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Thread: Essential tremor and mandolin playing

  1. #1
    Registered User mcgroup53's Avatar
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    Oct 2002
    Greenwood, Ind.

    Default Essential tremor and mandolin playing

    At 66, I'm beginning to show progressing signs of a benign tremor (not Parkinson's or ALS according to my neurologist) that I inherited from mom. I've been using full spectrum CBD oil the past couple of years and that's definitely helping in my case. But it's affecting my right hand to the point where I may have to give up playing solos (no great loss to the mandolin world there, I assume you).

    Anyone else dealing with shakiness in their hands? Different therapies you've tried?


  2. #2

    Default Re: Essential tremor and mandolin playing

    I also have an essential tremor. I’m 70. It’s very noticeable but I can play. It bothers me when people notice and comment. My neurologist told me that I could quell the tremor for a couple hours with a glass of wine. I was surprised that it works and surprised a doc would suggest alcohol.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Essential tremor and mandolin playing

    A fiddling friend has has an essential tremor that alcohol helps. He doesn't do alcohol treatment out of fear of becoming reliant on alcohol. I don't know his personal or family history and am not trying to be any sort of judge about it. I hope you both are able to find something that works for you so that you can fully enjoy mandolin playing.
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  4. #4
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essential tremor and mandolin playing

    Yes, I have tremors too; I'm 65 this year. I experience them with any fretted instruments that I play. If I pay attention to it, it gets worse and for me it can actually contribute to some serious stage fright symptoms. So I try to ignore it.

    I can see how self-medicating might help, but personally I'm not wanting to go that direction. I don't drink or smoke or do anything else, and I don't want to change that.

    My neurologist blames my tremors on C-spine spurs; I've had them removed from C3-C4-C5 with a fusion about 10 years ago and at that time was told I could use the same treatment in lower C-spine areas. I'm avoiding this, because I just don't want to loose more neck movement.

    I can see that the C-spine spur issues may truly be the source for me, as when I'm playing double bass -- in a completely different posture -- I have no tremors at all.
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  5. #5
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    Redwood City, CA

    Default Re: Essential tremor and mandolin playing

    Yup, it is true that a moderate amount of alcohol, consumed at a level insufficient to get you inebriated, can help to suppress episodes of essential tremor. We're talking here about one or two glasses of wine, or a beer or two, or a shot or two of whiskey. We are not talking about getting loaded! Unless you have an addictive personality -- and some folks do! -- or a personal history of alcoholism or other drug abuse, the occasional drink should not pose much of a heath risk. You will not very likely become "reliant on alcohol." Furthermore, alcohol is not only effective: it is easily available without a prescription, and the side effects tend to be minimal, unless you overdose or abuse it.

    There are certainly other drugs used to treat essential tremor available by prescription from your doctor: drugs like gabapentin, propanalol, inderal, valium, and clonazepam (and several more). These compounds tend to be classified as muscle relaxants, beta blockers, or sedatives/tranquilizers. However, these drugs also come with their own side effects (some nasty), and might well interfere with your playing. And some of them are also quite addictive -- as much, and usually more so, than alcohol!

    If it works for you (and you would need to try it), a moderate consumption of alcohol might actually be your best option. Writing for myself, I would sooner avoid taking a prescription beta blocker than drinking a glass or two of wine.

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  7. #6

    Default Re: Essential tremor and mandolin playing

    At the age of 60 I also deal with tremors. My doctor said they were familial tremors. Again another malady that I have inherited.

    CBD oil has helped along with a beta blocker. But the biggest help for me is plenty of rest.

    One thing I do when flat picking is anchor my hand. I do this when playing mandolin or guitar.
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  8. #7
    Registered User mcgroup53's Avatar
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    Default Re: Essential tremor and mandolin playing

    I use full spectrum CBD orally daily, which has helped significantly with the daily issues, and my neurologist prescribed beta blockers but I'm reluctant to go that route. She said there's a treatment for ET using focused ultrasound that zaps the spot in the brain where the tremor originates, but I'm years away from needing that she said. I think part of the problem is just aging out. I found a Hot Club of Naptown live recording we did in 2000 and my mandolin playing was on three planes higher in speed and accuracy than today. Best recourse is to just up my practice schedule another step and focus a lot of my time on regaining speed and control over the pick. I'll never get back to the days when I could hang with the top players at Winfield, but I can still play and that's enough. A buddy my same age was a classical guitar major in college and two years ago his arthritis was so bad he had an operation. Just now, he's started to be able to play a little ukulele. So I definitely need to appreciate what I still have and focus on things I still do well like swing guitar rhythm. Thanks, and good luck to my fellow ET patients

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