Lhermitte’s Sign is an intense burst of pain that feels as though it runs down a persons back and then continues in arms and legs when a person moves their neck.  It is often one of the symptoms multiple sclerosis (MS) patients speak of when they are initially diagnosed with the disease.  Lhermitte’s Sign can be quite painful however it is not life threatening and usually can be managed in time by treatment.

Overview:

Lhermitte’s Sign is an intense burst of pain that feels as though it runs down a persons back and then continues in arms and legs when a person moves their neck.  It is often one of the symptoms multiple sclerosis (MS) patients speak of when they are initially diagnosed with the disease.  Lhermitte’s Sign can be quite painful however it is not life threatening and usually can be managed in time by treatment.

The feeling is often feels like an electrical shock and generally occurs with forward head bending such as looking downward. Shocks radiating up the spine are sometimes referred to a reverse Lhermitte sign.  A MS patient is more likely to trigger the symptom when tired or overheated and moving their head the wrong way.

The sign is named for a French neurologist, Jean Lhermitte (1877-1959) who originally described it in a patient with multiple sclerosis (MS).

There are other disorders that can result in the condition that involve the upper portion of the spinal cord in the central nervoud system (CNS).  Additionally people with a severe vitamin B12 deficiency may experience Lhermitte’s Sign.

In 2013 a study related to pain in patients diagnosed with MS displayed that 16 people out of 100 experience the symptom.  Another study performed in 2015 with 694 participants confirmed the statistic.

There appears to be no connection between age, level of disability or gender nor the length of time from diagnosis.

Diagnosing Lhermitte’s Sign:

A neurologist will have the patient move their head forward and downward.  If a electrical buzzing feeling is felt by the patient the condition may suggest multiple sclerosis and further examination towards a diagnosis be pursued.

Lhermitte’s Sign Treatment:

There are medications and more natural forms of treatments to help cope with this symptom.

Medications:

  • Steroids
  • Antidepressants
  • Antiseizure drugs
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Sodium channel blockers

Other options:

  • A neck brace or collar to limit neck movement
  • Deep breathing therapy
  • Neck and posture stretching therapies
  • Massage and muscle relaxation therapies
  • Shiatsu machine light next massage
  • Usage of a TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) for low voltage electrical stimulation of nerves & musculature.

Before attempting to mitigate or self-treat Lhermitte’s Sign be sure and consult your neurologist to make sure that in doing so you do might not exacerbate the condition or other symptoms.

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