I'm a guitarist, and have been playing well over 40 years. I'm going on 61 FYI. Over the course of the last 15 years or so, I've begun to have what are apparently called "intention tremors", just in those two fingers (ring and pinky fingers on the left hand). "intention" means they don't shake on their own, but will tremble when I apply any tension or presure (in other words, when i try to use them!). I'm sure my hand position technique has improved over a lifetime of playing. Though I may have contributed to the issue in the past, I don't think I'm doing anything wrong technique wise NOW to add to the problem. My doctor ran some tests and concluded there is nothing like "Parkinson's" going on, but suggested it may be a side effect of beta-agonists I take for asthma. (Not surprisingly, there are meds called "beta-blockers" which could help, that are NOT recommended for people with asthma.) It is also possible that I have some Carpal Tunnel syndrome going on here, as I've had finger numbness come and go in this hand over the years too.

Now fortunately the problem has remained confined to these fingers. I "dabble" in piano too, and I do some right hand intensive finger picking on the guitar. So I'd notice right away if the problem were in my right hand too. Its not.

The thing is, despite my best efforts to work through this problem (as any musician would), there are occasional pieces of music that require me to use these fingers (especially the pinky) in a manner that will trigger these tremors to the point where it gets in my way. It is a minor distraction if I'm performing as people have a habit of noticing things like that, but I wouldn't care one bit about that if it never affected the sound. It DOES!

So what I've been doing, aside from trying to minimize my use of asthma meds as much as possible, is I've been trying to invent therapies. In some cases I'll try to move my fingers VERY slowly and try to concentrate on control. I'll also try to hold my finger with my other hand as I move, in order to coerce a smooth motion. For the carpal tunnel possibility, years ago I acquired a device called "wrist trac" which is a simple traction device approved for medical use in Canada, but not yet in the USA. I'm very opposed to the extremely invasive surgery for carpal tunnel, and could not afford it anyway. It did work well, and I can honestly say the occasional numbness as all but been eliminated.

So I'm a big believer in looking for alternative therapies for things like this, and so I'm asking for any and all similar experiences and especially successes people have had. As you see, for the carpal tunnel, that wrists traction device seems to have completely cured the numbness, even though none of my doctors ever heard of it. I suspect there are many such alternative remedies that no doctor would ever tell you, much less know about. But even if the wrist track device has helped, it can only do so much to releive pressure on the nerves. If nerve damage has already been done, however, the best i can do is find ways to focus the amazing healing power of the body. So any and all suggestions are welcome. For what its worth, I promise to not hold anyone responsible for any negative affect of following their advice.

Thanks for listening, and thanks in advance for any experiences shared.

  • Not an answer; but having had carpal tunnel in both hands 30 years ago & had both operated on successfully, one thing about the syndrome is that it is progressive; the other is that even after the op you never fully regain your original motility. That aside, CT doesn't give 'trembling' it displays as 'weakness' or a sense of quick fatigue or slowing down in the fingers, so my non-medical opinion would be that's not what you would appear to have.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 13, 2014 at 18:37
  • WEell I had something called a "nerve conduction' test once, and the doctor concluded I'd be a good candidate for CT surgury. But as an electronic engineer, I have reason to believe he botched the test (I won't bore you with the details). Also, from talking to others who had undergone the surgury, I'm hearing that their typical "3 months recovery tops) is BS. The pain, especially if you try to use your hands for musician duty persists a long time. But regarding the weakness, a guitarist is apt to do a lot more exercising to counter the weakness. But yes... the tremors are probably unrelated.
    – Randy
    Oct 14, 2014 at 16:33

2 Answers 2


I believe what you are experiencing are called "essential tremors". My daughter has had them in her right hand for most of her adult life, and, unfortunately, there is no known cure or treatment.

  • Yes I've heard that description too... both essential tremors and intention tremors. But despite my call for help her, let me encourage you and your daughter to be very slow to resign to the "no known cure". There's No cure for asthma, for example. That is until a British layman discovered that a small number of hookworms introduced cause the body to react in a manner that permanently blocks asthma and allergies. Like that "wrist track" I use for carpel tunnel, many things are totally unknown to the medical profession waiting to be discovered. I'm asking "outside the boX", and so should she.
    – Randy
    Oct 14, 2014 at 16:38

I'm not a doctor so this isn't medical advice but:

Essential Tremor I believe is very similar if not identical to what you're suffering from.

Eliminating caffeine can reduce or eliminate essential tremors as well as the prescription drug Propranolol. The effects of doing either of these things is almost immediate so you only have to skip coffee and tea and/or take Propanolol on the days that you want to play.

Propanolol is a beta-blocker so it's very important that you discuss its use with your doctor. Fortunately, it's quite cheap.

Hypoglycemia can also cause shakiness so if you're a diabetic, you might want to tweak your insulin dose.

  • I do have to be careful with Propranolol, its almost the exact opposite of the beta agonists in my astma meds. I did request a low dose (10mG) from my doctor to 'experiment" with, since my asthma is mild. The jury is out. I do know it makes me calmer if I take it before a performance I'm nervous about, but I have not found the therapeutically effective dose that helps the tremors yet. I'll try a slightly higher dose. Coffee will be a tough nut to crack :-) But I guess its worth trying to wake up to fruit juice for a few days if its something that works within days. Thanks for the tip!
    – Randy
    Oct 14, 2014 at 20:55
  • @Randy, your problem may be related to taking beta agonists, which have muscle tremor as a side effect.
    – empty
    Oct 14, 2014 at 21:21

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