Shaking of the hands can be a distressing condition, and patients often wonder "why am I shaking?". Although shaking commonly affects the whole body, it is most obvious in the hands. Shaking hands, technically known as tremors, can interfere with everyday activities, such as writing and using a computer, and many people worry that the shaking may be due to brain damage or a neurological disorder, such as Parkinson’s. However, it is important not to panic, as there are many reasons you may be feeling shaky that aren’t so serious. To determine the cause of your tremors, it is essential that you visit your doctor.
Why Am I Shaking?
1. Anxiety Disorders
The "fight or flight" mechanism is the way our bodies prepare us for big events, such as a dangerous situation, or an important exam. However, if your "fight or flight" system is frequently triggered by everyday situations, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Adrenaline is pumped into our system during periods of acute anxiety or nervousness. With such a rush of energy, the body may start to shake, particularly if there is no actual "fleeing or fighting" involved. This shaking can cause considerable anguish, and patients may ask "Why am I shaking?", particularly if they are trying to stay calm. Tremors can result from several different types of anxiety disorder:
- Short-term anxiety. Anyone can experience shakiness when put in a stressful situation, such as an exam, a first date, or speaking in public.
- Generalized anxiety disorder. When someone feels perpetually on-edge, their "fight or flight" system becomes constantly activated. They may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, which can cause shaking.
- Panic attacks. The intense fear suffered by patients with panic attacks is often associated with shaking before, during and after the panic episode.
2. Low Blood Sugar
If you haven’t eaten for a while, or are in shock following a traumatic event or injury, your blood sugar may be low, and this may cause tremors.
3. Caffeine Overdose
Caffeine acts as a stimulant, preparing your body for the "fight or flight" response. If you overdo the caffeine, you may have too much energy and be unable to steady your hands.
4. Overactive Thyroid
Tremors, weight loss and tiredness indicate that you may have an overactive thyroid, a condition where your metabolism is too quick and you are burning too much energy.
5. Physical Fatigue
A shaking spell in the limbs may occur after a grueling workout, as your muscles become fatigued. You may also feel muscular cramping and weakness.
Although many people feel relaxed after smoking, the nicotine within cigarettes can interfere with the neuromuscular junction, resulting in involuntary muscle movement.
7. Alcohol Withdrawal
A frequent alcohol drinker may experience shaky hands if they stop drinking suddenly. They may also suffer sweating, headache, nausea and a rapid heartbeat.
Parkinson’s develops when dopamine-producing nerves that predominantly manage the control of muscle movement are destroyed. Sudden-onset shaking can occur at rest or during deliberate movement.
9. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a condition where the myelin sheath surrounding nerves is damaged. This slows nerve impulses, impairing movement control, and patients may experience bouts of shaking.
10. Other Causes
- Brain damage from stroke, injury, or brain tumors.
- Essential Tremors. Trembling throughout the body may be due to this neurological condition that damages the nerves.
- Medications. Albuterol, commonly used to treat asthma, can cause seizures. Other drugs, including anti-depressants and stress medications may also induce shakiness.
- Seizures. Electrical fluctuation in the brain can cause repeated violent shaking of the body.
Why Am I Shaking?---Treatment
The treatment you receive will depend on the cause of your shaking. There are several medications that are used to treat essential tremors. These include beta-blockers, anti-seizure drugs, tranquilizers, Botox, and drugs usually used to manage glaucoma. However, if your doctor can’t identify a physical cause for your symptoms, your shaky hands may be attributed to anxiety. If this is the case, you may find relaxation techniques useful, such as breathing exercises. Acupuncture is another option, which has been shown to control or at least alleviate tremors in certain patients. The following methods may also help to relieve your symptoms:
- Limit your intake of alcohol, as this can markedly affect your central nervous system, exacerbating essential tremors.
- Avoid caffeine, a stimulant drug that promotes the release of adrenaline in your body, which may aggravate shaking.
- A physical therapist can teach you exercises you can do with light hand weights to develop stability in the hands and arms.