My story: internal tremors and the menopause
An anonymous account of this little-known symptom
‘I’d experienced perimenopausal symptoms such as dry eyes and brain fog from the age of 37, but I had young children so I just thought I was tired. I was also going through a stressful period of my life with a lot of serious illness in the family.
‘In November 2021, I went to see my GP as I had been feeling very tired, with no energy or appetite. I asked to have my bloods tested and apart from low vitamin D levels they all came back normal.
‘But in December 2021, at age 42, I started to experience what I would now describe as internal tremors. They started in my abdomen and moved down my legs. It felt like a mobile phone was going off inside my body. Over the next week or two, it became more frequent but would come and go, and I could experience it anywhere in my body. When it was in my head, it felt terrible and when it happened in my chest, I thought it was my heart racing so I’d take my pulse but it was normal.
‘I thought it might be due to the COVID booster I’d just had and went to see my GP again in early January 2022. I was tearful and frightened as I didn’t know what was happening to me and they didn’t know what could be causing the sensations. Nobody could see them happening. This GP was great. He took it seriously and contacted the JCVI and raised a yellow card in relation to the vaccine. An urgent referral for a neurological review was made and I spent the next few weeks waiting and thinking there must be something terribly wrong with me. When I saw the neurologist, all the tests they performed were fine and they put my symptoms down to the stress I had experienced over the previous year.
‘I tried to deal with the problem as anxiety so spent the next few months trying the likes of CBT, yoga, and meditation but four months later, there was no improvement. The stress of our family circumstances had reduced but I still had internal tremors. I felt like my body was betraying me.
‘The tremors were worse in the mornings and evenings, and I experienced them multiple times in a day. If I kept busy it wasn’t as bad, but as soon as I’d sit down to relax, I’d feel it and by the late afternoon I was exhausted. I couldn’t enjoy any down time and sank into this horrible, scary place where I couldn’t see a future.
‘I had thought for a while that I was perimenopausal but nobody had connected my symptoms to this. In fact, about six months before all this started, I was told by a gynaecologist that I couldn’t be perimenopausal because I was too young and still having regular periods. However, one day, it occurred to me that there might be a connection so I Googled ‘perimenopause and tremors’.
‘Suddenly, I could see there were women out there talking about this exact thing on social media and the balance app. These women would describe the tremors in different ways – using words such as buzzing, vibrating, shakes, trembling – but it was what I was experiencing. I decided I needed to figure out what was going on with my hormones.
‘I made an appointment at Newson Health and was given a low dose of Estradot and cyclical Utrogestan. Over the next few weeks, I saw a gradual improvement. It was like a sense of peace descending, and I’d not felt peace in my body for months. It felt amazing.
‘After a year of being on HRT, and gradually increasing my dose of oestrogen during that time, I can say that oestrogen has vastly improved my symptoms. The internal tremors often seem to be worse at certain points in my cycle – usually around my period and sometimes around ovulation. But I can now go days at a time without feeling them and, when they happen, they tend to be less strong. I’m not as tired and feel much better in myself physically and mentally.
‘As well as HRT, I find movement, such as yoga, helps give me a sense that I’m still in control of my own body. Stress seems to make them worse – I think it’s related to my balance of oestrogen and cortisol.
‘Today, I still feel tearful when I think about my experience. Although the first GP tried his best to help me, the knowledge just wasn’t there for him to draw on. I’m not the first woman to experience this and it’s not been nice for my kids to see their mum go through this. This isn’t on my medical record as being related to perimenopause – I could still go to a GP about my symptoms and I’m told I need psychological help to deal with anxiety. Yet I know what a massive difference balancing my hormones has made to my physical symptoms.
‘But I do also feel triumphant. Under very difficult circumstances, I kept going and empowered myself by learning from the experiences of other women. I am stronger for it.
‘So for any women experiencing internal tremors, I’d first advise them to go to their GP to rule out causes – a lack of vitamin B12 could be the cause or it might be a thyroid issue, for example.
‘Also, don’t panic. There are lots of women who have this symptom – you’re not alone. I’ve read that it doesn’t last forever for most women. Do something about it because you don’t need to suffer.
‘Finally, talk to other women – ask them about their perimenopause. This week I told someone who I’d never met before that I have this weird symptom and she said, “Oh my god, I have it too”. I wanted to hug her! I’d never met anyone in real life with it. Having these conversations is so important – if we don’t keep talking about the menopause, we won’t reach an understanding of the full range of experiences and we won’t have a large enough voice to make the changes we all need.’