Patient Spotlight: Joe Arnold

Essential tremor is strikingly common, affecting as many as 10 million people just in America. Yet it can still take years to receive a proper diagnosis, and even longer to undergo essential tremor treatment. Joe Arnold, a retired airborne ranger, didn’t start experiencing severe tremors until his 50s — and now, 20 years later, he has finally found relief through focused ultrasound treatment.

During his discussion with Doug Couch on “Tremor Chats,” Arnold recalls his tremor starting even earlier than his 50s. A small hand twitch caused him to stop playing tennis in his 30s, then racquetball in his 40s, and finally golf in his 50s. His shakes became more severe  and he found that basic tasks like writing and typing were becoming impossible. He wasn’t embarrassed by the tremors, although he joked, “When I’d put beer on my friends next to me, that’d get a little embarrassing.”

Arnold was diagnosed with essential tremor in 2001. The neurologist ran him through a series of tests for Parkinson’s before giving him an essential tremor diagnosis. He proceeded to try a series of medications for symptomatic relief, although only one had tolerable side-effects. By this time, he could no longer write and had to use both hands to handle tasks.

Five years ago, Arnold decided enough was enough — it was time to seek treatment beyond medication. He decided against deep brain stimulation because being a scuba diver, he couldn’t be deep underwater and tolerate the extra pressure on his brain. Instead, he researched other treatments and discovered trials for Neuravive in Israel. Intrigued, he waited for it to come to the States and signed up for treatment at the University of Maryland. A conversation with the staff convinced him it was the best course of action.

The Neuravive procedure uses MRI to target the part of the brain causing the tremor, and then uses focused ultrasound waves to lesion the affected area of the brain. Before Arnold started treatment, he was asked to draw a spiral — a task he could no longer complete. He was asked the retry the exercise at intervals during the procedure. Each time, his spiral grew steadier, until he could draw it perfectly.

Want to see the improvement Joe Arnold experienced during his essential tremor treatment? You can hear his full story on this episode of “Tremor Chats on Doug’s Couch.” If you’re considering treatment for your tremor, consider reaching out to our team of educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center. Our team is dedicated to answering your questions and offering support. You can speak to an educator today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

 

Certain Foods Can Exacerbate Essential Tremor

A healthy diet goes a long way — it’s good for both your body and mind. But can it also help manage essential tremor symptoms? It’s true that a healthy diet won’t cure your hand tremors. However, some foods containing neurotoxins can exacerbate symptoms. Removing them from your diet while continuing to eat healthy may offer some relief.

Why Are Some Foods Bad for Tremor?

Certain foods carry high levels of beta-carboline neurotoxins. High levels of harmane have been found in individuals who experience tremors, especially those with essential tremors; they have been found to have higher levels of this neurotoxin in their bloodstream than people who don’t.

What Foods Have Harmane?

Harmane levels are especially high in all variety of meats, whether it’s white meat, red meat, or seafood. Food preparation can also affect the levels. Generally, broiled foods have the highest harbane content and grilled have the lowest.

Not all meats are equal; some have considerably higher harmane levels than others. Chicken has been found to be the worst culprit, followed by grilled salmon and fried pork. Grilled hamburger and beef steak have the least amount of harmane and are possibly the best options if you don’t want to cut out meat but still want to lower the amount of harmane you consume.

Harmane can be also be found in tobacco and caffeine, but in very low levels. It isn’t enough to affect you the same way as meat. However, keep in mind that tobacco and caffeine are stimulants, so they still may exacerbate your symptoms.

For some, cutting meat out entirely may help manage symptoms, but for others, modifying your diet may not be enough. If your hand tremors are affecting your quality of life beyond a level you can manage, then treatment may be your next step. You can find out what treatments are available to you by reaching out to the Essential Tremor Education Center. Call 844-NO-TREMOR today to speak to one of our educators — they’ll be happy to answer your questions and offer support.

Relaxation Techniques for Those with Essential Tremor

Stress is bad for everyone’s mental and physical health. If you have essential tremor, stress can also exacerbate symptoms. Managing your anxiety with relaxation techniques can offer some much-needed relief from stress-related essential tremor symptoms. When you have a few minutes in a quiet, relaxing space, try practicing some of these exercises.

Deep Breathing

What’s the first thing we hear when we’re stressed? “Take a deep breath.” It’s true — slow, focused breathing is great for your health. You can practice rhythmic breathing by counting slowly to five as you inhale, and then do the same as you exhale. Notice how your body naturally relaxes on the exhale. It may also help if you incorporate visual techniques into your breathing. Imagine relaxation entering your body through your breath as you inhale, then picture stress leaving your body as you exhale.

