If you or a loved one has multiple sclerosis (MS), you’re likely familiar with the most common symptoms of the condition, such as trouble walking, muscle spasms, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties. Sometimes, however, people with MS experience symptoms that aren’t associated with MS as often. One such symptom is internal tremors, which produce a quivering or vibrating sensation inside the body but don’t cause external movement.
Members of MyMSTeam, the online social network and support group for people with MS, have discussed their experiences with strange physical sensations, like feeling vibrations in bed at night. “Anyone ever feel like your bed is vibrating?” asked a member. “Sometimes, I will be lying on my bed and I feel like there is a slight vibration.” Another member responded, “Me too! I wondered what it was!”
Internal vibrating sensations can be confusing because they happen only inside the body. “I guess I’m not crazy! It’s so weird,” another member wrote of their experience. “This is certainly something I can live with, but I would love to know what causes it.”
Internal tremors are not necessarily harmful but can be bothersome. If you have MS and internal tremors, make an appointment to discuss them with your doctor or neurologist. They may conduct a physical exam and run tests to further explore the symptom. Depending on the type of MS you have and your other symptoms, your health care team will determine the best treatment plan to help you manage your MS and internal tremors.
If you have MS and experience internal vibrating sensations, they might be internal tremors. Internal tremors are not uncommon in people with MS or other neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease. A study in the journal Parkinsonism & Related Disorders found that about 36 percent of participants with MS experienced internal tremors.
Although the symptom appears to be somewhat common in people with MS, there’s not a lot of research or online information about internal tremors. For people with MS, internal tremors possibly result from their disease activity.
In MS, the immune system affects and damages the myelin sheath (protective covering) around the nerves in the central nervous system (CNS), including the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of MS correspond with the affected nerves and areas of the CNS. When nerve damage occurs in the part of the brain that controls actions such as talking or moving, it can lead to motor symptoms like trouble speaking, twitching, and tremors.
“I feel it a lot at night or when I’m lying around for a while,” one member said. “I can feel the lower half of my body vibrating, like I’m lying on a vibrating bed.”
For people with MS who have internal tremors, there may be a connection with anxiety. The study in Parkinsonism & Related Disorders found that participants with MS who experienced an internal tremor reported significantly higher anxiety levels than those with MS who did not have internal tremors. This finding doesn’t prove that anxiety causes internal tremors in people with MS, but it does highlight a potential link that researchers need to explore further.
One MyMSTeam member described how their internal tremors tend to happen after a long day of overexertion: “I get internal tremors at night,” they said, “usually at the end of the day, when I’ve done way too much.”
Internal tremors are different from a better-known symptom of MS — essential tremor. Also referred to as tremor, essential tremor involves uncontrollable shaky or jerky movements. It’s a common symptom of MS and other neurologic diseases like Parkinson’s. Tremor in MS is thought to be caused by nerve damage and lesions to areas of the brain that control movement, like the cerebellum and thalamus. An internal tremor is more of a subjective feeling experienced by someone with MS.
In the study discussed above, about 55 percent of people surveyed who had essential tremor also had internal tremors. This led the researchers to suggest that internal tremors could be a subclinical (less severe) form of essential tremor. However, more study is needed to understand the connections between essential tremor, internal tremors, and MS.
People with MS may also experience other sensory symptoms, like prickling or tingling sensations, numbness, burning, or electric shock, which are referred to as paresthesia. Nearly 8 in 10 people with MS experience paresthesia. Like internal tremors or vibrations, paresthesia is caused by damage to the nerves. How much the sensations bother you depends on where in your body you are experiencing them and if they are affecting your mental health.
Although internal tremors may not be painful, they can be distracting and bothersome. Additionally, because they can indicate CNS damage, you should always bring up this symptom to your medical provider. The field of neurology has not yet found a solution for internal tremors, but treatments to slow MS progression may help with vibrating and other physical sensations.
Many people with internal tremor do not need immediate medical treatment. However, if the sensations become painful, disrupt your ability to get a good night’s sleep, or affect your quality of life, talk with your neurologist.
Your doctor may suggest drugs that are typically used for nerve pain, such as gabapentin (Neurontin) or pregabalin (Lyrica), but medical advice will vary from person to person. Your doctor will also consider your lifestyle factors, any comorbid (coexisting) health conditions, and the trade-offs between potential treatments and their side effects.
For managing these symptoms at home, you could take steps to improve your quality of sleep and manage stress and anxiety. The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America offers tips for sleep hygiene with MS, and you can also read about more strategies for managing stress with MS.
MyMSTeam is the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 193,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.
Have you ever had the sensation that your bed was vibrating? How did you deal with this feeling? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.