Shake it out gets a new meaning

I’ve developed what’s known as Essential Tremor (ET) for short. It’s not an old age thing. Young people can have it too. It’s also not necessarily a serious disease unless it interferes with normal every day life. It used to be known as Benign Essential Tremor but the benign word was removed as it can be disabling. People who have this have involuntary tremors in their hands, neck, head and other areas. In my case my hands shake, my knees can shake, and most frustrating for me as it’s hardest to hide, my head either nods yes or shakes no depending on whatever gets the tremor started in the first place.

What started out as a mild bit of my knees and hands shaking first thing in the morning, generally just after a good stretch while still in bed has been progressing. A few weeks ago it was just a few minutes in the morning when I was barely awake and would just go away. Then I started having problems with my electronic cigarette button, mostly at night when I’d had a long day. It requires holding the button down while taking a drag but the button kept being intermittent. I became so frustrated with it, I was seriously considering sending it back to the vendor for replacement. Then I gave it to Rod to use for a day to see if he had any issues with it. He didn’t have any problems at all. This particular Ecig goes into menu mode on the second button press and that’s what it was doing every time I had problems with it. The actual cause of course was the barely noticeable tremor in my finger on the button. I had a similar problem with my new Android tablet. I’d go to click on a link and end up clicking the link above or below the intended one. I was convinced I had a dud tablet but no, it was a problem with my finger trembling at just the wrong moment without my even realising it.

Over the course of a few weeks the morning shakes became much more pronounced and lasted longer each day. Then my head started doing its own thing with either bopping up and down or shaking side to side. It was just a small thing at first but now it is very noticeable to me. It started one morning along with the other shakes and this has now become a regular occurrence. In the last few days the severity has increased so I’ve felt like a walking vibrating machine. Worse, it wouldn’t settle down until late afternoon.

I had an appointment with my GP, that when I made the appointment, I made it for late afternoon so the tremors wouldn’t be too bad, but reality had different plans. My head was nodding continuously and I felt very self conscious in the waiting room. I kept thinking I should find my headphones and just tuck the end into my pocket. That way people might think I was just enjoying some music instead of sitting there looking like I was a lunatic.

My GP and I have a good relationship and we had a long conversation about what’s happening and what can be done to make it easier to cope with these changes. When I’d seen the rheumatologist a few weeks ago it was still ‘early days’ and while we talked about medication, it wasn’t an appropriate choice when it was only a mild shaking of my hands. But this has progressed beyond that stage and is having a very real affect on my daily life, so trying medication to reduce the severity now made sense. Amazing how much can change in a matter of a few weeks.

We decided to start with the most commonly used med for Essential Tremor, a beta blocker named Propranolol at the lowest dose for a month and see how I go with it. This medication has some down sides though. I need to be extra careful to monitor my glucose levels as it can cause lows. It can be a problem for people with asthma and the main reason my rheumatologist thought it might not be that great for me – it can cause fatigue, which I already have issues with. However shaking and head nodding continuously is also quite exhausting so it could be a trade off.

My dosage is one pill twice a day at the lowest possible dose (10mg)  and I started taking it Monday night. Tuesday morning I still had the usual shaking, but it was much less intense than it had been. The tremors have been much easier to cope with and so far I haven’t noticed any extra fatigue. I really didn’t want to be taking yet another medication but I’m glad I gave it a try. Unfortunately this means I’ll have to take meds for this for the rest of my life, but I’m just pleased that there’s relief that works. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay on the lowest dose for as long as possible.


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