Migraine Quiz

Essential Tremor

What Is Essential Tremor?

Essential tremor is the most common neurologic movement disorder, affecting 10 million people in the US . It is a slowly progressive neurologic disorder that causes shaking of the hands, and sometimes also the head and voice. Although it can occur at any age, essential tremor (or ET) more commonly occurs in those 40 and over. At age 40, ET affects about 4% of the population. It becomes more prevalent in older people.

Essential tremor can run in families—about half the time it is due to a genetic mutation. ET occurs in men and women equally, although head tremor is more likely to occur in women.

The tremor that occurs in ET occurs with use and is not present at rest or while you are asleep. Stress will make the tremor worse. The tremor can also be worsened by fatigue, cold, strong emotions, caffeine, low blood sugar, and some antidepressants.

Essential Tremor and Migraine

in a small study of patients with ET, 36.5% also had migraine. In a group of migraine patients, 17% had ET as compared to 1.2% of the control group. Another small study did not find an association between the two. Yet another opinion has been advanced based on a small study that the tremor present in migraine patients is, in fact, due to small strokes and not due to the progressive neurologic disorder that is essential tremor.

Case reports have also been made of a familial disorder with migraine headaches, episodic vertigo, and essential tremor in affected family members.

This is a good resource about essential tremor


1. Biary N, Koller W, Langenberg P. Correlation between essential tremor and migraine headache. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1990;53(12):1060-1062.
2. Barbanti P, Fabbrini G, Aurilia C, et al. No association between essential tremor and migraine: A case-control study. Cephalalgia. 2010;30(6):686 -689.
3. Baloh RW, Foster CA, Yue Q, Nelson SF. Familial migraine with vertigo and essential tremor. Neurology. 1996;46(2):458-460.
4. Duval C, Norton L. Tremor in patients with migraine. Headache. 2006;46(6):1005-1010.

by Christina Peterson, MD

updated June 17, 2007