Helpful Apps for Those Struggling with Essential Tremor

Apps have become useful for almost everything in life—including essential tremor. When you’re trying to manage hand tremors, even using your phone can become difficult. Luckily, there are apps available to help you navigate through your phone, text, and even monitor the severity of your tremor. Here are four helpful apps to look for the next time you’re browsing through an app store.

BIGLauncher

Icons on most touchscreen phones are tiny. If you have a tremor, it can be very easy to accidentally open the wrong app. Although BIGLauncher is marketed toward individuals with poor vision, the large icons can also serve as a huge help to people who struggle with essential tremor. By increasing the size of icons on your home screen, you nearly guarantee that you’ll go to the right app.

StudyMyTremor

Do you want an idea of how severe your tremor is but haven’t seen a specialist? Or maybe you want to monitor your tremor over time. StudyMyTremor is here to help. This app will measure and analyze your tremor, helping you further monitor your own tremor health.

Dexteria

Dexteria’s goal is to provide hand and finger activities that can help you improve your dexterity. The exercises are designed to be completed in short sessions, so you can easily fit hand and finger exercises into your schedule.

Typeway (iPad only)

If you have an iPad and struggle to use the on-screen keyboard, Typeway may be a viable alternative. This app replaces your tablet’s keyboard with one that automatically adjusts the location of the keys to match your typing style. You can let it continue to adapt to your hands, or you can freeze the keyboard setting that you most prefer.

When you have hand tremors, any bit of assistance can help bring a valuable amount of autonomy back into your life. But if you find that your tremors too heavily affect your life, consider seeking treatment. You can learn more about treatment options by calling 1-800-NO-TREMOR to speak with our educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center.

Essential Tremor Educator Spotlight: Danica Smith’s Story

The Essential Tremor Education Center has assembled a team of educators who are incredibly passionate about helping those with essential tremor gain knowledge and find the treatment they need. As education is one of the first steps toward learning treatment options that may be available, we consider our educators to be a key resource for support. Today, we’d like to highlight our educator Danica Smith, who is dedicated to helping others learn about essential tremor treatment options.

Danica’s passion for helping people with essential tremor stems from watching her mother take care of her parents and the elderly. She says that her mother’s influence led her to develop a nurturing spirit, which she has funneled toward essential tremor patients. Still, helping others can be challenging. It’s not easy for Danica to hear heartbreaking stories and know she can’t help everyone.

But is helping others worth the time? Yes—entirely. “I enjoy watching and hearing the excitement and seeing the glow on someone’s face after having the treatment,” Danica says. “I love hearing them say they are able to do things that they haven’t been able to do in years.” The treatment she refers to is Neuravive, a new treatment option that uses focused ultrasound waves to treat the brain without the use of surgery. Many patients who have undergone this new, FDA-approved treatment have experienced a reduced tremor immediately post-procedure.

Neuravive is a treatment Danica helps essential tremor patients understand, and she often receives questions relating to insurance coverage,  effectiveness, and how it works. She finds that people most often make the connection when she explains that ultrasound is just soundwaves—like the ones that let you see a baby in the womb.

To those considering treatment but are unsure about options, she says, “You have an option that doesn’t require surgery and that works.” If you’d like to learn more about Neuravive, or another essential tremor treatment option that may be available to you, our team of educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center are more than happy to lend their support. You can talk to an educator by calling us today at 844-NO-TREMOR.

Exercises That Help Manage Essential Tremor Symptoms

Stress can trigger essential tremor symptoms, but taking time to relax can help calm them. However, it’s easy to do the opposite of what’s best for us when we’re frustrated. Instead of relaxing, it’s easy to tense up and make the tremor worse. Taking some quiet time to do a series of relaxing stretches can help to release some of the tension that’s aggravating your symptoms. Here are a few easy exercises to start with. Remember to breathe through each exercise—breathing is critical for getting the most out of these relaxation sessions.

Tighten and relax your hands

First, tighten your hands into a fist. Then, release that fist and give your hands a few moments to relax. Once you feel the tension release from your hands, repeat the exercise.

Rotate your wrists

After finding a comfortable position, rotate your wrists slowly in one direction and then reverse the motion. Remember to breathe as you rotate, and move slowest where you feel the most tension.

Rotate your shoulders

While your arms are at your sides, rotate your shoulders up, backward, down, and forward. Repeat this process until you feel less tense, again remembering to breathe and move slowly where there’s tension. Once you feel comfortable and relaxed, repeat the exercise in the reverse direction.