Relax Your Muscles

If you’ve ever practiced meditation, you may be familiar with progressive muscle relaxation. While taking deep, slow breaths, pay attention to an individual part of your body where you may be holding tension, then imagine relaxing that part of your body before moving on to another muscle. You can repeat this exercise until your whole body is relaxed. If this is difficult, it may help to combine this exercise with calming music.

Think Positive Thoughts

When we’re stressed, we tend to be overwhelmed by negative thoughts. Embracing positive imagery can help take some of the edge off. Repeat positive mantras when you’re trying to relax, for example: I am strong. I am healthy. Everything is going to be okay. This can help to rid yourself of any negativity that brings stress.

Relaxation can certainly help manage stress levels and lower the negative physical and mental side effects of stress. However, it is not enough to cure a tremor. If your essential tremor symptoms are greatly affecting your quality of life, it may be time to consider treatment. Our educators at the Essential Tremor Education Center are here to answer your questions and help determine a treatment plan. You can speak to an educator today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR today.

 

Essential Tremor and Art

Ask anyone with hand tremors what is most difficult in their life, and they are likely to say the same things: drinking a glass of water, signing a check, buttoning a shirt. Since essential tremor is an action tremor, symptoms are most severe when you’re using fine motor skills. That said, can you imagine creating art while experiencing hand tremors? Many people do just this — and find it to be an excellent way to lower stress.

An Artist With a Tremor

A.V. Flores, based in New York, works on intricate, detailed paintings that blend humans, animals, and machinery together — and he does it all with a tremor. While it’s never stopped him from doing what he loves, it has still added a level of complexity and slowed him down. A single piece can take him up to three months. To counteract this, he takes beta blockers an hour before painting to relax his hands, and waits until each layer of paint is completely dry before continuing his work. Yet, with effort and patience, his paintings remain surreal and beautiful. Want to try picking up art yourself? Here are a few tips to get started.

Make References Your New Best Friend

If you’re nervous about others seeing your hands shake, don’t worry — there are plenty of ways you can find inspiration within your own home. Find a place where you feel comfortable and use printed-out photos for references while painting. If you’re completely new to art, try picking up a how-to book or DVD. Then, when you’re relaxed and ready, pick up those brushes! Staying as comfortable as possible will prevent stress from triggering a more severe tremor.

Use a Large Canvas

Don’t worry about miniature paintings. Instead, opt for large canvases to display your artwork. Think of your painting as one that will be seen from a distance! A jagged line here or there won’t be as noticeable, as everyone will be focused on the bigger picture. Try stepping away from your art and viewing it from a distance — you’ll see the smaller details won’t matter as much as you originally thought.

Don’t Rush

Like any hobby, painting can take time, and as A.V. Flores has shown, a good painting can take a little more time and effort when you have a tremor. That’s okay! You can choose a fast-drying paint, such as acrylic, and wait for the paint to dry before adding the next layer. This will make it easier to hide any mistakes; just paint over them and move on! You’ll be creating beautiful art in no time. Hand tremors can be stressful, making art a good opportunity to relax. However, if you find that your tremors are too severe for art — or other daily activities — consider looking into essential tremor treatment options. You can talk to one of our educators today about potential treatment options by contacting us online or calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

The Mediterranean and Gluten-Free Diet: Potential for Symptom Relief

If you’re experiencing mild essential tremor symptoms, you may be searching for simple symptomatic relief without jumping straight into surgery. Medication can be helpful for individuals with a minor tremor, but can your diet affect it is as well? While it’s generally recommended to avoid stimulants such as caffeine, a Mediterranean or gluten-free diet may offer some additional relief. But remember, always talk to your doctor before making a dietary change to make sure the diet is right for you.

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet focuses on fresh, unprocessed whole foods — lots of vegetables, fruits, and fish while consuming minimal dairy, meat, poultry, and alcohol. A 2007 case study showed that, while essential tremor has roots in genetics, diet and toxins can also be an influencing factor. By opting for a Mediterranean diet full of positive antioxidants, you can take a step toward preventing essential tremor by improving your overall health, heart health, and reducing inflammation.

The Gluten-Free Diet

Consuming gluten has been shown to cause both inflammatory nerve damage and neurological autoimmune disease. Since essential tremor is largely a neurological condition, some individuals have shown symptomatic relief after dropping gluten from their diet. However, this isn’t always enough to help tremors, as other gluten-induced deficiencies can remain. These include a lack of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, and CoQ10. While there are supplements to help with these deficiencies, make sure to talk to a doctor to guarantee you take the proper amount.

A Mediterranean or gluten-free diet is unlikely to cure your essential tremor symptoms, but it may help remove some triggers that make your tremors worse. Beyond tremors, antioxidants and a lack of inflammatory foods can still be beneficial for your health. But if your tremors are too severe to be managed through dietary changes, it may be time to investigate treatment options for tremor relief. You can talk to our educators to explore what treatment options are available to you by contacting us online or calling 844-NO-TREMOR today.

