Your Personal Management Plan for Essential Tremor
The Nobel Prize-winning scientist Konrad Lorenz was curious about evolution from childhood onward. He wrote, “In the course of evolution, it constantly happens that, independently of each other, two different forms of life take similar, parallel paths in adapting themselves to the same external circumstances.” For those who suffer with essential tremor (ET), modifying these words might read:
In the course of coping with ET, two different patients will take similar, parallel paths in adapting their lives to the same challenging condition.
One way to think of each patient’s unique coping program is to picture a cafeteria visit. As you slide your tray past salads, sandwich fixings, hot entrees, desserts and beverages, some choices will appeal to you more than others. It’s great to be able to choose according to your own preferences and diet – and by the time patrons head to their table with their tray, no two trays will look alike.
The numerous ET websites offer a smorgasbord of management strategies. Their purpose is to restore as much normality as possible by adaptive methods. However, what is “normal” for one person never exactly duplicates what is normal for another. ET itself has infinite variations in terms of the location, frequency, timing, amplitude, and factors that aggravate tremor (such as stress and anxiety) or reduce it (alcohol works for some patients). As with snowflakes, no two ET cases are identical.
This is why it’s so important to familiarize yourself with the “cafeteria” of ideas, tips and resources. Take time to discover and create your own personal management plan. As with any cafeteria visit, some options will leap out as more appealing or workable than others, so try those first.
Among the most common adaptive tips are the following:
- 1. Use your tremor-free hand for common activities, including writing, as often as possible.
- 2. Use both hands when possible, and use your tremor-free hand to steady your affected hand.
- 3. To reduce head tremor, turn your head slightly to the side or tilt your head slightly toward your chest.
- 4. Use assistive devices to improve performance of daily tasks such as eating, drinking, bathing, dressing, and work/computer activities.
- 5. Meditation and stress management can help prevent tremor triggers, and a bonus is gaining serenity and calmness that can boost the effectiveness of each strategy.
- 6. Avoid consuming stimulants like caffeine and supplements like energy-boosters
Less common suggestions include
- 7. Biofeedback or acupuncture may have positive effects.
- 8. Turn to professional or volunteer services for things like manicures, hand sewing (button replacement), eyebrow shaping, beard trimming.
- 9. Print rather than write, and use smaller letters.
- 10. When eating out, if cutting meat is a problem ask that it be cut up in the kitchen before serving.
The most important thing is to remember that your ET is YOUR ET, and no one else’s. Embrace your individuality. Tailoring your resources and solutions to your needs and preferences will result in a greater sense of empowerment and accomplishment because adaptation often involves taking the path of least resistance – resulting in the greatest “fit” for success.
Each person with ET will have a different experience over time. Should your ET reach a point where medication and quick fixes become less effective, consider being evaluated by the Sperling Medical Group to learn if you are a candidate for a non-invasive, MRI-guided treatment using Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS). This precise treatment destroys the tiny center in the brain that causes ET, and the procedure involves no anesthesia, cutting or holes in the skull. If you are interested in learning more, contact the Sperling Medical Group.