Monday, December 13, 2010

Whole lotta shakin' going on....

Here is the best all-around article I have found on the subject of tremor, courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic Continuing Education.

The technical jargon of tremor may be confusing at first.

Frequency is how fast you tremble.
Amplitude is how far you (or your body part) move when you tremble.
Hz (short for hertz) is a standard international measure of frequency.
This wikipedia article has a nice illustration of blinking lights at 0.5 Hz, 1 Hz and 2 Hz. Many 'weird neuro shit' tremors operate at 4-12 Hz but lights flashing above 4 Hz per  second (4 flashes per second) can cause migraine or even seizure in some unlucky people.

A low amplitude, high frequency tremor is the sort of not always visible tremor MS sufferers often describe as 'buzzing' or 'vibrating'. A high amplitude, low frequency tremor would be a slower pulsing, but more visible.

Tremors alone don't mean MS, as they can be a reaction to some medications, alcohol withdrawal (aka delirium tremens or 'the DTs'), or a benign condition known as Essential Tremor.

Until a tremor gets so extreme it interferes with your daily life - you have trouble writing or spill your food constantly or can't get your key in the door - it won't be medically significant.  It's a thing, it means that you are sick or you have a mild neurological condition (or both), but chances are you guessed that before the tremor came along.  The doctor is unlikely to say, "Ah hah! I note your tremor oscillates at 8 Hz and therefore my uncanny diagnostic instincts tell me it is definitely Essential Tremor and not multiple sclerosis as you have feared..."

My tremor, which is mostly invisible, gets worse when I'm very tired, sickening for something, or have had too much stimulant (coffee, chocolate or alcohol). Now that I'm used to it, I find it a useful 'final warning' that I'm overdoing it.

Yesterday, I ran a few blocks on an urgent errand for someone. At the end of that, the combination of adrenalin and unusual exertion caused my hands to shake far worse than usual and I couldn't unzip my bag, open mail or hold a cup of water without spilling. A pity, because I enjoyed the run itself, unaccustomed as I am to public sprinting...

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