Tremor or shaking hands

A tremor is when you're not able to control shaking or trembling in part of your body. See a GP if a tremor is affecting your life as treatment may help to reduce it.

When a tremor is normal

It's normal to have a slight tremor. For example, if you hold your hands or arms out in front of you, they will not be completely still.

Sometimes a tremor becomes more noticeable.

This often happens:

  • as you get older
  • when you're stressed, tired, anxious or angry
  • after drinking caffeine (for example, in tea, coffee or cola) or smoking
  • if you're very hot or cold

Some medicines and conditions can also cause a tremor. Speak to your GP before you stop taking any prescribed medicine.

See a GP if:

You have a tremor or shaking hands and:

  • it's getting worse over time
  • it's affecting your daily activities

Your doctor will want to make sure the tremor is not caused by another condition. They may also be able to offer treatment.

What happens at your GP appointment

To find out what might be causing your tremor, a GP may examine you and ask:

  • if you have any other symptoms
  • if you're taking any medicine
  • about your and your family's medical history – some types of tremor run in families

A mild tremor that's not caused by another condition does not usually need any treatment. The GP may want to monitor you to make sure it does not get any worse.

You may be referred to a specialist for further tests if your tremor could be a symptom of a condition like Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis.

Treating a severe tremor

If you have a tremor that's affecting your life, your GP may prescribe medicine. Medicine will not cure the tremor, but it often helps to reduce the shaking or trembling.

You may need to take medicine all the time, or only when you need it – for example, before a stressful situation that causes your tremor to get worse.

If a tremor is affecting your head or voice, you may be offered injections to block the nerves and relax the muscles.

Rarely, brain surgery may be an option to treat a severe tremor that is not helped by medicine.