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What is a Resting Tremor?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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A resting tremor is a tremor which occurs when a limb is resting in a relaxed state, fully supported. For example, a resting tremor might occur when someone's arm is resting on the arm of a chair. There are several different causes for resting tremors, and when these types of tremors appear, a neurologist can examine a patient to learn more about the patient's history and narrow down some potential origins for the tremor.

One of the most common reasons patients experience resting tremors is because they have Parkinson's disease. Wilson's disease, certain psychiatric medications, and severe essential tremors can also cause a resting tremor. In all of these cases, the tremor usually slows and stops when the limb is moved voluntarily. Tremors which occur during movement are known as action tremors.

For the most part, a resting tremor should not cause hardship, although it can make patients feel uncomfortable in social settings. It often takes the form of a trembling of the hands, and the fingers may move as though something is being rolled between them. The feet, face, and jaw can also develop tremors while at rest. In social situations, this can be distracting or embarrassing, especially in the case of facial tremors.

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In some cases, resting tremors can be accompanied by a lack of coordination. People such as musicians may find that they have trouble handling their instruments, for example, even when their hands do not shake while they are in motion. Weakness, numbness, and fumbling are all symptoms of concern which should be brought to the attention of a doctor.

There are several options for managing resting tremors. In the case of tremors caused by medications, it may be possible to adjust the dosage to make the tremors less severe or to eliminate them altogether. Another option is medication to control the central nervous system misfirings which lead to tremors. In extreme cases, surgery can be used. Lifestyle modifications can also sometimes be used to manage or reduce the severity of tremors.

For patients at risk of resting tremors, a doctor will usually go over the risks and the signs so that the patients will be forewarned before tremors actually occur. In cases where such tremors appear and a patient is not expecting them, it is a good idea to consult a neurologist. The sudden onset of a resting tremor can be a sign that there is a problem with the nervous system, and rapid intervention can make a big difference in the outcome of treatment.

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