Research by NCBI shows that 3 in 1,000 people worldwide deal with essential tremor (ET). Based on the tremor severity, those with ET struggle to perform even the most basic of tasks, like eating, dressing, or grabbing objects. The many challenges for those with ET have given rise to a wide number of hand tremor devices. Ranging from orthotics to specialized utensils, tremor devices help ET patients control and reduce their shaky hands, so they can enjoy their daily life.
How do hand tremor devices work?
The success of early-stage essential tremor devices has led to a number of subsequent essential tremor device patents. All of these devices are designed to reduce the primary symptom of essential tremor: shaky hands. However, the methods by which hand tremor devices treat shaky hands varies.
Most essential tremor devices use one of the following methods to reduce shakiness in the hands:
- Electrical nerve stimulation
- Tuned vibration control
How is electrical nerve stimulation used to treat essential tremor?
In a Parkinson’s News Today interview, Nir Grossman, PhD. and researcher at the Imperial College London, explained how nerve stimulation may help control tremors:
“Tremors are caused by abnormal synchronization in the motor areas of the brain but the biological processes underlying them are still not well understood. By targeting the temporal pattern of the brain’s abnormal synchronization, we may be able to treat it, non-invasively, despite the limited knowledge of the precise causes.” (ParkinsonsNewsToday.com, 2021)
Essential tremor devices applying Grossman’s approach use noninvasive electrodes on a patient’s scalp to target the cerebellum region of the brain. The cerebellum is responsible for balance and movement coordination. Researchers are still exploring the effectiveness of this treatment, but its efficacy has proven reliable in a number of studies:
- Non-invasive suppression of essential tremor via phase-locked disruption of its temporal coherence
- Essential tremor amplitude modulation by median nerve stimulation
- A Wearable System For Attenuating Essential Tremor Based On Peripheral Nerve Stimulation
As a side note, ET researchers are also exploring vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) as a solution to treat upper-body tremors.
How does tuned vibration absorption treat essential tremor?
There are many essential tremor devices that use electricity to stimulate nerve signals, but other devices use active vibration control. Previously, applying this method posed a challenge for researchers. But, devices like the Tremelo have successfully applied tuned vibration absorption to the challenging problem of essential tremor.
The Tremelo uses an adapted tuned mass damper device to mechanically reduce the vibrations and tremors that affect essential tremor patients. Though tuned mass dampers weigh less than the objects they’re stabilizing, they operate by matching the object’s resonance frequency and reducing its maximum amplitude. Tuned mass dampers are used in mechanical structures to reduce vibrations and rhythmic motion that might cause damage or structural failure.
Why are essential tremor hand devices so important?
Dr. Melita Petrossian, director of the Pacific Movement Disorders at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, provided the best explanation for this question:
“Many patients with ET find medical management is limited by lack of benefit or side effects but may feel they do not have severe enough symptoms to require advanced treatment options such as deep brain stimulation,” said Dr. Petrossian, Director of the Pacific Movement Disorders Center at PNI. “Cala Trio offers a non-invasive option that was shown in a multi-center study to reduce tremor and improve quality of life for many patients.”
Dr. Melita Petrossian, Director of the Pacific Movement Disorders at PNI
Orthotic Hand Tremor Devices
There are two main choices for essential tremor orthotics currently available to ET patients:
The Tremelo by Five Microns
The Tremelo is a wearable, orthotic sleeve that uses tuned mass damper technology to stabilize and reduce tremors. Rather than electricity, the Tremelo operates using the same energy absorption principles engineers use to stabilize planes, bridges, and skyscrapers.
This tremor stabilization device is in the final stages of manufacturing and is available for pre-order. Similar to the Tremelo device, Steadi-Two uses tuned mass damper weights to absorb the vibrations from hand tremors.
Shaped like a smartwatch, the Cala Trio uses electrical nerve stimulation to reduce tremors and allow patients. The company behind this product, Cala Health, is a bioelectronic medicine company that aims to transform chronic disease care standards.
Assistive Hand Tremor Devices For Eating & Cooking
- S’up Spoon
- Eatwell Assistive Tableware Set
- The Meal Lifter
- Cala Trio
Liftware Steady (previously “Liftware”)
Marketed under the tagline, “Eat with confidence”, Liftware Steady is a set of electronically stabilized utensils for people with hand tremor.
The ELISpoon is another enhanced utensil device for people with hand tremors. Using counter weights and rotation axes, ELISpoon remains steady and level, no matter what hand or arm motions a patient makes while eating.
Born with cerebral palsy, S’Up founder Grant Douglas grew frustrated at not being able to eat soup, cereal, and other soft foods. So, he designed a spoon that uses a deep cavity to hold food while a patient brings the utensil to their mouth.
Eatwell Assistive Tableware Set
Eatwell founder Sha Yao was inspired to create assistive tableware by her experience in adult daycare centers and her late grandmother. Sha noticed how those with Alzheimer’s, like her grandmother, faced a variety of eating challenges because of cognitive and sensory impairments.
The Meal Lifter
MealLifter is an assistive device for shaky hands that was inspired by a family member’s difficulties with eating. MealLifter increases the visibility of a dinner plate and reduces the distance between the plate and a patient’s mouth. This fully-patented product can assist a Parkinson patient, essential tremor patient, or those with other conditions which result in shaky hands.
Essential Tremor Devices For Writing
- Weighted Universal
Using a weighted pen holder can result in reduced shaking for those with a disorder like Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor. Some patients may not require therapy, medication, or surgery but still need assistance with an activity like writing. A weighted pen holder can be a great, accessible solution to this daily activity.
PenAgain is a specialized writing instrument that was originally developed for those with writer’s cramp and medical conditions like arthritis. However, it can also improve wrist control and writing ease in ET or Parkinson patients with hand tremor.
Looking for hand tremor devices? Try Tremelo!
At Five Microns, we’ve put mechanical engineering to work for ET patients. Our Tremelo device uses tuned vibration absorption principles to reduce essential tremor symptoms. We offer clinical availability in our Tremelo Demo Device Program.