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A Comprehensive Guide to Vibration Therapy for Tremors

06th January 2023

Tremors – or the involuntary contraction of muscles that cause shaking in the arms, legs, torso, head and hands (and even voice and face) – come in different forms with over 20 of these recognised by international health organisations. Examples of tremors include dystonic, cerebellar, psychogenic, physiologic, enhanced physiologic, Parkinsonian, orthostatic and essential. The last type – essential tremor (ET) – is possibly the most frequently encountered one.

Although tremors are often associated with people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD), ETs differ from PD in several respects. In addition, they affect millions of people worldwide. Although tremors, and ETs, can be debilitating to an extent and can develop as one ages, there are some possibilities for addressing the symptoms that exclude pharmacological interventions or surgery. We’re talking about vibration therapy for tremors. And we’ll delve into this in more detail below.

Can vibration help tremors?

With ETs being the most frequently encountered type of tremor, it’s important to note that the term “essential” in medical terms means that there is no known underlying cause for a symptom. It is, however, believed that tremors are caused by problems in parts of the brain (cerebellum) that cause movements and control balance. It’s also believed to be hereditary in some cases.

With this being said, it’s important to note that although ETs are believed to result from malfunctions in some neurons, it does not mean the loss of brain cells. As such, people with ETs generally do not lose gait or balance. To date, there is no cure for ETs. But there are ways of alleviating the symptoms. This comes in the form of vibration therapy for tremors.

In particular, vibration therapy is viewed as a cost-effective method for individuals living with various kinds of tremors as it is believed to soothe pain and stiffness, alleviate the severity of the tremors as well as help improve dexterity. As such, vibration therapy can be a powerful resource for people living with tremors. In addition to this, there are numerous options when it comes to vibration therapy that can be explored.

But how does vibration therapy work? Because it can be applied in many different forms, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. However, it involves the gentle massage of the body through vibrations that are applied to various affected areas through different frequencies and areas of application. What’s also important is that pauses are crucial between treatments and within stimulus patterns.

In fact, regular vibration therapy was found to improve the quality of life in study participants diagnosed with PD. This research was carried out by scientists from the Florida State University College of Medicine and similar results were reported by researchers at the Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering Departments at the Lebanese International University. Other similar studies have also found that using vibration therapy for tremors results in no adverse effects. It is also safe to use.

Does vibration help Parkinson’s?

Before delving into whether vibration helps patients with PD, it’s important to recognise what PD is in the first place. A neurological disorder which occurs when the brain’s nerve cells don’t produce sufficient quantities of dopamine, PD can be progressively debilitating as the disease progresses. Dopamine is a chemical that is essential for nerve communication related to functions such as mood, movement and behaviour.

Although it is more frequent in men than women and usually develops at a more mature age, PD can also be diagnosed quite early into one’s life. One of the most well-known symptoms of PD is tremors. These may start in one part of the body and then progress to the other side. Movements tend to be more forceful with lower frequency.

As mentioned earlier, PD is much less common that ETs and the two differ significantly. For example, ETs generally don’t cause associated health issues whereas PD does carry other symptoms that may include stooped posture and balance problems. In addition, whereas ETs can affect one’s speech, PD generally doesn’t. Another crucial difference is that ETs are usually experienced during a range of motion while PD tremors are felt more when the patient is at rest. Finally, although ET symptoms can worsen over time, they are unlikely to shorten the patient’s life span. In contrast, PD does progress over time and it can lead to shorter life spans.

It is estimated that over 25% of people with PD also have an associated action tremor. Tremors can affect multiple parts of the body including the hands, chin, lips, face and legs.

There have been several attempts to treat the symptoms of PD including drugs, deep brain stimulation as well as surgery. However, these can be extremely costly and they can also have serious side effects. In addition, they are not guaranteed to work and if they do, it’s possible that their benefits can wane over time.

Another possibility for addressing PD tremors specifically is vibration therapy for tremors. However, a recent study of a small group of patients specifically using vibration therapy found positive effects. Some of the benefits reported included tremor alleviation, reduction in stiffness, abnormal walking, slow body movement and balance problems that are typically associated with PD. Other associated benefits included the alleviation of mood swings, behaviour changes, depression as well as the loss of smell and taste.

The reason behind the possible success of vibration therapy for tremors is not new. It goes back to the 19th century when neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot created a vibrating chair after he learned that his PD patients’ symptoms improved, albeit briefly, after long carriage and horseback rides. Research followed on from this in the decades after and today we have different types of vibration therapy for tremors, including those tremors related to PD.

What is the new treatment for tremors?

Whether ETs or tremors related to PD, new treatments are constantly arising in medicine to help alleviate symptoms, although not every treatment type is effective on every patient and they do have limitations. In general, current treatment options may include, but are not limited to:

  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Neurostimulation (with deep brain stimulation)
  • Ablative therapies (with radiofrequency, stereotactic radiosurgery, or focused ultrasound).

What is good for tremors naturally?

To help ease the symptoms and effects of tremors naturally, without invasive surgical procedures or pharmacological interventions, it’s highly recommended that people with ETs undertake lifestyle changes to help them cope better. This includes dietary changes such as avoiding caffeine, which can aggravate symptoms.

Other methods include doing yoga or other relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation. Resistance training could also improve dexterity and reduce ETs. Meanwhile, natural herbal remedies that could potentially help include consuming skull cap herb, passionflower, omega fatty acids and magnesium. However, these lifestyle and dietary changes should be supplemented with vibration therapy for optimal results.

The short answer? Choose vibration therapy for tremors

If you are someone who has been diagnosed with PD or you have essential or other types of tremors, it’s natural for you to be concerned. However, there are numerous natural ways of alleviating your symptoms and boosting your dexterity before your symptoms worsen. Vibration therapy could be the answer you’re looking for and it’s seriously worth considering as an option to help reduce tremors.


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