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Shaking Things Up: Understanding and Managing Essential Tremor

Are your hands, arms, or voice constantly trembling, making everyday tasks like writing, eating, or drinking a challenge? You’re not alone.
Essential Tremor, one of the most common movement disorders, affects millions of people in the United States.
In this blog, we’ll delve into the essential details of Essential Tremor, from its causes to available treatments, and how physical therapy can help you regain control of your life.

What is Essential Tremor?

Essential Tremor, often abbreviated as ET, is a neurological condition that causes rhythmic shaking and movement in various parts of the body, including the hands, arms, head, legs, and voice. It’s estimated that 7-10 million Americans, roughly 3 in every 100 citizens, grapple with this condition. Unlike some other medical conditions, ET typically manifests when the muscles are actively engaged in creating movement. Common symptoms include:

  • Rhythmic shaking of the extremities while in motion.
  • Difficulty with tasks like writing, eating, or drinking, due to the uncontrollable shaking.

It’s important to note that Essential Tremor is not associated with other medical conditions, making it a unique challenge for those affected.

What Causes Essential Tremor?

The exact cause of Essential Tremor is still not fully understood. However, it’s believed to arise from a miscommunication between nerve cells in the brain. Interestingly, ET often has a familial component, with approximately 50% of cases being hereditary. Furthermore, it affects both women and men equally, cutting across gender lines.

Treatment Options

While there is currently no cure for Essential Tremor, there are several treatment options available to help manage its symptoms. Here are some of the most common approaches:

  1. Coping Strategies: Learning to adapt to daily challenges by developing strategies to compensate for the tremors can make a significant difference in quality of life. Simple techniques like using adaptive utensils or finding alternative ways to perform tasks can be incredibly helpful.
  2. Medications: Some medications can help reduce the severity of tremors. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications like beta-blockers or anticonvulsants to alleviate symptoms.
  3. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS): For more severe cases, DBS can be considered. This surgical procedure involves implanting electrodes in the brain to regulate abnormal nerve signals that cause tremors.
  4. Focused Ultrasound: Another cutting-edge treatment option is focused ultrasound, which uses high-intensity sound waves to target and disrupt the brain tissue responsible for tremors.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in improving the lives of individuals with Essential Tremor, especially when combined with advanced treatments like focused ultrasound. Our colleagues at OSHU are at the forefront of helping patients with this condition. Here’s what you can expect from physical therapy:

Pre-Procedure Assessment: Before any procedure, you’ll undergo a thorough assessment, including evaluating your strength, balance, and gait. Based on this assessment, our experts will recommend assistive devices and develop a personalized plan.

Pre-Procedure PT: If deficits are identified during the pre-procedure assessment, you may benefit from a few physical therapy sessions to work on flexibility, balance, and strength, preparing you for the upcoming procedure.

Post-Procedure Assessment: Following the procedure, typically 2-3 days later, you’ll undergo another assessment to gauge your progress. This assessment guides the next steps in your physical therapy journey.

Ongoing PT Sessions: Physical therapy sessions will continue, usually 1-2 times a week for 4-6 weeks. These sessions will address any deficits in strength, balance, and coordination, ensuring you regain full activity without restrictions.

In Conclusion

Essential Tremor might present unique challenges, but with the right approach, you can regain control of your life. Whether you opt for medication, advanced treatments like focused ultrasound, or a combination of therapies, physical therapy is a vital part of the journey to a more stable and fulfilling life. Our dedicated team at Focus PT, in collaboration with OSHU and led by Siiri Berg MPT, is here to support you every step of the way on your journey to a tremor-free life.

Siiri Berg, PT
In good health! Siiri Berg PT
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