Stretch your neck and shoulders

While standing or sitting comfortably with your head facing forward, slowly let your head drop to one side while keeping your shoulders level. Breathe through the stretch, giving your body time to relax, then repeat the stretch on the other side.

Be sure to monitor your tremor before, during, and after each exercise. Is your tremor stressed by the exercise, or is it feeling more relaxed? Everyone reacts to exercise differently. You may need to slow down or do a specific exercise for less time. Or, if the tremor remains aggravated, you may need to stop that exercise altogether and try a different one.

If your essential tremor symptoms are too severe to manage, consider seeking treatment. The educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center are here to offer support and answer any questions you may have about treatment options that could be available to you. You can speak with one of our educators today by calling 1-800-NO-TREMOR.

Patient Spotlight: Doug Couch

Essential tremor most often affects older individuals, but this isn’t true for everyone. Sometimes even children can experience these common hand tremors. Today, the Essential Tremor Education Center would like to share the story of Doug Couch, who first experienced tremors in junior high school. After several decades of living with his tremor, he sought treatment for symptomatic relief—and now enjoys increased stability in his treated hand.

As with many people who develop hand tremors, Doug’s shaking was genetic. The tremor was most apparent to him when he was at the cafeteria in school. He explains he felt self-conscious, “trying to carry my plate and my drink back. I would spill it and the other kids would laugh at me.” But he learned how to adapt—he found ways to hold his cup without spilling, and he picked his friends carefully to avoid cruel teasing.

The tremor continued to impact him into his adult years, but he did his best to continue to adapt. He taught photography, which became increasingly difficult without a steady hand. His tremor began to distinctly stand out to him when he tried to switch careers and move into the police department. When training how to shoot, Doug was told that he couldn’t be trained or pass the test until he stopped shaking. He still wasn’t discouraged—after finding a teacher who would work with him, he passed his test.

Doug sought treatment for his tremor from Dr. Tierney at the Sperling Medical Group in South Florida. Speaking directly to Dr. Tierney and the educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center helped drive him toward receiving the new Neuravive treatment, which uses FDA-approved MR-guided focused ultrasound. This treatment uses focused ultrasound to treat the brain without ever using surgery or radiation. And Doug’s result? A greatly reduced tremor. When it comes to seeking treatment for his tremor, Doug says, “It was a simple, simple answer to a complex question.”

Now, Doug is doing his part to help others who are currently struggling with hand tremors. Every Wednesday at 7:00 PM EST, Doug hosts Tremor Chats on Facebook Live as a place to share stories about essential tremor—and the massive impact that treatment has had for many with a tremor. If you want to hear more about his story, you can watch it here.To learn more about essential tremor treatment, you can talk to our educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center by calling 844-NO-TREMOR today.

Patient Spotlight: Jim Hardy

Although essential tremor is the most common movement tremor, not many people are aware it exists—or may even get it confused with Parkinson’s. For Jim Hardy, he was unaware that he was even shaking. It was many years later before he learned about essential tremor treatments. Today, the Essential Tremor Education Center would like to share the story of how his debilitating tremor improved with treatment.

A steady hand is important for Jim Hardy—he is the author of four books and is ranked Top 10 of America’s 50 Best Golf Instructors, as well as in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Originally, he was entirely unaware he had a tremor. He first learned about his tremor as a freshman in college when a friend asked him why he was shaking during a golf game. Jim insisted he wasn’t shaking. His friend insisted that he was. While his shaking didn’t stop him from playing for seven years on the PGA tour, he found his tremor to be debilitating in another way. He says, “The shame of shaking, as an athlete, is amazing.”

When researching essential tremor, Jim first started speaking to Joseph Jankovic, of the International Essential Tremor Foundation. While speaking with him didn’t take care of his tremor, it did help him get rid of his shame—and start seeking out treatment. He started with drugs but found them to be ineffective. He spoke with a friend who had undergone Deep Brain Stimulation, a treatment that implants electrodes in the brain to control the tremor, but decided he didn’t want surgery

After discussing options with doctors and doing his own research, he discovered the clinical trials for MR-guided focused ultrasound treatment in Europe. This treatment used focused ultrasound to treat the brain, without using surgery or radiation. Jim decided that he would take part in the trials once they started in the US. He was unable to participate as a trial patient, but after following the treatment throughout it’s stages, he was able to seek treatment after Neuravive was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

At the point of treatment, he couldn’t use his right hand to do anything. During his appearance on Tremor Chats with Doug Couch, he showed a clip of himself, pre-treatment, attempting to hold his hands in line with each other. They shook severely. Now, he can hold his hands in line and keep them steady.

