handle in social situations. You may feel like you want to be alone, but that can make you feel lonely and depressed. A psychologist or counselor can help you find ways to feel more comfortable in public and keep the tremors from changing how you live your life.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on September 03, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: “Treating and managing tremor,” “What causes tremor?” "Tremor," “Medical Marijuana (Cannabis) FAQs.”

Multiple Sclerosis Association of America: “Tremor.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Deep Brain Stimulation: Overview.”

Koch, M. Journal of Neurology, February 2007.

Multiple Sclerosis Society UK: "Tremor."

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