Why Do Old People Shake? (Causes of Sudden Shaking in the Elderly)

October 21, 2020

Some people might develop a tremor as they get older, although shaking can occur at any age. While trembling is often conflated with Parkinson’s disease, there are many other common causes of shaking, from temporary, benign conditions to side effects of prescription drugs. If you’re an older patient curious about the cause of your shaking, keep reading to understand some of the causes of tremor in elderly populations. It’s important to note that only your healthcare provider is capable of providing you with a diagnosis and treatment plan for tremors.

Keep reading for a comprehensive explanation or, jump to the section relevant to your query.


Tremors and Aging

Causes of Tremor in the Elderly

Hereditary Prevalence

Types of Tremors

Tremors and Aging

Shaking in elderly populations can occur because of benign issues that resolve on their own, or they can be caused by underlying diseases. Not all older adults experience shaking as they age — but if movement disorders run in your family, there’s a higher chance you will develop trembling as well. Age-related tremor is still being studied, but according to the ncbi.nlm.nhi.gov, it is likely a sign of neurodegeneration.

Causes of Tremor in the Elderly

Curious why old people shake? There are many potential causes of trembling and involuntary movement. And shakiness isn’t just an issue that affects the elderly, you can experience tremors at any age. For example, you might notice that when you haven’t eaten in a while, your hands begin to shake from low levels of blood sugar.

This is just one of the many reasons you may experience tremors and shaking. Below, we’ll explore conditions commonly associated with shaking hands and other tremors in old age.

Medical Conditions

Essential Tremor

Essential tremor is a common movement disorder that can negatively impact quality of life. It can affect one or both hands and typically it’s worse during specific actions like drinking from a cup. The tremor can also occur in the head, torso, and voice.

Although there is no cure, there are therapies and treatments available to manage the symptoms.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is found more frequently in people over 60 years of age. The shakiness is caused by the degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain. In turn, Parkinson’s patients experience a deterioration in muscle control and an overall reduction in life expectancy.

According to apda parkinson.org, 80% of Parkinson’s patients experience involuntary movements. With that said, Parkinson’s disease isn’t the most common reason why old people shake. In fact, it is estimated that only about 1% of people over the age of 60 have Parkinson’s disease.

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s is an inherited disease that causes the decline of the brain and reduces life expectancy, with symptoms that start between the ages of 30 and 50. In most cases, the disease is characterized by involuntary movement of the arms, legs, head, face, and upper body. It also causes a deterioration in thinking and reasoning.

Caffeine Toxicity

Caffeine can sometimes induce tremor if you drink too much of it. Besides tremors, you might also experience anxiety, restlessness, agitation, stomach issues, an irregular heartbeat, and insomnia. Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, or the “fight or flight” hormone, which can cause shaking.

Pharmaceutical Side Effects

Certain prescribed drugs listed below may result in tremor as a side effect. Excess thyroid medication

  • Epinephrine and norepinephrine
  • High blood pressure drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Antivirals
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Stimulants
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Asthma medication
  • Seizure medication
  • Cancer treatments

Overactive Thyroid

The signs of an overactive thyroid can be subtle. Millions of people suffer from an overactive thyroid gland, which basically means that your body is in overdrive at all times. Because your nerves are overstimulated, your hands might shake as a result. You might also experience a racing heart, weight loss, insatiable hunger, perspiration, exhaustion, and heat intolerance.

Alcohol Abuse or Withdrawal

Hand tremors can be a symptom of excessive alcohol consumption as well as a withdrawal symptom. These tremors can begin as soon as 10 hours after your last drink and may last for weeks. This is one of the many reasons recovering alcoholics should reduce their alcohol intake only under the guidance of a healthcare provider and addiction specialist. Rehab and detox programs can offer medications to help manage tremors and other signs of alcohol withdrawal.


When your body is hypoglycemic, it means your muscles and nerves are low on their energy source: blood sugar. As a result, your hands may shake. You might also experience symptoms like sweating, hunger, sweating, and anxiety because hypoglycemia triggers the release of hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine.


Anxiety can be another reason why elderly people shake. When you have anxiety, your body is primed to react to danger which can mean your muscles twitch or shake in response. Anxiety tremors are also known as psychogenic tremors.

Preparing food

Hereditary Prevalence

Tremor can be passed along genetically. Those who have movement disorders within their genealogy are more likely to develop a tremor.

Types of Tremor

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke outlines the different types of tremor that can affect tremor patients, from temporary shaking to long term movement disorders.

Action Tremor

An action tremor is often associated with essential tremor (ET), is a very common movement disorder mentioned earlier. Action tremor is a class of tremors that occur with voluntary muscle contraction. This class of tremors includes postural, isometric, and kinetic tremor. Postural tremor can happen when a person is in a position where a part of their body is working against gravity, like holding out their arms. Kinetic tremor occurs with voluntary actions like opening and closing your eyes. And isometric tremor happens during a voluntary muscle contraction without any additional movement, like holding a book or weight.

Physiologic Tremor

This is the tremor that everyone has. You usually won’t notice it because it’s the result of normal human bodily functions. Your muscles naturally pulsate from your heart beating and blood pumping through your body.

Enhanced Physiologic Tremor

This tremor is a more noticeable form of the tremor seen in healthy individuals. Instead of being induced from disease, it’s usually a temporary condition resulting from hypoglycemia, alcohol, or a reaction to drugs. It can be reversed once the cause is found.

Cerebellar Tremor

This tremor occurs at the end of a purposeful movement like pressing a button. Usually, the shakiness happens due to damage to the brain after a stroke or other health issues like multiple sclerosis or chronic alcoholism.

Working on a computer

Psychogenic Tremor

Psychogenic tremor is brought on by stress, anxiety, depression, or from an underlying psychiatric issue like PTSD. The tremor can affect the hands but may impact all body parts. It increases during stress and can go away when the person is distracted.

Parkinsonian Tremor

Not all people with Parkinson’s disease have a tremor although it’s a common symptom. The tremor usually occurs at rest in one or both hands. Sometimes patients with Parkinson’s disease also experience tremors with movement of their limbs. Shakiness can also be seen in the head, face, or legs. Although it can start on one side of the body, it can spread to both sides as the disease worsens.

Orthostatic Tremor

This tremor is very rare and it’s characterized by very fast shaking usually imperceptible by observation alone. In some cases, people with orthostatic tremor feel imbalanced or unsteady. The cause is unknown.

Patient holding wrist

Dealing with Tremor in Old Age: Cala Trio’s Unique Answer

If you’re concerned about tremor or you’re dealing with sudden tremor, you should go to your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment. For more common movement disorders like essential tremor, there are revolutionary new therapies created to help make symptoms more manageable. Every person’s tremor is unique. Cala Trio offers a noninvasive way to manage tremor in the form of a wristband calibrated to the pattern of your shaking.

Cala Trio therapy has been cleared by the FDA and continued use, Cala Trio may help increase quality of life.

The wristband works by sending electrical signals to the brain where it disrupts the brain’s network responsible for tremor. Cala Trio’s clinical study showed that after one stimulation session, many patients experienced a meaningful reduction in tremors. 64% of patients reported persistent relief from their essential tremor for an average time of 94 minutes.

Although there isn’t a cure for essential tremor, there are many therapies and treatments you can leverage to manage symptoms and enjoy your golden years with less worry.