Help! I've got the Shakes

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Dec 2, 2010
Central Texas
Went to the pistol range today and discovered that I've developed the shakes. I've never noticed it before, but now I observe that I have a slight tremor when pointing my finger. I can't say that I'm surprised. I am over 65 now, but I'm not willing to just go sit in the rocker. Does anyone know of a technique, drill or exercise that I can use to help combat this.

Thanks for any usable tips.

Decaf and meditation!!! :D

Are you on any new medications? Check the side effects closely! I was prescribed a drug that turned my rock steady scope reticle into kaleidoscope!! I wasn't on that one for long. ;)
I'm 60 and can't handle coffee the way I used to. Coffee, tea, sodas, sugars, carbs..... all can stimuate you even in small amounts. For the last several years when I go handgun or target shooting, I limit myself to a 1/2 cup coffee and take a couple Kava pills.

Kava is kinda like nature' tranquilizer, of of the few herbal remedies I've ever found that really work. It mellows you right out. It takes my shakes away. There are some health warnings for people who take them for extended periods, but I usually just use them periodically. Google Kava. I buy mine at a healthfood store. Wal-Mart quit handling them.
Isn't kava hard on your liver or kidneys? Or is that something else?

Anyway, if you don't check your blood pressure, do that. May need a beta blocker, Americans are known for high blood pressure. I have to take one. It will also work as a mild tranquilizer.
How's your back. Extrimeties (arms as well as legs) can be affected by a pinched or strained nerve in your back. I've learned to go ambidextrous to deal with it.
Went to the pistol range today and discovered that I've developed the shakes. I've never noticed it before, but now I observe that I have a slight tremor when pointing my finger. I can't say that I'm surprised. I am over 65 now, but I'm not willing to just go sit in the rocker. Does anyone know of a technique, drill or exercise that I can use to help combat this.

Thanks for any usable tips.

Post 65 your chances of having some degree of essential tremor are getting close to one in ten.

Its a good excuse to go get a physical.
Isn't kava hard on your liver or kidneys? Or is that something else?

This is the concern over long term use. This is no concern to me as I don't use it long term and I have researched it. Check wiki for kava. You'll get enough info to decide for yourself.
My question would be are you shooting one-handed or two? General strength building exercises might help but so might technique. Two handed grip, pushing out (forward) with the shooting hand and pulling back (rearward) with the supporting hand.
I'd never heard of kava, but I do use Valerian root which you can buy at Walmart as a sleep aid, but it's also used as a stress reliever, just helps me slow down just a tad so I can still focus on the basics. I went out shooting last weekend, had to zero a scope on a .22 I picked up and was surprised at how many problems I had holding my point of aim...I guess it HAS been many years since I last qualified Expert in the military!
Could be something else besides just age. My uncle developed a trimmor in his hands when he was about 40. By the time he was 80 he could no longer feed himself.
Check with your doc by all means, but, needless to say, getting old doesn't come cheap. You pay for it with a thousand little maladies until a big one nails you. I'm 78 and I just try to adjust rather than give up. If you will concentrate, really concentrate on your sight alignment you will find that you can still shoot acceptably well even with a shaky hand. And regarding your tremors. I've found that they come and go. Some days they are not too bad, some days worse. I think the important thing is that you confine them to your hand and not let them get inside your head.

Another possibility is to try some other gun games. Learn point shooting. Dust off your shotgun and go shoot some skeet, trap or clays. Try bench shooting for awhile.
Get a physical and talk to your doctor, you may have low potassium, dehydration, or any number of ailments. Its best not to seek medical advice from people who are not familiar with your physical status. One man's cure could be another man's next MI, so please be safe and see ya on the firing line.
As a veterinarian, I performed some kind of surgery nearly every day, and experienced slight nervous tremor from day one. Probably due to type A perfectionist personality and desire to do a perfect job each time. I learned to brace one hand against the other to smooth things out when working on some part of the body where it would be a risk.

If you find that shooting a pistol two-handed no longer gives acceptable groups, there are always rifles and shotguns to play with!

Old age is not for sissies. I'm 67.
Most people don't want to hear this, but if the tremors are not totally neurological, you can reduce the effects or often eliminate them from resistance training- i.e. lifting weights.

It's a use it or lose it approach. The nervous system adapts to both usage by becoming more efficient and decays in it's ability to transmit signals with lack of use.