Jim believes that anyone who is affected enough by their tremor that they can no longer live their life to the fullest is a candidate for essential tremor treatment. If you want to learn more about treatment options, you can call one of our educators today at 844-NO-TREMOR. Also, if you want to hear more about Jim’s experiences with essential tremor, you can watch his appearance on Tremor Chats here.

Medical Provider Spotlight: Charlene Aldrich

When we want to learn more about our health, such as when we’re experiencing essential tremor symptoms, we often start by searching online. The Essential Tremor Education Center aims to give you up-to-date information on essential tremor through our educators and alliance members who are pioneers in treatment. Today we’d like to highlight Charlene Aldrich, a clinician at one of our alliance member hospitals, the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Charlene Aldrich works as a Clinical Research Manager in the University of Maryland’s Department of Neurosurgery. According to the Times Higher Education, the University of Maryland has built up a reputation for their research and was ranked one of the top 100 universities in the world for its teaching and research. Aldrich has participated in in clinical trials for treatments of nearly every diagnosis in the field of neuroscience along with Dr. Howard Eisenberg. She has spent 27 years building the department to be one of the highest research-involved neurosurgery locations in the country.

Aldrich considers focused ultrasound treatment to be a highlight of her career. The technology behind this treatment has recently received FDA-approval for essential tremor. Using focused ultrasound, a physician can treat the area of a patient’s brain causing the tremor—without using radiation or making an incision. As Aldrich loves helping people through her research, she is excited about the impact this treatment could have for many with essential tremor. She notes that neuroscience can take a long time to receive FDA approval. But, after many successful clinical trials, this treatment is now available to more people.

As a clinical researcher, Aldrich stresses that the most important factor of any trial, including these focused ultrasound trials, is safety. From the initial pilot studies all the way to the pivotal studies that statistically prove that the treatment can work, a researcher’s focus is always to make sure that the patients are safe. Overall, she considers the trials for focused ultrasound to be a success that far exceeded expectations. The proof of this? The patients who walk away from the treatment with a significantly reduced tremor.

If you want to hear more about Aldrich’s experiences researching treatment for essential tremor symptoms, you can hear her share her stories in this Tremor Chats episode. If you’d like to hear more about treatment options for your essential tremor, our educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center are here to help. You can talk to them today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

Get Dressed With Essential Tremor

Essential tremor is most severe whenever you are using your hands. Eating, putting on makeup, drinking a glass of water, and even getting dressed in the morning can be complicated with hand tremors. Luckily, not all clothes require a very steady hand to put on—unless they have buttons. There’s no need to ask someone else to button up your shirts for you. There are resources available that can help you get dressed with ease.

It’s easy to see how buttons can feel impossible when you have a tremor. Getting a small button through a thin eyelet can irritate people who have a steady hand. And you may not want to remove button-up shirts from your wardrobe, either, as they’re a staple for office jobs with professional dress codes. Some clothing manufacturers have seen the need for dress shirts that are easy to take on and off—so you no longer have to worry about dressing yourself.

You can find tremor-friendly dress shirts for men and women at MagnaReady. Instead of trying to match a button to an eyelet, their shirts have easy, magnetically-infused buttons. They’re also 100 percent cotton for comfort, and wrinkle-resistant as well—so you don’t have to worry about holding an iron steady, either. These shirts let you stay comfortable and classy, minus the stress of small buttons.

If you already have button-up shirts and don’t want to replace your wardrobe, there are answers for you, as well: weighted button aids. These tools have a heavy grip that helps you steady your hand. An attached wire loop button hook lets you pull a button through an eyelet. You can find these tools here.

Essential tremor may make you feel as though you’ve lost autonomy, but tools and clothing exist to help you bring independence back into your life. And, if your hand tremors significantly impact your daily life, there are treatment options available that can help you minimize symptoms. The Essential Tremor Education Center has a team of educators dedicated to answering your questions about essential tremor and treatment. You can talk to an educator today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

Art & Essential Tremor: An Unusual Pairing

For those with essential tremor, symptomatic relief can come from surprising places. Did you know that music can help lessen essential tremor symptoms? While it does not replace treatment, working with a therapist—or even winding down with relaxing, low-tempo music—can help calm down a tremor. Let’s see how this works.

Music therapy isn’t new. Research has shown the benefits music provides, such as a decrease in depression and anxiety levels and a boosted immune system. High-tempo beats can add a burst of energy—and low-tempo songs can put a person in a quiet, relaxed state. This relaxed state doesn’t just have mental benefits,it also calms your muscles and nervous system. Anxiety and stress can be essential tremor triggers, so addressing stress levels through music can have a positive effect on tremors.

