Tics and Tremors
Tics and tremors are involuntary muscle contractions. A tic is a sudden, repetitive movement or vocalization involving individual muscle groups. Tics can be invisible to an observer and can include things like abdominal tensing or toe crunching. Examples of common motor and vocal tics include eye blinking, head jerking, shoulder shrugging, throat clearing, sniffing, grunting, or involuntary utterances. A tremor, on the other hand, is an involuntary rhythmic muscle contraction and relaxation involving oscillation or twitching of one or more body parts. Tremors are the most common type of involuntary movement, and can affect the limbs, eyes, face, head, vocal cords, and trunk.
In traditional Chinese medicine, involuntary movements are thought to be caused by the stirring of internal wind. There are four main ways that internal wind can be generated and lead to tics and tremors: heat, stasis (phlegm or blood), and deficiency (qi, blood, yin, and yang).
Tics and tremors can be influenced by emotional factors. In traditional Chinese medicine, the emotional factors that impact the Liver, Spleen, and Kidneys are believed to be most significant in contributing to the development of tics and tremors. The Liver is affected by anger, frustration, and repressed emotion. Worry, rumination, and obsessive thinking, in combination with a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet, can weaken the Spleen. If these factors are prolonged or extreme, they can disrupt the function of the Liver and Spleen, or cause the Liver to invade the Spleen. This can lead to a deficiency of qi and blood, the creation of dampness and phlegm, and the failure of the Spleen qi to ascend. Chronic Liver qi constraint with heat can also lead to the accumulation of phlegm, blood stasis, and yin damage.
Certain dietary habits can contribute to the development of tics and tremors. In traditional Chinese medicine, these habits are believed to weaken the Spleen, lead to qi and blood deficiency, or generate phlegm or phlegm-heat. Restrictive or fad diets can commonly lead to Spleen qi deficiency, while diets low in protein can lead to blood deficiency. Prolonged starvation or digestive insult can seriously damage Spleen yang qi, and a diet that is too biased towards cold-natured or raw foods can weaken Spleen qi and yang. Some herbs and drugs, including heat-clearing herbs, hypoglycemic agents, purgative laxatives, and antibiotics, can weaken the Spleen and deplete Spleen qi and yang or create dampness and phlegm. Eating irregularly, missing meals, eating at odd hours or late at night can impede Spleen and Stomach function.
Excessive consumption of rich, spicy foods and alcohol can generate phlegm-heat. Any preexisting heat in the body (from Liver qi constraint with heat or fire, yin deficiency, lingering pathogen, etc.) can thicken and congeal fluids into phlegm and phlegm-heat.
Overwork, excessive worry or mental activity, or prolonged illness can weaken the Spleen, Lung, and Kidney qi in traditional Chinese medicine. This can lead to a decline in the production of qi and blood. Other causes of qi and blood deficiency can include acute or chronic hemorrhage, prolonged breastfeeding, and malnutrition. In addition, Liver and Kidney yin can be damaged through aging, excessive sexual activity, overwork, insufficient sleep, and febrile diseases. In younger people, abuse of recreational drugs can also damage Liver and Kidney yin. Liver yin deficiency can also be an extension of Liver blood deficiency, or follow any Liver heat pattern, especially Liver fire. In tremor patterns, there are often mixtures of phlegm-heat and yin deficiency.
In some cases, a constitutional aspect may be seen in certain types of tremor, with tremors running in families. A constitutional weakness of Kidney essence may predispose an individual to develop a tremor earlier than would normally be expected. This means that the individual may be more likely to develop a tremor due to an inherited weakness in their Kidney essence.
The effectiveness of treatment for tremor and tic disorders can vary depending on the underlying biomedical diagnosis. Some types of tremor and tic may respond well to treatment, while others, such as Parkinson's disease and benign familial tremor, may be more difficult to manage. However, even in these cases, some individuals may be able to achieve functional improvement with appropriate treatment.