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Muscles That Vibrate, Jitter, Tremor, Or Shake When Used

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: February 21, 2020

muscles shake vibrate jitter tremor when used anxiety symptoms

Muscles that shake, vibrate, jitter, or tremor when used are often symptoms of anxiety disorder, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and others.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test or Anxiety Disorder Test. The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including muscles that shake when you use them.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and muscles that vibrate, shake, jitter, or tremor when used.

Common descriptions of the muscles that shake, vibrate, jitter or tremor when used anxiety symptoms

  • Your muscles vibrate, jitter, tremor, or shake when they are used or moved. For example, you experience shaking, tremors, vibrating, or jitteriness when raising or lowering an arm or leg.
  • You notice your arms, legs, hands, fingers, feet, or toes are shaky when you use them.
  • Even though you aren’t having muscle twitches or tremors when still, you notice you are when you are moving around or when using one, a few, or many of your muscles.

This muscles shakes when used anxiety symptom can affect one muscle or muscle group in the body, many muscles and muscle groups, or all muscles and muscle groups.

This muscle tremors when used anxiety symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist indefinitely. For example, you notice a muscle or muscle group shakes or vibrates once in a while and not that often, shakes or vibrates frequently, or shakes or vibrates all the time.

This symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

This symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur “out of the blue” and for no apparent reason.

Muscle shakes, vibrates, jitters, and tremors when used anxiety symptoms can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves, where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This symptom can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

What causes muscles that shake, vibrate, jitter or tremor when used anxiety symptoms?

Medical Advisory

We recommend all new, changing, persistent, and returning anxiety symptoms be discussed with your doctor as some medical conditions and medications can cause anxiety-like symptoms, including this anxiety symptom. If your doctor concludes your symptoms are solely anxiety-related, you can be confident there isn't a medical cause. Generally, doctors can easily determine the difference between anxiety symptoms and those caused by a medical condition.

Doctors aren't infallible, however. If you are uncertain about your doctor’s diagnosis, you can seek a second or more opinions. But if all opinions agree, you can be assured anxiety is the cause of this symptom.

1. Active Stress Response

When this symptom is caused by anxiety, behaving in an apprehensive manner, which creates anxiety, causes the body to activate the stress response. The stress response causes the body to secrete stress hormones into the bloodstream where they travel to targeted spots to bring about specific physiological, psychological, and emotional changes that enhance the body’s ability to deal with a threat—to either fight with or flee from it—which is the reason the stress response is often referred to as the fight or flight response or the emergency response.[1][2]

A part of the stress response changes include body-wide stimulation and tense muscles. This combination can cause muscles to shake, vibrate, jitter or tremor when used.

2. Stress-Response Hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly from the physiological, psychological, and emotional changes the stress response brings about. When stress responses occur too frequently, however, the body doesn't completely recover. This can result in the body remaining in a state of semi stress response readiness, which we call "stress-response hyperstimulation" since stress hormones are stimulants.[3][4] This state is also often referred to as "hyperarousal."

A body that becomes hyperstimulated can exhibit all of the changes of an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated. Experiencing muscles that “shake, vibrate, tremor, and jitter" when using them is a common indication of hyperstimulation.

While this symptom can be bothersome, it isn’t harmful. This symptom, like all anxiety-related sensations and symptoms, is just a symptom of stress, and therefore, needn’t be a cause for concern.

And like all other sensations and symptoms of stress, this symptom diminishes and eventually subsides when hyperstimulation is eliminated.

How to stop the muscles shake, vibrate, jitter or tremor anxiety symptoms?

When this anxiety symptom is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this anxiety symptom should subside. Keep in mind that it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. But this is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

When this anxiety symptom is caused by hyperstimulation, such as from overly apprehensive behavior, it may take much longer for the body to calm down and recover, and to the point where this anxiety symptom subsides.

Nevertheless, when the body has recovered from hyperstimulation, this anxiety symptom will subside. So again, this anxiety symptom needn’t be a cause for concern.

You can speed up the recovery process by reducing your stress, practicing relaxed breathing, increasing your rest and relaxation, and not worrying about your anxiety symptoms.

Yes, these types of symptoms can be bothersome, but again, when your body has recovered from the stress response or the effects of hyperstimulation, this symptom will subside.

If you are having difficulty containing your worrying, you may want to connect with one of our recommended anxiety disorder therapists. Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including what seems like uncontrollable worry.

For a more detailed explanation about anxiety, anxiety symptoms, why anxiety symptoms can persist long after we think they should, common barriers to recovery and symptom elimination, and more recovery strategies and tips, we have many chapters that address this information in the Recovery Support area of our website.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources:

Return to Anxiety Disorders Signs and Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the muscles that vibrate, jitter, tremor, or shake when used anxiety symptom.


1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. “The Stress Response And Anxiety Symptoms.” anxietycentre.com, August 2019.

3. Hannibal, Kara E., and Mark D. Bishop. “Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2014.

4. Justice, Nicholas J., et al. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder-Like Induction Elevates β-Amyloid Levels, Which Directly Activates Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Neurons to Exacerbate Stress Responses.” Journal of Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, 11 Feb. 2015.