Have a 54 yr old karate student with MS. The doctors have been amazed at the way her system is adapting since she started classes. Even though she has had more lesions on the brain tissue appear, the docs tell her there has been much less decay in her abilities than they see in other patients. In fact, even though the lesions have increased, the decline in her motor skills came to almost a complete standstill since she started (3 years).

I have had other people tell me they notice they are steadier since starting class.

Shakes do not have to be a definite result of aging, just like a loss of balance does not have to accompany aging either- if you keep exercising as you age.

I'm not as far along as some of you guys, but at 52, I ain't no spring chicken either.

My karate teacher and good friend is 71 years old and has incredible balance, fantastic speed, and only gets the shakes when he doesn't get enough sleep. He can outshoot everyone I know even at his age (he's a retired Marine).

Here's a question for ex military that aren't as steady as they used to be. How much PT do you do these days compared to what you were doing in the military?
Have your doctor check your blood sugar levels. My father developed the same problem at the onset of diabetes (around your age). Next time, try going after a meal and see if the problem persists. A quick checkup at the doctor's office can tell you if any of your levels are off.

If it is some sort of muscle fatigue, those hand held squeezing contraptions at walmart work your wrists, hands and forearms pretty well. I keep a set by the coffee table to use while I watch TV.

Edit:: quietman's post has some valid points. Regular exercise (of any type really) combined with at least a moderately healthy diet works wonders...regardless of age. Changing my diet moderately and doing regular workouts makes me feel better than I did 10 years ago. If I take 2 weeks off at any time, I can tell a difference. My energy levels go down and pain levels increase(arthritis at an early age due to some broken bones in my youth). Getting started hurts, quitting and getting started again hurts worse; but not exercising at all hurts you in the long run. But what do I know, I have a friend who tells me that your heart only has so many beats in it and I'm wearing it out faster by working out. :)
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Quietman- I don't do PT, I just work pretty much every day. Heavy lifting, tote & carry, etc. Summers are the worst, or best depending on perspective, as it's time to get in the firewood (5 cords at least). BTW I'm your age. About the only time I get the shakes is lack of sleep, too much "exercise" the previous day, or dehydration.
I'd check with your doctor and also maybe start lifting light weight. Like quietman points out, resistance training really cuts down on this.

Barring all of that, I have a 67 year old buddy who used to control his while shooting using counter pressure while holding the gun. He pushed out with his gun hand while pulling back with his left hand keeping muscles in both arms tense. He shot very well that way.
As J-bar said, use both hands, or alter your stance slightly thus changing how your muscles are tensed.

OR as in my case, just hope the trigger releases as the sights go past the point of aim. Sometimes I get lucky! Most times I have to rely on the "shotgun effect" - keep shooting!
Talk to your doctor. You may get sent to a neurologist.

I got diagnosed with essential tremors a few months ago. I've had it about two years but it had to progress enough before it could be diagnosed. I take a low dose of propranolol. No noticeable side affects for me. It primarily reduces hand tremors. 50 pills cost me $2.78 for the month but I take them as needed and they last longer than a month. Nice and cheap and it works.

Another legitimate way to manage essential tremors is alcohol. You don't want to become addicted but on the weekends I may have a shot or two of bourbon per day (but usually none at all) and it helps greatly for a little while. Wild Turkey 101 neat is my choice. :)

ET doesn't affect muscle tone or strength and it doesn't cause any other health issues. It's a nuisance for most people but it can become severe enough to disable - not to scare you.

I can still shoot. :D
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If you're going to do any serious shooting I find it best to avoid booze, caffinated drinks, fatty fried food and excessive sweet stuff for about 24 hrs. Lean meat, green vegetables and some skim or soy milk and it helps steady you up. Shooting with a hangover from over consumption of fine spirits can ruin your day.
I'm 28, and I've found eating a light meal before the range helps quite a bit. I don't have shakes, but sometimes I get a little wiggle if I don't eat properly.
Please have the doctor check out the tremors.

Also check online for symptoms of any new Rx drugs you are taking.

I have been complaining to my doctor for years about tremors and twitching. I have asked before if it could be my meds and the answer was always "no". I took it upon myself to cut down my pain meds because they were making me very nauseous.

Guess what? The tremors stopped after a few weeks and the nausea got better. I looked online (my doctor hates it when I look medical things up online) and guess what else? One of the number one side effects was tremors.

I hope it's nothing serious. Good luck to you!
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