essential tremor shaking hand

It was the christmas before last, while eating dinner, when I first noticed that my father’s hands shook.  When he lifted a glass of water to his mouth, his hand shook.  When he tried to use cutlery to bring food to his mouth, his hand shook.  “Dad, do you have Parkinson’s ?”  we asked.  Because, when you see someone with shaking hands, you just assume it’s Parkinson’s.  What we soon learned was that he had Essential Tremor.

What is Essential Tremor ?

Essential Tremor is often mistaken for Parkinson’s, but there is a distinct difference – Essential Tremor is always most obvious when the hands are being used, but are stable at rest – in Parkinson’s Disease the hands usually shake most when at rest, and less when they are being used.

Essential Tremor is also far more prevalent than Parkinson’s – 20 times more – and is believed to be one of the most common neurological disorders among older individuals.  It is estimated that up to 4% of the Australian population aged 40 years and over are affected by Essential Tremor, and up to 14% of people over 65 years.  While hand tremor is most common, the head, arms, voice, tongue, legs, and trunk may also be involved or eventually impacted.

For most, Essential Tremor is often more embarrassing than disabling, interfering with day to day activities such as carrying items, drinking from a cup, eating, writing, sewing or putting toothpaste on a toothbrush.  Heightened emotion/anxiety or stress is often a key trigger to tremor or increased severity – for some, the anxiety of potentially being seen with the tremor can trigger tremors and increase severity.

Essential Tremor can first appear at any age between childhood and old age, but most commonly after age 40.  It affects men and women equally.  It is also genetic, with a child of an Essential Tremor sufferer having a 50-50 chance of also having it.  I have a 50-50 chance of my hands starting to shake too !

essential tremor write pen

Bowen Therapy for Essential Tremor ?

As a Bowen Therapist, I hoped that I would have found information about how Bowen Therapy has helped Essential Tremor sufferers – but, there was essentially nothing written about it, and very little about other natural or alternative therapies.  People seemed to either take medication, had surgery if it was very bad, or learned to live with it and work around the tremors – there is no cure.  With Bowen Therapy having influence on neurological pathways, and with it’s reputation for helping stress and anxiety, Bowen would be expected to be of help to Essential Tremor sufferers.


A small study was conducted in Sydney in 2015 to evaluate the effectiveness of Bowen on Essential Tremor symptoms.  Five people took part, aged between 36 and 72,  with age of onset from childhood to 60’s, and a range of severity from mild to severe.  Some took medication, regularly or only when needed, and some preferred to live life without.  Four had clearly identified familial connections.  All were treated to three Bowen sessions.

Three of the five participants felt a clear anecdotal improvement in their tremor within the first couple of sessions.  “I’m showing off to my family that I can carry a cup of tea”  “I’ve written my class notes for the first time in ages, and while it’s not pretty, I kept up and i can read them”  “I threaded a needle”  and “I’m typing like a demon”  were some of the comments.  Over the course of three sessions, the severity of tremor (on a 0-5 scale trying to hold/drink from a glass) reduced from an average rating of 2 before the first treatment, to an average rating of <1 after the second treatment, and 0 after the third.

essential tremor hold cup tea

The people who felt the improvement were also the ones who noted a correlation in their tremor with stress and anxiety.  “I start shaking just thinking about trying to eat in front of others”  “it gets bad when I’m in a busy supermarket queue and need to quickly get change into my purse – it gets even harder because the more I try to go faster, the more my hand shakes”

Bowen Therapy helped these people manage their tremor and anxiety for up to a month after treatment – and only starting to worsen as anxiety levels in life increased.

It is believed that there may be an influence of certain types of medication on the effectiveness of Bowen Therapy for Essential Tremor, but the size of the study currently prevents reliable conclusions to be drawn in this area.

Net, Bowen Therapy can help many people impacted by Essential Tremor manage their tremor, especially if their tremor is triggered or exacerbated by stress and anxiety.

The recommendation is to try two Bowen Therapy sessions to understand if you feel relief.  From there, your Bowen Therapist will work with you to determine the best maintenance schedule for you, to treat again just before you feel the tremors getting worse – this maintenance timing is one that will be dependent on the person, but the data from the study indicates that a monthly treatment may be typical to help manage the tremors.

essential tremor hand type

For those in Sydney (Australia), Lisa at Simply Bowen Therapy has a keen interest in Bowen Therapy for Essential Tremor, and will use knowledge from the study in determining a treatment plan.

For those in other locations, to find a Bowen Therapist near you, try the Bowen Association of Australia or Bowtech websites.  Ask your Bowen Therapist to contact Lisa at Simply Bowen Therapy to discuss the study – the information from the study can help your treatment, and your treatment can assist with improving the data on Bowen Therapy’s impact on Essential Tremor.


Great sources of information about Essential Tremor are at the International Essential Tremor Foundation (IETF) website, the Brain Foundation for local Australian support, and the National Tremor Foundation in the UK.  The statistics on demographics of Essential Tremor quoted above were from a 2014 essay by Ass.Prof. J Kavanagh PhD.