What are Parkinson's Tremors?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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Parkinson's tremors are a form of resting tremor associated with Parkinson's disease. The tremor is very distinctive in appearance, making it easy to identify. If a patient appears to be experiencing Parkinson's tremors, a doctor will perform an evaluation to look for other diagnostic signs. Treatments are available for the management of Parkinson's disease and early treatment can be highly beneficial for patients.

This degenerative neurological disease causes damage to the cells of the brain responsible for producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement. Tremors are one of the hallmark signs of Parkinson's. Like other resting tremors, Parkinson's tremors occur when the affected limb is still, and will resolve when the patient moves.

The classic Parkinson's tremor is known as the “pill-rolling tremor” because it looks like a patient is rolling a pill between the index finger and thumb. It is very rhythmic, and involves a steady back and forth motion. Parkinson's tremors can spread up the arm and may also appear in the feet and legs. Sometimes, only one side of the body is involved. More rarely, tremors appear in the face or jaw, and can look like a steady pulsing or twitching.


In order to be diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a patient must have several other symptoms in addition to Parkinson's tremors. These include: postural instability, difficulty remaining upright while standing or walking; rigidity; and bradykinesia, a slowing of the patient's movements. Patients with Parkinson's can develop a tell-tale slow, shuffling gait as they have difficulty walking and controlling their leg movements.

Medications can be used to treat Parkinson's disease and may help patients manage Parkinson's tremors. There are also drugs available specifically for the management of tremors if they become extremely disruptive. Some patients find that physical therapy helps them address their tremors, and they may develop coping techniques such as gentle exercises to do when Parkinson's tremors strike. Gentle, focused movement will resolve resting tremors and can help strengthen muscles and improve motor skills.

While tremors in the hands are often assumed to be the result of Parkinson's disease, many other conditions can cause resting tremors of the hands and fingers. A neurologist will need to conduct a thorough evaluation to learn more about why a patient is experiencing hand tremors. Evaluation may reveal that the condition is treatable, and it can also provide insight into the best way to manage the condition. People with tremors should seek treatment, as there may be options available.


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