When one or both of your legs are shaking, it’s often called a tremor. This is an involuntary muscle contraction, which means you cannot control your leg movements.
Leg tremors can occur for many reasons and are not always cause for concern. However, some conditions can cause tremors in the legs that may require a visit with your healthcare provider. Read on to learn more about the possible causes of trembling legs.
What is tremor?
Tremors are involuntary movements that occur in predictable patterns. If you have leg tremors, you will notice a pulse or spasm in your muscles, usually lasting only a few minutes. In some cases, tremors can become chronic, which can indicate an underlying health problem.
Causes and treatment of tremors
There are over 20 different types of tremors, but the most common types are:
- Basic: Basic tremors are the most common. Medical researchers aren’t sure what causes essential tremor, but think genetics are involved. Essential tremors occur on both sides of the body and are usually mild, but their severity increases with age.
- Dystonia: Dystonia occurs when a person has a movement disorder called dystonia. Dystonia causes signals from the brain to the muscles to go into overdrive, which basically sends the wrong message to the muscles and causes them to move involuntarily.
- cerebellum: Cerebellar tremor is visible to the naked eye and occurs slowly with movement. They develop when the cerebellum, which controls our body movements, is damaged.
- psychogenic: Also known as functional tremor, psychogenic tremor is associated with an underlying psychiatric disorder. They can manifest as tremors of any kind.
- physiological: Physiological tremors are normal human movements that occur in healthy individuals. These movements are so small that they are barely visible, and usually appear in the hands or fingers as slight vibrations.
Enhanced physiologic tremor
Enhanced physiologic tremors are similar to physiologic tremors, but they are more severe and visible to the naked eye. They are usually reversible because they are caused by things like drug use, alcohol withdrawal, or certain non-life-threatening health conditions.
Causes and consequences of benign essential tremor
Tremors and shaking legs can have a variety of causes, including:
Anxiety drives the body into a near constant fight or flight state. The fight-or-flight response is a physical response designed to alert you to threats and prepare you for survival. In people with anxiety disorders, things that don’t actually threaten a person’s survival trigger a stress response in the body.
During this time, the hormone adrenaline is released and affects the muscles by pumping more blood into the muscles. This reaction also causes tremors in the legs and can cause tremors in other parts of the body.
anxiety and tremors
Anxiety tremors belong to the category of psychogenic tremors. When a person is anxious, they experience several tremor-like sensations, such as muscle twitches, tremors, or tremors.
essential orthostatic tremor
Essential orthostatic tremor is unique to the legs and causes the muscles to contract rapidly when a person stands. People with essential orthostatic tremor may also:
- feeling unstable or out of balance
- Feel the urgency to sit or walk
The tremor itself is so fast that it’s not easy to see, but you can feel it when you put your hand on the area.
What are the different types of tremors?
Alcohol withdrawal can cause tremors that fall into the category of enhanced physiologic tremors. These shaking movements occur because alcohol use alters the functioning of the nervous system.
Quit drinking and shaking your legs
The body shaking that occurs during alcohol withdrawal is often referred to as “shivering” and begins within 5 to 10 hours of a person’s last drink. The shaking can last up to two days.
Stimulants are drugs designed to increase nervous system activity. They can be prescription drugs or recreational.
These drugs can cause tremors in all parts of the body, including the legs. While prescription stimulants can cause tremors to go away after a person stops using the drug, recreational stimulants like cocaine and ecstasy can cause a person to experience tremors that don’t go away.
How to Diagnose Children with Tremors and Tics
Parkinson’s disease is a disease that affects the nervous system. People with Parkinson’s disease experience uncontrollable movements that get progressively worse over time. Tremors are often the first warning sign that a person has the disorder. Other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include:
- arm and leg muscle stiffness or stiffness
- slow motion
- loss of response and balance
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells.
Myelin is a protective covering for nerve cells and can be damaged by cells of the immune system due to MS. When this happens, the communication pathways between the brain and the body do not function properly, leading to symptoms.
If people with multiple sclerosis develop nerve damage in the cells that control the movement of their muscles, they may experience tremors and tremors in the legs.
Multiple Sclerosis and Tremor
While not everyone with MS will experience tremors or tremors in the legs, studies show that it occurs in approximately 25%–58% of people with MS.
