Tremor retrainment as therapeutic strategy in psychogenic (functional) tremor

A. Espay, M. Edwards, G. Oggioni, N. Phielipp, B. Cox, H. Gonzalez-Usigli, C. Pecina, D. Heldman, J. Mishra, A. Lang
Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2014;20(6):647–50.

Abstract

Background

Entrainment, the change or elimination of tremor as patients perform a voluntary rhythmical movement by the unaffected limb, is a key diagnostic hallmark of psychogenic tremor.

Objective

To evaluate the feasibility of using entrainment as a bedside therapeutic strategy (‘retrainment’) in patients with psychogenic tremor.

Methods

Ten patients with psychogenic tremor (5 women, mean age, 53.6 ± 12.8 years; mean disease duration 4.3 ± 2.7 years) were asked to participate in a pilot proof-of-concept study aimed at “retraining” their tremor frequency. Retrainment was facilitated by tactile and auditory external cueing and real-time visual feedback on a computer screen. The primary outcome measure was the Tremor subscale of the Rating Scale for Psychogenic Movement Disorders.

Results

Tremor improved from 22.2 ± 13.39 to 4.3 ± 5.51 (p = 0.0019) at the end of retrainment. The benefits were maintained for at least 1 week and up to 6 months in 6 patients, with relapses occurring in 4 patients between 2 weeks and 6 months. Three subjects achieved tremor freedom.

Conclusions

Tremor retrainment may be an effective short-term treatment strategy in psychogenic tremor. Although blinded evaluations are not feasible, future studies should examine the long-term benefits of tremor retrainment as adjunctive to psychotherapy or specialized physical therapy.


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