Music therapy has already been used to help people with Parkinson’s. By focusing their attention on a beat picked out by a music therapist, these individuals have displayed better movement and find it easier to perform tasks that were previously complicated by their tremor. The types of music used for these sessions is based on what an individual personally prefers—but treatment can’t be limited to only a few songs. The brain adjusts over time, and a lack of variety can cause you to lose the initial positive impact.

Before pursuing music therapy, it’s important to know what your personal tremor triggers are. It’s also beneficial to look for a music therapist who specializes in movement disorders. By working together with a specialist, you’ll be able to get the most out of your therapy sessions. It’s important to remember that therapy is continuous and is not a replacement for medication or other forms of treatment. While it’s not covered under most insurance plans, carriers in some states may offer reimbursement based on medical necessity.

If your insurance doesn’t cover music therapy, that’s okay—find a low-tempo song that you enjoy, and take a few moments to listen and relax. This will still put you in a better state of mind. If your essential tremor symptoms are severe enough that music therapy doesn’t offer much relief, consider seeking treatment. Our educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center are more than happy to answer your questions about tremors and potential treatment options. You can speak with an educator today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

Alliance Member Spotlight: Travis Tierney

The Essential Tremor Education Center partners with leading voices in tremor treatment to bring you the best information possible, so you can take your health into your own hands while seeking symptomatic relief. Today, we’d like to highlight Dr. Travis Tierney from the Sperling Medical Group, and his thoughts about Neuravive treatment for essential tremor, also known as MR-guided focused ultrasound.

Dr. Travis Tierney enjoys spending time with his family, reading biographies, running, and helping his patients find needed relief from essential tremor. He first started studying treatment options while acting as part of the first focused ultrasound study at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Taking interest in this procedure, he continued his research by acting as a principal investigator in a pivotal multi-institutional study of focused ultrasound at Harvard.

What sparked his interest in focused ultrasound? The safety—especially in comparison to other surgical procedures. This noninvasive form of treatment uses MRI to target the area of the brain responsible for the tremor, and then uses focused ultrasound waves to lesion the brain. Without using surgery, the risk of complications is diminished while many patients still experience steadier hands.

He notes that patients have some understandable concerns about Neuravive, especially the economic hurdle—the procedure can be expensive for many who would benefit, and it’s not yet widely covered by insurance.

Patients who have undergone the procedure have experienced a greatly reduced tremor as a result. Dr. Tierney says it’s been rewarding, “seeing our patient’s happiness after the treatment and the way focused ultrasound changed their lives.” He hopes the benefits for the technology will stretch beyond essential tremor. Dr. Tierney sees it potentially being helpful for other conditions, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dystonia, pediatric brain tumors, and epilepsy as well.

Whether it’s through Neuravive or another commonly used tremor treatment such as deep brain stimulation, many patients have experienced relief from essential tremor. To learn more about what treatment may be available, you can call the educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center at 844-NO-TREMOR today.

Patient Spotlight: David Raymond

Essential tremor isn’t easy. Many individuals with these common hand tremors experience a lack of autonomy as they lose the ability to do easy everyday tasks, such as drinking water or signing their name — but treatment can offer needed relief. Today, the Essential Tremor Education Center would like to highlight the story of David Raymond, who underwent the Neuravive procedure performed by Dr. Elias from the University of Virginia Medical Center.

Tremors don’t always affect the elderly. Raymond’s tremors started young—when he was around 10 years old. He notes that, even at that age, he couldn’t handle some normal tasks such as taking pictures. Raymond lived with his tremors for about 60 years before he received treatment. He learned about Neuravive through his son-in-law, who heard about it while relaying Raymond’s symptoms to his friend who is a doctor.

Raymond, seeking symptomatic relief, decided to undergo this new procedure that treated the brain with focused ultrasound waves without using surgery. He says the procedure “didn’t seem like it was three hours long. It went by really quickly.” Post-treatment, he enjoyed things that the tremor previously made difficult: “I toasted everybody at a dinner party a few days after the procedure. Another thing, I could cut my meat into pieces too, so I didn’t feel like a kid.”

His thoughts about the overall treatment experience in one word: “Miraculous.” To those who are currently on the fence about seeking treatment for symptomatic relief, he explains, “I am so pleased with the entire experience and I am excited to live the rest of my life. I really look forward to it now.”

If you’re like Raymond and also experience hand tremors, then consider seeking treatment. Several options are available, ranging from medication to surgery, to the non-invasive Neuravive. Many who have undergone treatment have also been able to return to their daily life without tremors holding them back. You can learn more about the options that may be available to you by calling the educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center today at 844-NO-TREMOR.