Intention Tremor vs. Essential Tremor

Did you know that not all tremors are the same?
Some symptoms are categorized as essential tremors, while others are considered intention tremors.

If you are experiencing tremors, it does not necessarily mean that you have an essential tremor or intention tremors. Continue reading to discover the difference between these two conditions.

First, it is important to be able to differentiate between essential tremor and intention tremor.

Basic Definitions

Essential Tremor Definition

Essential tremor refers to the neurological or nervous system disorder which causes rhythmic and involuntary shaking. This disorder can affect almost any body part, but the symptoms are often most prominent in the hands.

Most people with essential tremors find that their tremor is more apparent when doing simple tasks, such as tying shoelaces or drinking from a glass. While this condition is not dangerous, it can progress over time. Most often, essential tremors appear during or after people reach their 40s.

Intention Tremor Definition

Intention tremor is another form of tremor which is defined as the involuntary and rhythmic muscle contractions during purposeful, voluntary movements. The amplitude of the oscillations gets worse when the movement proceeds. In other words, the tremors increase in intensity once a target is reached.

This medical condition results from cerebellum dysfunction, specifically on the same side as the tremors in the lateral zone. These tremors are either unilateral or bilateral (meaning on one side of the body, or both sides of the body) depending on the location of the cerebellar damage.

The Causes
The cause of essential tremor disorder is different from the cause of intention tremor.

Essential Tremor Causes

Unfortunately, the cause of the Essential tremor is still unknown. One theory suggests that the cause of Essential tremor could be due to miscommunication between the cerebellum and other parts of the brain.

This condition is hereditary. In other words, if you suffer from essential tremor there is a 50% chance that your children will inherit the genes responsible for this disorder.

Intention Tremor Causes

The most common cause of Intention Tremor is MS (Multiple sclerosis) which is an autoimmune disorder affecting the nerve’s exteriors which disrupts the communication between the brain and body parts.

Other causes of intention tremor include dysfunction of the cerebellum, known as a cerebellar tremor. The cerebellum is a small structure located behind the brainstem. It is responsible for coordinating voluntary movement, balance, posture, and other functions.

Once the communication between various brain parts is compromised, feedback mechanisms are disrupted. This can result in intention tremors and trouble executing the movement. Trauma to the midbrain or stroke can also cause benign intention tremors.

The Diagnoses

There are several ways to diagnose essential and intention tremors.


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Essential Tremor Diagnosis

Essential tremor in the hands and other parts of the body is diagnosed in various ways. A physical examination of the tremor, coupled with a neurological examination may help in diagnosing essential tremor.

The doctor may have to rule out other conditions that can contribute to the trembling or shaking. For instance, tremors can be symptoms of different diseases like hyperthyroidism. A physician might recommend the following, in order to rule out other potential tremor causes:

  • Avoiding or reducing specific medicines;

  • Avoiding caffeine;

  • Abstaining from heavy alcohol use.

Intention Tremor Diagnosis

Prior to diagnosing a patient with an Intention tremor, there are various tests that are performed. Generally, a physician will complete a full neurological examination as well as a complete evaluation of your medical history prior to diagnosis. Two kinds of tests may be required in order to diagnose intention tremor, including:

  • The heel-to-shin test

  • The finger-to-nose test

There are other assessments completed to confirm diagnosis, once a neurological examination and medical history check have been completed. These include the following:

  • Gait abnormality

  • Suffering in completing your daily activities

  • Some problems in organizing separate activities, such as hand-eye coordination

Your doctor may ask you to perform the following procedures:

  • Review of past medications

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

  • Echocardiograms tests

  • Blood tests

  • Nerve conduction studies

The Treatments

Thankfully, there are various treatment options available to ease the symptoms associated with essential tremor and intention tremor.

Essential Tremor Treatments

Frankly, there isn’t any ET cure. However, the condition is treatable. These treatments have been proven to slow progression of the disease, in most cases.

Individuals with minor essential tremor symptoms may not need treatment. But, if the symptoms associated with the essential tremor are severe, a healthcare provider will advise treatments. Some treatments include blood pressure medications, Beta-blockers, and others. The list below summarizes all the available treatment choices:

  • Medications. These medications include beta-blockers (propranolol) that prevent tremors, blood pressure medications (flunarizine), mid tranquilizers (alprazolam), and anticonvulsant medications (primidone) that reduce the nerve cells excitability.

  • Therapies. Individuals who suffer from essential tremors can take advantage of physical therapies. Physical therapy helps to improve muscle control and coordination. A botox injection can also be done in the hands to weaken muscles in order to minimize or stop shaking.

  • Surgery. When other treatments for Essential tremors fail to provide relief, surgery is an option. Some of the surgical options include stereotactic radiosurgery and deep brain stimulation.

Stereotactic radiosurgery involves pinpointing high-powered x-rays on small brain areas to correct tremors. Deep brain stimulation involves placing small electrodes on the brain area that controls movements. Those electrodes will help block the nerve signals that cause the tremors.

Intention Tremor Treatments

The treatment of intention tremor focuses on treating the underlying cause. If a person experiences a minor intention tremor, treatment may be simple.

If a particular medication is suspected to be causing the tremors, the doctor may suggest discontinuing that medication. People with this condition can improve their ability to participate in activities through supportive treatments. These treatments include wearing wrist weights, engaging in physical therapy, doing positioning and relaxation techniques, and engaging in gait rehabilitation. In most cases, medications are not prescribed to treat this condition.

Multiple-sclerosis-induced tremors may require more invasive procedures like radiosurgery, which uses radiation during surgical procedures. Thalamic deep brain stimulation is also considered, which involves electrodes implantation in the specific brain structures.


In all, essential tremors and intention tremors differ in many ways. Both tremors might be diagnosed by investigating muscle oscillations during a physical examination. Essential tremor muscle oscillations are slower and look more like zigzag movements.

Most often, essential tremor affects the upper limb structures. It may also affect the vocal cords or head. Some people with essential tremors notice that their tremor worsens when trying to complete a task, or when they are feeling anxious.

So, there you have it! If you think you may be experiencing an essential tremor or an intention tremor, it is always best to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. One of these remarkable solutions is the Steadi-Two from Steadiwear. The Steadi-Two is a glove that helps reduce hand tremors in order to improve your life satisfaction. If you would like to learn more about the Steadi-Two, please subscribe to our newsletter mailing list!


Learn more about the Steadi-Two- a revolutionary glove designed to reduce hand tremors.

Learn More


  • Pete H

    I have had essential tremors since I was eight years old when officially diagnosed. I am now 53, and it’s a progressive disease. Over time, it has increased and decreased my abilities to function in normal daily activities. My underlining cause is a genetic syndrome, which I have had since birth; however, it was not officially recognized until age 43. I have tried a dozen medications throughout my life and am not taking any since I like to be alive and understand my daily life. I love the quality of life more than any drug. At this stage, there is no way they are cutting my head open to implant anything. I continue in life and enjoy the time I have left, and when it’s over, it’s over. We are all destined to die; however, I plan to enjoy my time here while I still can drug and mechanical-free.

  • Feather Hicks

    I have essential tremors as far as I have been told. tremors are in the hands and a possibly the arm. I have had this since I was late 30’s, early 40’s and has only gotten worse. I am 75 now . I have been looking for a simple solution without all the medicine which I am very sensitive to. The Steadiwear 2 would be ideal since I paint or try to. However, I am petite and my hand size is 7 inches. Will this work for me? or is there a way to improvise? Appreciate a response…it is getting worse . Thank you so much. As soon as you can tell me I will get one ordered.

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