Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

Select An Article

Lhermitte’s Sign: What Is It? How Do You Treat It?

Font Size

It lasts just a few seconds, but it can be startling: An intense burst of pain like an electric shock that runs down your back into your arms and legs when you move your neck. It’s called Lhermitte’s sign, or barber chair sign, and it’s often one of the symptoms that people mention when they’re first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

The problem can be painful, but it’s not life-threatening. With time or with treatment, some people stop having Lhermitte’s sign.

What’s Really Going On?

When you have MS, your immune system begins to attack the fatty coating, called myelin, that protects your nerves. Without it, scar tissue forms and begins to block the messages traveling in your brain and spinal cord. Lhermitte’s sign is one of the symptoms that happens when those signals don’t move like they should.

MS is not the only condition that can cause Lhermitte’s. It can also happen to people with other disorders involving the upper part of the spinal cord, and to people with a severe lack of vitamin B12. Your doctor will want to test you to see if MS or another health problem is causing your symptoms.

Treatment and Therapy

Like a lot of MS symptoms, you’re more likely to trigger Lhermitte’s sign if you’re tired or overheated. It can also happen if you move your head the wrong way, often when your chin hits your chest.

Your doctor may prescribe a few treatments to help relieve your pain:

  • Electrical stimulating devices. These machines ease pain by sending low-voltage electricity to your nerves. Some work from outside your body, such as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Others your doctor can implant inside you.
  • A soft neck brace or collar to limit movement
  • Massage and muscle relaxation techniques
  • Deep breathing
  • Stretching

There are also medications that can combat Lhermitte’s sign:

Talk to your health care team about the mix of treatments that will help you the most.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on May 08, 2014
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
woman applying lotion
Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
woman pondering
Get personalized treatment options.
man with hand over eye
Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
brain scan
worried woman
neural fiber
white blood cells
sunlight in hands
marijuana plant
muscle spasm