Spinal problems causing tremors: What to know

Tremors are uncontrollable shaking movements in one or more bodily parts. Muscle contractions are the cause of these unusual movements.

Tremors are usually caused by a problem with the region of the brain that governs movement. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain damage are all examples of neurological illnesses. Anxiety, an overactive thyroid, alcohol use disorder, and certain drugs are all possible causes of tremors. Doctors, on the other hand, are frequently unable to pinpoint the source of the cause.

The majority of sources do not mention spinal issues as a possible cause of tremors. Tremors have been reported in people with spinal cord compression on a rare occasion.

Continue reading to learn more about the links between spinal problems and tremors, treatment options, and when to seek medical attention.

When to consult a doctor

Anyone experiencing tremors should see a doctor for a diagnosis and to rule out any dangerous causes.

To assess the tremor, the doctor will begin the diagnosis process by doing a physical and neurological examination. They’ll also ask about the person’s medical history. Medical tests, such as diagnostic imaging to examine brain and spinal injury and an electromyogram to diagnose muscle and nerve abnormalities, may be ordered after that.

They can prescribe the best treatment based on the results of these tests.

Tremors and spinal problems

spinal problems

Tremors are uncommon in people with spinal problems, but there have been instances of tremors in people with spinal cord compression.

In one case, a 91-year-old man got tremors as a result of cervical myelopathy, which is caused by spinal cord compression in the neck. The man developed tremors in both arms and legs over the course of two weeks, rendering him unable to feed himself or move without assistance.

Doctors initially suspected the man had Parkinson’s disease, but they eventually ruled it out because he exhibited no other symptoms. The individual had a herniated disk at vertebrae C3–C4 in his neck, according to an MRI study.

Tremors can also be caused by a condition known as cervical dystonia. This uncommon neurological condition starts in the brain and causes to uncontrollable neck muscular contractions. These contractions might be continuous or come in the form of spasms that seem like tremors. The severity of the condition varies, but it can cause in severe pain and incorrect posture, both of which can have a negative impact on one’s quality of life.

What are tremors?

Tremors are involuntary movements of the body that are difficult to control. The hands are the most common site of involuntary muscle contractions, but they can also affect the arms, hands, head, torso, legs, feet, or face muscles.

Tremors have varied effects on different people. They are able to:

  • come and go or occur continuously
  • happen on their own or occur in response to another issue
  • be mild or severe
  • affect one or both sides of the body

Tremors can be classified as follows:

  • Essential tremor: This condition is known as benign essential tremor by doctors. It’s the most frequent tremor, and it’s caused by nervous system issues. The hands are most affected, although it can also affect the head, tongue, voice, legs, and trunk.
  • Dystonic tremor: This movement issue can occur in people who have dystonia. Dystonia is a condition that causes incorrect posture due to involuntary muscular contractions. Twisted and repetitive movements can harm any muscle in the body, according to some people.
  • Parkinsonian tremor: This tremor is common in people with Parkinson’s disease. It usually affects one or both hands while lying down, although it can also affect the face and legs.

Why might spinal, back, or neck issues cause tremors?

If the spinal cord is compressed, back and neck disorders might cause tremors. Millions of nerve cells in the spinal cord connect the brain to motor neurons, which allow the body to move.

Compression of these nerves in the back and neck may impair how they communicate, resulting in tremors. However, this is a rare occurrence, with only a few accounts of people suffering tremors as a result of spinal abnormalities.

Treatment

Treatment options for tremor-related back pain may be determined by the cause.

Doctors may propose surgery in the case of a disk herniation. An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) technique may be used by a surgeon to treat the condition. The aberrant, bulging section of the disk that presses on the nerves in the spinal cord is initially removed during an ACDF. The bones will then be fused together to prevent them from rubbing against one another.

Cervical dystonia cannot be cured by doctors. They may, however, suggest one or a combination of the following treatment options:

Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections

This neurotoxin is injected into the neck muscles in modest dosages by a doctor. It stops nerves from sending out signals that cause muscle contractions.

Oral medications

At this time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any oral drugs. Doctors may, however, suggest the following to alleviate symptoms:

  • baclofen
  • clonazepam
  • anticholinergic agents, such as benztropine
  • dopaminergic agents, such as levodopa

Surgery

There are two surgical procedures available to you. The first involves severing the nerves that supply dystonic muscles, although this can have serious adverse effects and take a long time to recover from.

Another approach is deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS entails a surgeon implanting electrodes in the globus pallidus, a specific portion of the brain. Stimulators then provide little electrical pulses to the brain, which help to improve dystonic movements.

Prevention

People with spinal disorders may likely find it difficult to prevent tremors. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy, for example, is caused by the degenerative changes in the spine that occur as people age, and tremors are common in the elderly.

Reduced spinal strain and injury risk can help people prevent herniated disks. However, disk material degrades gradually with age, and even modest strains or twisting movements might cause disk rupture.

The cause and prevention of cervical dystonia are frequently unknown to clinicians. However, because up to 25% of people have a family history of the condition, researchers have discovered linked gene abnormalities.

Conclusion

Tremors are involuntary shaking motions that can affect the muscles of the limbs, trunk, or face. Tremors are rarely caused by spinal issues. However, if the spinal cord is squeezed, the nerves’ ability to communicate is disrupted, which can result in tremors.

Surgery, injections, and medication may be used to treat tremor-related back disorders, depending on the cause.

People who avoid putting undue strain on their spine and are aware of potential injuries can lower their risk of having tremors as a result of spinal disorders.

Anyone who has tremors should seek medical advice for a diagnosis and treatment.

Sources:

  • https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/cervical-dystonia/
  • https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Herniated-Disc
  • https://www.christopherreeve.org/living-with-paralysis/health/how-the-spinal-cord-works
  • https://medlineplus.gov/tremor.html
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/can-spinal-problems-cause-tremors
  • https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Tremor-Fact-Sheet

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