Essential tremor is a condition that causes rhythmic shaking in several parts of your body, such as your head, arms, legs, and torso. This shaking can affect your voice, ability to walk, usage of your hands for manual activities, and other physical functions. While everyone experiences this shaking to a small degree, it is classified as essential tremor when it becomes more significant and noticeable.

Essential tremor is commonly confused with Parkinson’s disease, as both conditions are often characterized by similar symptoms (such as trembling) that worsen over time. While these conditions can occur due to similar factors, such as genetic inheritance from a parent, essential tremor is much more common, affecting approximately 7 million people throughout the United States. Additionally, not everyone with Parkinson’s develops a tremor.

How is essential tremor diagnosed?

There are no specific tests for essential tremor; as a result, it is typically diagnosed through a review of your medical history and symptoms. Your doctor may, however, order tests to rule out potential causes of your tremor, such as hyperthyroidism. Additionally, tremors can occur due to alcohol and caffeine consumption, as well as certain medications. Your doctor may recommend that you avoid or reduce your usage of these substances to determine whether they may be contributing factors.

How is essential tremor treated?

Many cases of essential tremor are treated through medications such as propranolol and primidone, both of which affect neurotransmitters that are linked to trembling. In some cases, doctors may prescribe anti-seizure medications (such as gabapentin and topiramate) or benzodiazepines (such as alprazolam or clonazepam) to help treat essential tremor.

You can also reduce symptoms of essential tremor through certain lifestyle adjustments, such as cutting back on alcohol and caffeine. If any medications you take have been identified as a contributing factor for your tremors, it may help to find an effective alternative. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend a deep brain stimulator, a surgical brain implant which treats essential tremor, Parkinson’s, and similar conditions through electrical stimulation.

Essential tremor can significantly impact your ability to function normally and engage in your regular daily activities, making it important to see a specialist as soon as possible to find an effective approach to treatment. The multidisciplinary team at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Division of Neurology includes NYC essential tremor specialists that can help you identify factors that may be worsening your symptoms, develop a personalized treatment plan, and learn methods of reducing symptoms or managing them as they occur. To schedule an appointment, please email