Patient Spotlight: Ken Blum

Hand tremors like essential tremor often develop in adults over 50. For adults who have had a longtime tremor, they may wonder if they’re too old to receive treatments like focused ultrasound. At 91 years old, Ken Blum has proven that there’s no reason to worry about your age as a possible inhibitor. He has just recently undergone focused ultrasound treatment and was excited to share his story on Tremor Chats.

Blum first noticed his tremor when sitting down with a friend who also had essential tremor—and pointed out to him that his hand was shaking. Over 10 years, Blum watched his tremor get progressively worse. He described his tremor as “embarrassing.” He couldn’t eat food without making a mess and couldn’t enjoy a beer with his friends without drinking through a straw.

He took to the internet to find possible treatment options and saw focused ultrasound treatment being studied in Israel. He followed news about focused ultrasound for 2 or 3 years until he started seeing Dr. Kaplitt’s name appear in articles. Dr. Kaplitt worked out of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York—a location much closer to Blum, who lived in Florida.

Blum took the 1200 mile journey to receive treatment at Weill Cornell. And his overall experience was worth the trip. He found the staff and environment to be comfortable enough that his claustrophobia wasn’t an issue, even while lying in the cramped MRI machine. Afterward, he was even able to hold a glass of water without spilling.

On Tremor Chats, Blum shows off the difference between his treated and untreated hands with humor. “Hello,” he says, holding up his now steady hand. “And goodbye,” he says, holding up his untreated hand, shaking enough to appear as though he were waving goodbye. He considers this joke to be part of his post-treatment bucket list—at the top of his list is to make at least two people a day laugh. If you’re worried about receiving treatment at an older age, check out Ken Blum sharing his inspiring story on Tremor Chats. You can also share any questions or concerns about your hand tremors with one of our educators by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

Patient Spotlight: Kyle Fernandez

When is it time to finally investigate treating hand tremors? For Kyle Fernandez, he decided decades after first developing a tremor. Unlike many people who don’t experience tremors until later in life, Fernandez developed his tremors as a child. It wasn’t until he discovered MR-guided focused ultrasound treatment, also known as Neuravive, that he decided to finally undergo treatment.

During his discussion with Doug Couch on Tremor Chats, Fernandez explained he has had tremors for as long as he can remember. His parents initially considered it to be a side-effect of his asthma medication — until he finally went to see neurologists in high school. The neurologist said that he had early onset of Parkinson’s. As a young high schooler, this diagnosis confused him because he had only seen older people with Parkinson’s. How could he possibly have this condition? The neurologist put him on an anti-epilepsy medicine to help with his shakes. The side-effects were too disorientating, however, so he discontinued the treatment.

Years later, Fernandez saw another neurologist. This doctor had him perform a series of actions using his hands and then asked him to stand still with his hands by his sides. When his hands were at rest, the tremor was diminished — a telltale sign this was essential tremor, not Parkinson’s. His suggested treatment, however, didn’t sound appealing to Fernandez. The doctor explained a treatment that would drill into Fernandez’s brain to treat the tremor, and then explained the possible, worst-case-scenario side effects. Fernandez decided to not take the risk.

Still, Fernandez didn’t want to live his whole life with a tremor. He eventually hit his boiling point but couldn’t find a treatment he felt comfortable with. A few months ago he stumbled across a YouTube video about Neuravive, a treatment that lesions the affected area of the brain without using radiation or surgery. This entirely changed his view on essential tremor. “My whole life kind of shifted, like an earthquake,” Fernandez said. “Like, there’s something that can be done to fix what I’ve battled with for so long.”

He continued to research the treatment until he discovered Doug Couch and heard his story. Excited to find someone with a similar experience, Fernandez reached out to finally talk to someone else about life with tremors. And through that connection, he was able to get in touch with a facility that could finally treat his tremors.

Fernandez completed the Neuravive treatment this April and finally experiences a diminished hand tremor — a feeling he hasn’t had his entire life. Want to hear more about Fernandez’s story? You can hear him discuss his experiences on this episode of Tremor Talks before his treatment and this episode after his treatment. He couldn’t have gotten tremor relief without the “white glove service” offered for free by the Essential Tremor Education Center. If you want to know if Neuravive or another treatment option may be available to you, please reach out to one of our educators by calling 844-NO-TREMOR today and receive the same service as Kyle.

Patient Spotlight: Michael Riley

A minor tremor can be an annoyance, but a severe tremor can have a huge impact on anyone’s daily life. Luckily, through advances in tremor treatment, many patients with essential tremor are beginning to regain the autonomy they lost once their tremors began. Michael Riley, a former chiropractor and mountain climber, found his once-minor tremors to become unbearable after an injury—until he sought treatment.

