Tremors are non-intentional rhythmic movements of a body part, which are the result of alternating or irregular synchronous contractions of muscles that have an opposite effect on a joint. For example, muscles that, when contracted, result in flexion of the wrist are stimulated synchronously with muscles that result in extension of the wrist. The result is a rhythmic flexion and extension of the wrist.
This phenomenon can happen in any part of the body. It is this rhythmic quality that defines and distinguishes tremors from any other abnormal movements.
Scientists at the US National Institutes of Health claimed that alcohol could be used to treat tremors, a brain disorder that triggers exaggerated shaking and occurs during movement. The octanol (a form of alcohol and a colourless ingredient in perfume) can help treat tremor. The tremor can affect people of all ages.
For their experiment, the scientists gave patients a single dose of one milligramme of octanol for each kilogramme of their weight, and found it significantly decreased tremor for up to 90 minutes. In their second experiment, people who had octanol had fewer symptoms of tremor after five hours than those were given a placebo.
Tremor occurs during movement, but not at rest. It affects not only the arms and hands but also the head, face and feet. In at least half of cases there is a family history as well.
Other causes of similar tremor symptoms include an over-active thyroid, anti-epileptic medication and drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders. In fact, tremor is caused by spontaneous activity in nerve cells in the areas of the brain that control movement.
One theory is that alcohol may help dampen this activity. It is known that alcohol has some effect on this kind of movement because as well as reducing tremor. It can also cause it if drunk excessively.