Green’s Dictionary of Slang

jerks n.1

1. a hangover.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 617/1: from ca. 1820.

2. (US) constr. with the, the physical writhings that are evinced by one who is supposedly possessed of the Holy Spirit.

[US]J.J. Hooper Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs (1851) 119: All the negroes sang, screamed and prayed. Several, under the influence [...] ‘the jerks,’ were plunging and pitching about with convulsive energy.
[UK]E. Eggleston Circuit Rider xii: These Methodis’ sets people crazy with the jerks [F&H].
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day By Day 18 Oct. [synd. col.] Now and then when I hear chess mentioned I get a case of the camp meeting jerks.
[US](con. 1900s) S. Lewis Elmer Gantry 33: One man, suspected of Holy Roller sympathies, managed to have the jerks.

3. (US) constr. with the, acute anxiety.

[US]J. London John Barleycorn (1989) 24: I read as I walked to and from school, and I read at recess while the other boys were playing. I began to get the ‘jerks.’ To everybody I replied: ‘Go away. You make me nervous.’ [* this is not alcohol induced].
[US]‘F. Bonnamy’ Blood and Thirsty (1952) 196: Jeez, Waddy, this joint gives me the jerks.

In phrases

give someone the jerks (v.) [? fig. use of sense 3 above or ? predecessor to jerk around under jerk v.2 ]

to tease, to hoax.

[UK](con. WWI) F. Richards Old Soldiers Never Die (1964) 196: He said that he has heard that yarn before and that we old soldiers were all the same, we thought we knew everything and that every old soldier he had met had given him the jerks.