Tremors – a common symptom of multiple sclerosis
Dementia is often associated with its most severe symptom, memory loss, but other symptoms do exist in this condition as well.
One such symptom is shaking or tremors in the legs. Because the disease is progressive and causes brain damage, it affects the movement of the body over time.
Other causes of shaking legs
There are other reasons why your legs may be shaking. However, these involuntary leg movements are usually not rhythmic and therefore not tremors.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
RLS looks the same as tremor, but it is different because it is a voluntary movement of the leg.
People with RLS have an uncontrollable urge to move their legs due to uncomfortable sensations such as tingling, burning, or pain. People with RLS may also experience itching and a crawling feeling in the legs. These symptoms improve with exercise and are usually worse at night.
RLS is common in pregnant women, people with diabetes, or people who are deficient in certain nutrients. That being said, anyone can develop this syndrome.
What are the causes and risk factors for restless legs syndrome?
Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary muscle spasms or twitches. Vocalization is also a common symptom of Tourette’s disease. Usually, the syndrome develops slowly with twitching of the head or neck, although it can progress to the trunk as well as the legs and arms.
What is the difference between twitch and tourette?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that usually begins in childhood. Neurodevelopmental disorders are considered disabilities that affect the functioning of the brain and nervous system. Symptoms associated with ADHD include:
- Difficulty practicing impulse control
- become hyperactive, making it difficult to sit still
Leg Shaking and ADHD
Shaking legs can be a symptom of ADHD, as people with ADHD often fidget or squirm because of hyperactivity.
In some cases, a person can experience shaking legs simply because of the medication they are taking. When this happens, it’s called tardive dyskinesia, and it’s classified as an involuntary movement disorder.
Movement or shaking of the entire body may occur. Medications that may cause tardive dyskinesia include:
- Antipsychotics used to treat mental disorders such as schizophrenia
- Anticholinergic drugs used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and Parkinson’s disease are a group of lung diseases
- Antidepressants used to treat mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD
- Antiemetics for severe nausea and acid reflux (return of stomach acid or bile into the food pipe)
- Anticonvulsants used to treat seizures
- Antihistamines used to treat allergy symptoms
- Decongestants used to treat cold and flu symptoms
- Antimalarial drugs used to prevent and treat malaria (a serious disease caused by parasites)
- Medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease
- Anti-Anxiety Drugs for Anxiety Disorders
- Mood stabilizers for the treatment of bipolar disorder and other psychiatric disorders
Treatment options for tremors vary widely for a variety of reasons. In some cases, leg shaking doesn’t require treatment at all because it’s only temporary and goes away on its own.
If a person experiences tremors in the legs due to a specific health condition, the underlying condition will be treated and the tremors may improve as a result. Other treatment options that may be suggested along with disease-specific remedies include:
- Stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga or massage, can be used to help with tremors in the legs caused by anxiety or Parkinson’s disease.
- Avoid certain triggers, such as stimulants, alcohol use, or other drugs that cause shaking legs.
- Surgery such as deep brain stimulation is done if no other treatments are effective and leg shaking is seriously interfering with your life.
When to see your healthcare provider
Shaking legs can be worrying, although it doesn’t always indicate a serious medical condition. See a healthcare professional if you have other symptoms, including difficulty walking or standing, bladder or bowel control, cognitive changes, or vision loss. You may have an underlying medical condition that requires treatment.
In many cases, especially if leg tremors are caused by an underlying medical condition, you can’t stop the tremors from happening. The best way to prevent tremors is to pay attention to other symptoms that accompany tremors, take care of your own health as much as possible, and seek medical advice if tremors become annoying or do not go away.
Uncontrolled movements such as tremors and tremors in the legs may seem bothersome at first, but in many cases they are harmless and go away on their own.
Contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned about shaking your legs or affecting your daily life. They will be able to perform appropriate tests to diagnose possible causes and provide tips on how to deal with leg shake and possibly prevent it if possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can medication cause tremors?
Certain types of medications are known to cause tremors. When a drug does cause a movement disorder, it is often called tardive dyskinesia. In many cases, the tremors go away once the medication is stopped.
What causes shaking hands when sleeping?
Many things can cause tremors during sleep. When they do, it’s called sleep myoclonus. Sleep myoclonus is not a disease itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying health condition.