Have you noticed your hands shaking recently and wondered why? Hand tremors or shaking can happen for lots of reasons, from too much caffeine to serious neurological conditions. If your trembling hands are making it hard to complete daily tasks, it’s time to explore the causes and solutions.
In this complete guide, we’ll dive into:
- The most common reasons your hands shake
- Medical conditions that lead to hand tremors
- Lifestyle changes and treatments to stop the shaking
- When you should see a doctor about persistent tremors
Plus, easy exercises and relaxation techniques to reduce or prevent shaky hands.
Why Are My Hands Shaking?
Hand shaking or tremors are involuntary, rhythmic muscle movements in the hands. It's normal for your hands to have a slight tremor. But excessive, uncontrolled shaking can interfere with your daily activities.
Some hand shaking is normal, like:
- Feeling nervous before a big speech
- Having too much coffee
- Forgetting to eat lunch
But consistent shaking or trembling can be a sign of underlying health conditions. Determining the cause is the first step to treating and reducing hand tremors.
Common Causes of Hand Tremors
These are some of the most frequent reasons your hands may shake:
1. Anxiety, Stress, and Anger
Emotional responses like anxiety, anger, and stress trigger your body to release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones amp up your body, increasing blood pressure, heart rate, and metabolism.
As a side effect, these hormones can also cause your hands to tremble. You may notice your hands shake right before a big presentation, while arguing with someone, or when you feel overwhelmed.
2. Too Much Caffeine and Stimulants
Consuming too much caffeine from coffee, energy drinks, tea, or medications can overstimulate your nervous system. Caffeine causes your fight-or-flight response to kick in, even if you aren't in danger. This leads to temporary hand tremors that go away once the caffeine leaves your system.
Other stimulants like amphetamines have similar effects, causing shaky hands.
3. Alcohol Withdrawal
If you regularly drink alcohol, stopping suddenly can cause alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Your nervous system gets used to frequent alcohol, and experiences tremors and shaking without it.
Alcohol withdrawal usually begins 6-24 hours after your last drink. In addition to hand tremors, symptoms include headache, nausea, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, and seizures in severe cases.
4. Low Blood Sugar
When your blood sugar drops too low, your body releases epinephrine and other hormones that signal your liver to produce more glucose. But this also makes your hands shake.
Low blood sugar can happen if you have diabetes and don't get enough insulin. Other causes include not eating enough food, drinking too much alcohol, or taking certain medications.
5. Essential Tremor
Essential tremor causes shaking that gets worse when you use your hands. It usually affects both hands, but the dominant hand is worse. This shaking gets better with rest.
Essential tremor is one of the most common movement disorders, affecting up to 10 million Americans. It's called "essential" because there's no known cause. Genetic factors may play a role.
6. Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that destroys dopamine-producing brain cells. One of the main symptoms is a coarse tremor or shaking, especially in the hands.
Unlike essential tremor, Parkinson's tremors usually start in one hand. The shaking is more noticeable when the hand is relaxed versus when doing an activity.
7. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis damages the myelin sheath protecting your nerve fibers. This interferes with nerve signaling, leading to tremors and lack of coordination.
About 75% of people with MS experience tremors in their extremities like hands or legs. Tremors from MS tend to come and go randomly.
An overactive thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism). Thyroid hormone increases metabolism, which can make the hands shake.
Other hyperthyroidism symptoms include unexplained weight loss, rapid heartbeat, increased appetite, and irritability.
9. Not Enough Sleep
Not getting enough sleep at night has all kinds of negative effects on your body. Lack of sleep stresses your body and nerves. Your hands may shake after several sleepless nights due to fatigue.
Sleep deprivation also disrupts your circadian rhythms. This can make you more prone to physiological tremors from stress and anxiety. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to prevent tremors from lack of sleep.
10. Certain Medications
Some medications list shaking hands as a potential side effect. This includes drugs that affect the nervous system, like:
- Asthma inhalers like albuterol
- Stimulants for ADHD
- Thyroid medications
- Steroid treatments
If you start a new medication and notice hand tremors, talk to your doctor. They may adjust the dosage or switch you to an alternative drug to stop the shaking. Don't stop taking medications on your own.
How to Stop Shaking Hands: Treatments and Solutions
Once you identify what's causing your hand tremors, you can find solutions to reduce or stop the shaking. Here are some of the most effective ways to treat hand tremors:
1. Avoid Known Triggers
If certain substances trigger temporary hand shaking for you, avoiding them can help. Limit or cut out:
- Recreational drugs
- Medications that cause tremors (talk to your doctor first)
Curbing caffeine alone can make a big difference in hand tremors if you're sensitive to it.
2. Practice Relaxation Techniques
Since stress and anxiety often make shaking worse, relaxing can help steady your hands. Try these techniques:
Meditation - Meditating for 10-15 minutes per day can lower stress hormones. Mindfulness meditation is easy for beginners to learn. Apps like Calm provide guided meditations.
Yoga - Gentle yoga poses help relax the body. Try sequences for anxiety and trembling muscles.
Deep breathing - Close your eyes and take 10 deep, slow breaths. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Breathing exercises lower blood pressure.
Listen to music - Calm, soothing music relaxes the mind and body. Nature sounds, classical, or ambient genres work well.
