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The primary type of tremor in essential tremor is kinetic rather than postural: cross-sectional observation of tremor phenomenology in 369 cases


  • E. D. Louis

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
    • Correspondence: E. D. Louis, Neurological Institute, Unit 198, 710 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA (tel.: +1 212 305 9194; fax: +1 212 305 1304; e-mail:

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Essential tremor (ET) is amongst the most commonly misdiagnosed neurological diseases. The current aim was to provide observational data on a basic characteristic of ET, namely, the relative severity of postural to kinetic tremor.


A total of 369 ET cases were enrolled in a cross-sectional study. Postural tremor scores (0–3) and kinetic tremor scores (0–3) were assigned during a standardized neurological examination.


In the vast bulk of cases (~95%), kinetic tremor was more severe than postural tremor. In nearly one-in-three cases (32.8%), the kinetic tremor score was ≥1 points higher than the postural tremor score. Conversely, in only a few cases (~5%) was postural tremor even marginally (<1 point) more severe than kinetic tremor, and in no case was the postural tremor score ≥1 point higher than the kinetic tremor score. At each postural tremor score, nearly all cases had that amount of kinetic tremor or more.


The primary type of tremor in ET is kinetic rather than postural. Recognition of the simple, empirical features of tremor phenomenology has potential diagnostic value for practicing clinicians.