You’re Shaking but You're Not on the Dance Floor - Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s?

All of a sudden, you have "the shakes." If you are dancing, that is one thing, but involuntary muscle movements can cause alarm.

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You’re Shaking but You're Not on the Dance Floor - Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s?
4 Min Read April 1st, 2021

All of a sudden, you have "the shakes." If you are dancing, that is one thing, but involuntary muscle movements can cause alarm.

Arthur Conley had the hit "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" in 1967. Perhaps you or your parents danced to that song decades ago. In 1976 we danced to "Shake! Shake! Shake! by KC & the Sunshine Band.

KC & the Sunshine Band

If you are dancing, all that shaking is ok. However, involuntary shaking can be a sign of a much bigger and more life-changing problem. Ignoring the shakes or tremors is not a good idea.

Several medical conditions can cause tremors. Some of these health issues are more significant than others. You could have a tremor because of a stroke or other form of traumatic brain injury. 

Major Health Problem?

Your shaking could be from Parkinson's disease. One of the most famous people in the world who is suffering from Parkinson's disease is Michael J. Fox. The tremors become progressive over time. 

Multiple Sclerosis usually gets diagnosed before age 55. Symptoms often affect movement and include tremors. Intention tremor is the type of tremor seen when you have MS. The tremor is more pronounced during physical movement; there is no shaking when a person is at rest. The tremor develops and becomes more pronounced with activity, like attempting to grasp something.

Essential Tremor – Most Common

The most common reason for having a shake - is Essential tremor (ET), affecting an estimated 10 million Americans and millions more worldwide. Essential tremor usually affects people older than 65, but it can affect those at any age.


Essential tremor, also known as familial tremor, is a nervous system (neurological) disorder. It causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. While often impacting your hands, it can affect almost any part of your body. Generally, people notice the shaking when they are holding a glass or doing simple tasks. 

It is not related to Parkinson's disease; however, having essential tremor does not mean that you have, or will get, Parkinson's disease. But, up to 20 percent of patients with Essential tremors may develop Parkinson's disease. Because of this reason, some insurance companies may limit the ability to obtain Long-Term Care Insurance if you have an essential tremor. 

Traditionally, the medical community has looked at ET as a relatively benign disorder characterized by one symptom, tremor. Over the years, this view has changed. 

Today the medical community understands the variety of psychosocial issues that potentially disrupt the daily activities and social interactions of those impacted by the condition. It is no longer view as entirely benign.

In many cases, ET tremors affecting the hands or arms can slowly progress to affect other body areas. Often the head. ET is considered generally progressive; however, the rate of progression is usually slow. 

Tremors Can Sometimes Affect Ability to Perform Daily Activities

Tremors can affect some people's ability to perform everyday living activities, from working and driving to simply eating and performing routine hygiene. 

We should realize as we get older, we will experience changes in our health. We see changes in our bodies as well. As we get older, we may suffer from cognitive decline as well. 

Aging happens. Health problems happen. Accidents happen. Dementia happens. We can do few things about aging but preparing for the consequences of aging will benefit your family and finances.

Preparing for Aging

For many families, this means looking at Long-Term Care Insurance. As we need assistance with daily activities, it will get beyond what a spouse or family member can safely do. Most people don't want to place the burden of caregiving on our families. 

Paid long-term health care services have become very expensive. The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator can show you the current and future costs of extended health care where you live.

Preparing for longevity will safeguard income and assets and reduce the stress and anxiety otherwise placed on those you love. LTC NEWS has a list of often asked questions about long-term health care planning - find them by clicking here.

Remember, you must enjoy reasonably good health to plan. It is best to start your research in your 40s or 50s. 

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About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

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