Warm bath - Soaking in a warm tub with Epsom salts releases muscle tension. Add relaxing lavender or eucalyptus oil.
Massage - Massage therapy improves circulation and relaxes muscles. A weekly massage can reduce tremors.
Guided imagery - Visualize being in a peaceful, calming place like a beach. Imagine the warmth of the sun, sounds of waves, and sensations.
3. Make Lifestyle Changes
Adjusting your daily habits can also minimize shaking episodes:
- Eat small, frequent meals to prevent low blood sugar
- Stay hydrated and avoid excessive alcohol
- Exercise regularly but avoid overexertion
- Get enough sleep each night
- Use your less dominant hand more
- Take breaks at work to relax your hands
- Reduce use of handheld devices
Pace yourself throughout the day and listen to your body's needs.
4. Try Physical Therapy
Seeing an occupational therapist can help in two ways:
Improve muscle control - Physical therapy exercises strengthen and stabilize your hands and arms through resistance training. This helps improve dexterity.
Learn adaptive techniques - Occupational therapists teach ways to manage daily tasks with shaky hands. This includes tips for eating utensils, writing aids, dressing techniques, and modifying your environment.
Ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist who specializes in hand tremors.
5. Consider Prescription Medications
For neurological conditions like Parkinson's disease, your doctor may prescribe medications to control tremors, including:
- Levodopa to replace lost dopamine
- Amantadine to stimulate dopamine receptors
- Anticonvulsants like primidone to slow nerve impulses
- Beta blockers to reduce adrenaline effects
Talk to your neurologist about possible prescription treatments for your type of tremors.
6. Try Botox Injections
Botox injections can temporarily reduce shaking by paralyzing the trembling muscles. Botox is approved to treat head and neck tremors. Studies show it also helps hand tremors, especially for essential tremor.
Botox stops the signal from the nerve to the muscle. The effects last about 3 months as the Botox wears off. Potential side effects include pain, swelling, flu-like symptoms, and weakness in the hands.
See a neurologist or movement disorders specialist to determine if Botox is appropriate for your tremors. Multiple injections into the forearms are required, based on which muscles shake the most.
7. Consider Surgery
If medication and other treatments don't reduce hand tremors enough, surgery may be an option.
Deep brain stimulation involves implanting electrodes in the thalamus region of the brain. A pacemaker-like device sends electrical pulses to disrupt abnormal nerve signals causing tremors.
Thalamotomy destroys a small part of the thalamus tissue that causes tremors.
Surgery has risks including infection, bleeding, and speech or vision issues. Talk to your doctor to see if it could help your tremors.
Exercises and Techniques to Stop Shaky Hands
Along with medical treatments, you can immediately use exercises and adaptive techniques to steady your hands:
Resistance training - Lifting light weights and squeezing exercise balls strengthens hand muscles. This may reduce essential tremor shaking.
Wrist weights - Wearing 1-2 lb wrist weights while doing daily activities can dampen shaking movements. Gradually increase the weight as you get stronger.
Fist clenching - Repeatedly clenching your hand into a fist then releasing trains muscles and reduces shaking. Do this exercise throughout the day.
Use both hands - Using your less tremulous hand to support and steady your shaking hand makes daily tasks easier.
Weighted utensils - Add weight to pens, spoons, and forks to make them easier to grip. You can buy weighted utensils or make your own.
Braces - Wearing splints or braces on your forearms keeps your hands and wrists steady when doing precision tasks.
Reduce caffeine - Since caffeine exacerbates shaking, drink less or switch to decaf beverages.
Try these techniques and find what works best to limit bothersome tremors.
When to See a Doctor About Hand Tremors
Make an appointment with your doctor if:
- Tremors interfere with your daily activities
- Tremors get worse suddenly
- You have other neurological symptoms like muscle stiffness
- You take a medication that causes tremors as a side effect
- You don't know the cause of your shaking hands
Seeing a doctor can help identify whether an underlying condition like Parkinson's disease or hyperthyroidism is causing your tremors.
Your doctor may order blood tests, brain scans, genetic testing, or refer you to a neurologist. Getting an accurate diagnosis is key to finding the right treatment.
For severe hand tremors:
- A neurologist can prescribe medications to reduce shaking
- An occupational therapist can recommend hand exercises and aids
- A mental health professional can help manage stress or anxiety making tremors worse
Don't assume hand tremors are just a normal part of aging. See a doctor if shaking interferes with your normal activities. Effective treatments can help improve your quality of life.
The Takeaway: Stop Shaky Hands from Ruining Your Day
Hand tremors can be annoying at best and disabling at worst. But a variety of solutions exist to control and reduce shaking.
Lifestyle changes like cutting back on stimulants, relaxing, and exercising can help steady your hands. For persistent tremors caused by underlying conditions, doctors can provide medications, Botox injections, physical therapy, or surgery.
Don't hesitate to see a doctor if tremors make it hard to do everyday tasks. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward treating bothersome hand shaking.
With the right treatment plan, you can minimize shaky hands and improve dexterity. Try relaxation techniques, physical therapy exercises, and adaptive tools to limit tremors. Avoid triggers like caffeine and stress when possible.
While hand tremors may be bothersome, the condition is treatable. Get to the root cause of your shaky hands, and find relief using the medical and lifestyle solutions outlined above. With consistent effort, you can successfully manage hand tremors and regain control.