Muscle shaking, known in technical jargon as tremor, can have several causes. For example, people shiver with cold, nervousness or exertion, such as during sports. The involuntary tremor can occur, for example, in the legs, hands, arms, voice or throughout the body. However, the causes of muscle tremors are not always harmless. The tremor may also indicate serious illnesses such as Parkinson's or thyroid disease. We present possible causes and explain how to treat muscle tremors.
Trembling as a natural reaction
Trembling is not bad at all. Strictly speaking, our muscles always tremble a little unnoticed. In this case, counteracting muscle groups are repeatedly pulled together alternately. This so-called physiological tremor only becomes visible when it is amplified.
For example, the body tries to generate kinetic energy in order to heat up due to the increased rhythmic movement of different muscle groups. But stress, anxiety, fatigue or excitement can also increase normal muscle tremors - as well as too much alcohol, nicotine or caffeine.
In contrast to muscle tremor, the muscle twitching that occurs at night or just before falling asleep is not a rhythmic movement and therefore not a form of tremor.
Muscle tremors during sports
Muscle tremor often occurs during exercise or when tensing individual muscles and is mild to a small degree. However, if you feel a strong tremor when exercising or stretching, this should be interpreted as a sign of the body that the affected muscles are overloaded and pause with the exercises.
Trembling muscles during exercise may also indicate a lack of magnesium, calcium or potassium. Because when sweating the body also loses minerals. Therefore, it is especially important for athletes to take these minerals sufficiently through the food. For example, cheese, bananas and legumes are suitable.
Tremor: to clarify causes
If a tremor can not be traced back to a normal physical response, or if the muscle tingling lasts longer, you should see a doctor. Diagnosis often requires a laborious examination by a family doctor or neurologist.
In the course of a diagnosis, especially the function of muscles, nerves and brain is tested. Also, laboratory values and, for example, a magnetic resonance therapy (MRI) can provide information about a given disease. In most cases, possible causes are sought or excluded by means of a differential diagnosis. The following questions are also important for this:
- How long has tremor been around?
- Which pre-existing conditions exist?
- Does the person suffer from further movement disorders or other abnormalities?
- Which body parts are affected?
- When, how fast and how strong does the tremor occur?
Forms of muscle tremors
There are different types of tremor, depending on the situation, frequency and strength of the tremors occurs.
The so-called resting tremor sets in when the corresponding body region is not moved. In contrast, the action tremor, which occurs in voluntary muscle movements. Often the following distinction is made:
- The motion tremor occurs in deliberately controlled, non-targeted movements, such as moving hands.
- The intention tremor begins when a target is targeted (for example, the finger is extended beyond the tip of the nose) and increases as the hand approaches the target.
- The holding tremor occurs when loaded by gravity, such as when holding a glass with the arm outstretched.
- The isometric tremor occurs in muscle contractions without movement, for example, the ball of the fist.
In addition, there are many other tremor types, which occur, for example, task-specific when writing, standing or speaking or describe the exact expression of the resting tremor (for example head tremor).
Trembling: frequency and strength
The frequency of a tremor can be accurately measured and allows conclusions about its cause. Depending on the speed of the muscle tremor, a distinction is made between the low-frequency (2 to 4 hertz, ie oscillations per second), the medium-frequency (4 to 7 hertz) and the high-frequency tremor (more than 7 hertz).
Depending on how expansive the tremor is ("amplitude"), a tremor is classified as subtle (barely sprawling), mediocre or coarse-beating (very sprawling).
Diseases as a cause of muscle tremors
The shape of the tremor can provide an indication of its cause. However, a clear diagnosis is always possible after further investigation.
For example, a moderate-frequency resting tremor may indicate Parkinson's disease: often the hands or only one hand are affected. However, quite different forms of Parkinson's tremor can be triggered. In addition, a resting tremor is also one of the side effects of some medications.
Common causes of a tremor
In addition to the causes already mentioned, muscle tremors can have many more triggers. For example, tremors can also be caused by psychological reasons such as anxiety disorders or traumatic events.
Other common causes of tremors include:
- multiple sclerosis
- Wilson's disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Stroke or TIA
- Medicines or the withdrawal of medication
- Alcohol and drug abuse and related withdrawal symptoms
- Diseases of the liver or kidney
- Lack of vitamin B12
If a tremor occurs in isolation, without being a symptom of a disease, it is called an essential tremor. This occurs especially in older people and is considered hereditary.
By the way: In pregnant women, muscle tremors are completely normal shortly before birth: with this, the body tries to release tensions in the muscles before the onset of labor.
Treatment of muscle tremors
The therapy of a tremor depends mainly on its cause. If, for example, Wilson's disease is diagnosed as the cause of muscle tremor, the treatment is primarily directed to this underlying disease. As part of this, the tremor usually stops.
The following treatment options are available when the muscles are shaking:
- Certain forms of tremor can be treated with medication, for example with anticonvulsants or beta-blockers.
- In some cases, an operation, such as the use of a so-called brain pacemaker, provide remedies.
- Task-specific tremor uses regular botulinum injections in combination with exercise training.
- As part of an occupational therapy can be learned to handle everyday activities well despite tremors well.
- If a drug is suspected to be the trigger of the tremor, this can be discontinued after consultation with a doctor.
- Relaxation exercises can temporarily reduce the tremor.
Muscle tremors due to stress
If the muscle tremor caused by everyday causes such as stress or cold, it usually goes away by itself, as soon as the trigger disappears. Being exposed to permanent stress can help relieve it through relaxation techniques such as yoga or walking, so as to end muscle twitching.