If you are a doctor, dentist, or another professional that relies on their hands, essential tremors can make it impossible to work. However, insurance companies are quick to dismiss long-term disability (LTD) claims for essential tremor, minimizing the condition’s symptoms and impact.
Living with essential tremors can be isolating physically, socially, and professionally—but you are not alone. Bryant Legal Group’s disability lawyers help people suffering from tremors and other neurological conditions get the short-term and long-term disability benefits they deserve.
This article will explore the basics of essential tremors, how to qualify and strengthen a tremors disability claim, and the difference a lawyer can make in the success of your case.
What Is Essential Tremor?
Essential tremor is a neurological disorder that causes uncontrollable, rhythmic shaking in the hands. It is not life threatening unless the case is so severe that a person is in physical danger of falling or running into things.
The reality is that most people have some amount of tremor, though typically the movement is too small to be detected. Once your trembling is noticeable, it is considered an essential tremor. People over 65 are more likely to experience essential tremors, but it is not a normal part of getting older.
Hands are the most commonly affected body part when someone has essential tremor, though the chin, tongue, head, larynx, and arms can also shake. Rarely do essential tremors affect the lower body. The shaking tends to be more pronounced during movement and calmer when a person is still.
While the exact cause of essential tremor is not known, some medical professionals think abnormal electrical activity in the hypothalamus is involved. Another theory is that the cerebellum, which controls muscle coordination, is communicating incorrectly with the rest of the brain
Approximately half of essential tremor cases are handed down from parent to child; a person with essential tremor has a 50% chance of passing it on to a biological child.
For many people, essential tremor can be physically uncomfortable, annoying, and awkward in social situations. For those in professions requiring fine motor skills, such as medical professionals, dentists, artists, and engineers, essential tremors can be career ending.
Diagnosing Essential Tremor
People with essential tremors experience them at different times and in different ways, but the following symptoms are typical:
- Hands or other parts of the body shake rhythmically
- Tremors worsen with movement and calm with rest
- Tremors worsen with age
- Medications, stress, and caffeine can make tremors stronger
- Small amounts of alcohol can make tremors lessen
- Tasks like writing and using tools are difficult
- The head nods and the voice trembles
To diagnose essential tremor, a doctor will conduct a neurological examination and rule out other potential causes. Imaging and genetic testing might also be used. Conditions like Parkinson’s disease, alcohol use disorder, and hyperthyroidism can also cause tremors and would require different treatment.
Treating Essential Tremor
Once tremors are diagnosed as essential tremors and not related to specific condition, you and your doctor can discuss treatment.
Many people see improvement with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding caffeine, reducing stress, or practicing relaxation exercises like yoga and deep breathing. And occupational therapy can help you learn ways to adjust and manage your tremors.
Anti-seizure medication or medications that block neurotransmitter stimulation (beta blockers) do reduce symptoms in about half of patients. Essential tremors in the hands sometimes respond to botulinum toxin (Botox), which may slightly relax the overactive muscles.
The most severe cases of essential tremor may be candidates for surgery. The procedure implants a device, called a deep brain stimulator, into the person’s brain with the intent of manipulating the device to control symptoms.
Strengthen Your Long-Term Disability Claim
As with many chronic but not life-threatening conditions, convincing the insurance company that you deserve disability payments is not always easy. But that does not mean you should give up your claim. Whether or not you qualify depends on the severity of your symptoms, your specific diagnosis and outlook, and the terms of your insurance policy, all of which an attorney can help you navigate.
However, here are a few ways you can start building your case right now.
Understand Your Policy’s Terms and Conditions
If the tremors prevent you from performing your profession as you used to, it is worth talking to an attorney and pursuing LTD benefits. As you begin, start gathering relevant information and documentation.
One of the first things to look for is your insurance policy’s definition of “disability.” Insurance companies typically define “disability” in one of two ways:
- Own occupation: you are unable to do your current job, due to your essential tremor and other health conditions.
- Any occupation: you cannot perform any type of work due to your tremors and other medical conditions.
You should carefully review your long-term disability policy’s language and identify which definition will apply to your case. (And if you need help interpreting your policy, schedule a consultation with an experienced disability lawyer.)
Collect All Your Medical Records
Be sure to keep all medical records on your diagnosis, including notes from the doctor and imaging results. Your medical records will play an important role in your disability claim, since they document your tremors’ progression, the effect your tremor has on your daily life, your treatment plan, and any side effects that you might experience.
Notably, most insurance companies limit disability claims that are due to “self-reported” symptoms, like fatigue, weakness, and balance issues. So, having strong, it is essential to have objective medical records that support your claim.
And if you try something that helps the tremors but causes unpleasant side effects, make sure you talk to your doctor before stopping the medication or treatment. Sometimes, insurance adjusters will argue that you are not eligible for benefits if you cease treatment, arguing that you are “non-compliant” with your doctors’ recommendations.
Are Functional Capacity Evaluations Required in Essential Tremor Cases?
The insurance company or a disability lawyer may want you to undergo a functional capacity evaluation (FCE) or residual functional capacity assessment before approving your disability benefits. An FCE examines someone’s ability to perform their job and is one of the pieces that can strengthen a disability case.
An FCE weighs a few different things about how well a person can perform their job:
- The employee’s safety while performing their job
- How well they perform all their duties
- Whether they can only properly and safely perform some of their duties
- What treatments might help with job safety and performance
Discuss the possibility of an FCE with your lawyer and how it might impact your essential tremors case.
Can I Get Social Security Disability Benefits for Essential Tremors?
People struggling with essential tremors might consider pursuing social security benefits to supplement their income. However, the Social Security Administration is not necessarily any easier to convince that you deserve long term benefits.
At Bryant Legal Group, we do not handle standalone social security disability claims. If one is connected to your long-term disability case, we will discuss how it may impact your claim and
Bryant Legal Group: Chicago’s Disability Benefits Expert
If you feel that essential tremors have taken your ability to perform your job properly or safely, it is time to get in touch with Bryant Legal Group to begin an effective attorney client relationship.
We are an experienced team of disability attorneys who know how to fight for long-term benefits and shut-down denials. If you or someone you love is ready to work with a law firm that cares, set up your free case evaluation today. Call (312) 634-6415 or use the simple contact form on our website.