Riley was first diagnosed with essential tremor 35 years ago. At the time, they were minor and manageable, not impacting his work. But a year ago, he suffered a severe rotator cuff injury, and later developed CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome). He received 8 shots to minimize the pain—but the entire ordeal had caused his tremors to become unbearable within the span of a year.

His pain, followed by his tremors, affected his chiropractic work. He first had to stop due to his hands being in too much pain to touch anyone—and then had to stop again because of how bad his right hand was shaking. As an independent person, Riley was frustrated at how deep the tremor affected him. He could no longer write poetry, either by hand or on a computer. He struggled to eat and to button up a shirt. He recounts how he once had to ask a stranger to tie his shoe while in a department store.

No dose of medication could keep his tremor under control. He started taking 5mg a day and kept upping his dose until he capped at 750 mg daily. The medications were no help, and Riley turned down his doctor’s suggestion to pursue the invasive surgery, Deep Brain Stimulation.

Riley’s wife decided to do her own research. She discovered the Essential Tremor Education Center and reached out for information about potential treatment. The turnaround was quick. Two weeks later, Riley was able to undergo focused ultrasound treatment for his tremors. The benefits were immediate. On Tremor Chats, he shows a pre-treatment video of his right hand, severely shaking even in slow motion. He then held up his treated right hand—completely steady.

Want to hear more of Riley’s story? You can see his tremor treatment journey on his appearance on Tremor Chats. And if you want to know if focused ultrasound or another type of treatment may be beneficial for you, please reach out to one of our educators by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.

Eating Utensils for Essential Tremor

We all need food to survive. But for those with hand tremors, basic tasks like eating and drinking can become complicated or embarrassing. The psychological impact of this can also be stressful which can be a trigger for a more severe tremor. Luckily, there are tools available to help you regain autonomy. These various dining utensils are designed to make it easy to enjoy a meal — without worrying about spilling food.

Weighted Eating Utensils

Weighted forks and spoons have been popular for individuals with any sort of tremor. The weight helps to steady the tremor so that the utensils are easier to control. This set also comes with a contoured handle to comfortably fit the natural grooves in your hand. You can find a full set of forks, spoons, and knives here.

Slant Scoop Dish

Are you struggling to get food out of the bowl without spilling? There are bowls designed to make eating simple with a tremor. This dish has a slanted rim so that you can scrape food against the high wall for an easy, no-mess dinner. The lower wall also gives you more room to get your spoon in the bowl, without bumping the rim. The bowl itself is also skid-resistant, for added stability when it’s sitting on the table.

Non-spill Cup

Having a cup that’s easy to drink out of can be a huge relief. This cup has an easy-grip handle and a lid so you don’t have to worry about spilling a drop. There’s room for a straw, and you don’t have to spend money on any fancy straws for this cup — the average store-bought pack will do just fine.

With a combination of weighted spoons, skid-resistant bowls, and non-spill cups, you can enjoy eating again without worrying about making any sort of mess. If your hand tremors are too severe for this sort of management, then treatment may be your next step. You can see what treatment options may be available by calling one of our educators today at 844-NO-TREMOR.

Elimination Diet: Potential for Relieving Some Essential Tremor Symptoms

Before seeking treatment for essential tremor, some may want to look into other options for symptomatic relief. If you have a mild tremor, an elimination diet may be able to help you better manage your symptoms. Be sure to consult a physician before making any changes to your diet or eliminating certain foods to make sure you’re doing what is most healthy for you.

Try an Elimination Diet

The purpose of an elimination diet is to identify any nutritional factors that may be making your tremor worse. You can start by removing certain foods from your diet for two to three weeks. If symptoms improve, start reintroducing foods, one by one, into your diet. This will help you get a better idea of which foods impact your tremor. There are certain foods you can start with that are more likely to exacerbate tremors.

Caffeinated beverages and foods are a great place to start when choosing what to eliminate from your diet first. Stimulants are a known trigger for tremors. This group can include coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, and tea. Many people think that caffeine only comes from beverages, but watch out for caffeine in foods such as chocolate, certain ice creams, and even some types of jerky.

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco can also make tremors worse. Avoid alcohol from two to three weeks and see if your tremor symptoms are less pronounced. You can also do this with smoking tobacco.

Once you’ve discovered which foods are largely responsible for triggering your tremor, continue to try other foods just in case you find additional causes. Other types of foods to try include dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk. Other foods such as eggs, meat (especially red meat), and certain fruits and vegetables could be tested out as well.

Make sure you do not eliminate all of these foods and beverages at once, but start with a couple at a time so you can find out what makes your tremor worse. As for what other foods to remove, make sure to talk to a nutritionist to see what would be most healthy and beneficial for your overall health.

While dietary changes and herbal remedies can help with symptoms, there are treatments for essential tremor. If your symptoms are too severe to manage, it may be time to see what treatment options could help. Want to see what paths may be available to your essential tremor? Talk to our educators today by calling 844-NO-TREMOR.