What is a Postural Tremor?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 January 2019
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A postural tremor, also sometimes referred to as an action tremor, is the term used to describe involuntary movement occurring when an individual holds a physical position against gravity. Tremors are assigned to multiple categories depending on the symptoms of each. A postural tremor, therefore, defines a specific subtype of a tremor.

Some tremors occur as the result of a neurological condition. While the underlying cause of a tremor can be life-threatening, a tremor is not. Not all tremors are caused by neurological disorders, however. Such is true with postural types, which are often caused by a lack of quality rest or by anxiety and stress. In some instances, this kind of tremor may also develop as the result of underlying physiological conditions such as an overactive thyroid gland.

Although tremors are commonly associated with elderly populations or individuals with specific medical conditions, anyone at any age can experience these tremors. Often, this kind of tremor may occur in a perfectly healthy individual and may be exacerbated by strong emotions, caffeine, alcohol withdrawal or cigarette smoking. Individuals taking certain medications may also experience tremors. In most instances, tremors are short-term occurrences and disappear without need of any particular treatment or intervention. Prolonged or recurring tremors, however, may be due to an underlying illness or medical condition.


A postural tremor may happen when a person attempts to hold a particular posture or hold her or his arms motionless in front of the body and experiences involuntary movement instead. This tremor subtype may also occur when a person extends the tongue out of the mouth and, intending to keep it still, experiences involuntary movement. Sometimes referred to as an action tremor, a postural tremor may also include an involuntary muscle contraction. Many who do not have an underlying condition have experienced these tremors when attempting such gestures and do not consider this involuntary movement to be abnormal.

Some tremors are not normal, however. For instance, the types of tremors that commonly occur in patients with Parkinson’s disease are directly attributed to that condition. These tremor types include the postural, but are usually the result of a combination of both postural and kinetic tremors.

A postural tremor is the most common of all types of tremors. Often tremor subtypes overlap, however, which may cause difficulty in determining whether tremors are due to a disorder or whether they are common occurrences. A person experiencing constant or multiple tremors may actually be affected by several tremor subtypes.


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