After doing a lot of typing or other heavy keyboard use, do your fingers tremor? Would multiple sclerosis make your fingers tremble after using them?
That can be scary: watching a few of your fingers involuntarily tremor after extended typing on a keyboard.
You may begin wondering if this is an early sign of multiple sclerosis: the autoimmune disease rearing its ugly head in the face of performing repetitive activity with your fingers.
Tremoring is a word that comes up quite a bit in the world of MS.
But tremoring can also be a benign phenomenon.
“If the tremor is small and short-lasting, it is unlikely to be from MS,” says Achillefs Ntranos, MD, a board certified neurologist specializing in multiple sclerosis and demyelinating diseases, and chief neurologist with Treat MS.
When benign tremoring occurs after typing, this issue usually affects only the fingers rather than making the entire hand jump – though it can make the hand quiver a little. Just one finger may be affected, or a few.
The one or two fingers quiver uncontrollably when your hand is resting or held in certain positions.
Right before your eyes, the finger is trembling. You can’t stop it unless your hand shifts position.
But you also know that when this situation kicks up, it never lasts longer than half the day or even a few hours. It’s certainly gone the next day.
“MS symptoms usually last longer than 24 hours,” says Dr. Ntranos.
“MS tremors are also usually associated with loss of coordination on the same hand or arm.
“Fast prolonged typing can also fatigue the small muscles of the fingers which can then produce a small tremor called ‘muscle fatigue induced hand tremor.’ This can also affect surgeons during long procedures.”
You Have Muscle Fatigue Induced Hand Tremor
I witnessed this in my father one day, and it scared the heck out of him. At elderly age, he was served a tough cut of steak at an event.
For 30 minutes he intently listened to other people speaking, and occasionally asked a question.
And all the while, he was frenetically trying to cut at the meat, every so often disengaging a piece to eat.
His hands had really been going at it; one using a fork and the other a knife. I thought nothing much of it other than that the event coordinator could have done a better job with the steak preparation.
My cut of meat was rather tough, too, but I didn’t have as much difficulty slicing it up.
We then get in the car, which is when my father noticed uncontrollable tremoring of both hands/fingers.
I watched as his hands quivered beyond his control as he held them up. And he was really worried.
I intuitively knew that the issue had been caused by the continuous, repetitive cutting of tough meat. I wasn’t the least bit worried and pointed this cause out to him. But he continued to worry.
I said, “Has anything even remotely close to this happened before? No. It’s very sudden and dramatic.
“Your hands and fingers were perfectly fine all day today, then you struggle with tough steak for half an hour, and immediately after your hands and fingers are tremoring.
“It’s obvious trauma to the little muscle fibers in your fingers; they’re irritated and need some time to calm down. You just watch; in a few hours your hands will be normal.”
My explanation didn’t do much to reassure him, but needless to say, the situation resolved within a few hours. It never recurred.
I, too, have experienced muscle fatigue induced hand tremor – right after using a big weed clipper.
My fingers and hand slightly quivered even while I held a glass of water. My immediate thought was, “What did I just do that could be causing this? The weeds!”
I’ve gotten it after a heavy load of fast typing or playing the piano. The situation predictably resolves, and is never accompanied by weakness or loss of coordination.
On a larger scale, I’ve witnessed muscle fatigue induced hand tremor in legs and feet. I saw a man’s feet rapidly shake every time he lowered the weight stack on the leg extension machine at the gym.
When I was a personal trainer I’d see the entire legs of a few of my clients quivering while using the leg press machine. It’s happened to my legs as well.
Quite simplistically, the muscle fibers get buzzed, overstimulated and fatigued. Rest is the cure.
“Stress or coffee intake can cause a small tremor in the fingers which can be normal and called ‘enhanced physiologic tremor,’ adds Dr. Ntranos.
If multiple sclerosis seems to be on your mind too much, then keep a record of when the tremoring occurs (e.g., immediately after heavy or repetitive use of your hands/fingers), and if there are any other associated symptoms such as pain, weakness, numbness, tingling or clumsiness.
Take note of how long it is before the tremoring disappears. You’ll be reassured that nothing ever comes of these episodes.
Preventing Muscle Fatigue Induced Hand Tremor
- Take breaks from the offending activity.
- Every so often during the activity, stop and make gentle fists, opening and closing them.
- Grab your fingers in one hand and gently compress, and alternate doing this with the other hand.
- Muscle fatigue induced hand tremor won’t necessarily affect both hands equally. One hand or its fingers may be quivering a lot more noticeably than the other. Do not let this alarm you. This asymmetrical response is not suggestive of disease.
Dr. Ntranos is the chief neurologist and MS specialist at Treat MS. His goal is to combine concepts of personalized medical management with evidence-based clinical decision making to maximize the treatment benefit for each MS patient.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.