Stewart Holmes sign a possible MS indicator

The condition known as the Stewart Holmes sign is named after the two neurologists from whom it takes its name. Thomas Grainger Stewart (1877-1957) an English neurologist and Gordon Morgan Holmes (1876-1965) was an Irish neurologist.

Multiple Sclerosis Causes dizziness muscle spasms fatigue vision problems

Approximately 400,000 people in the United States have MS, and an estimated 2.5 million individuals worldwide have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. There is currently no known cure for MS, but speculation has focused on possible factors that might be linked to the disease.

There are a number of indicators or telltale signs your neurologist might look for when considering a possible diagnosis of MS. Stewart Holmes Sign is one of these indicators.

Stewart Holmes Sign in Multiple Sclerosis

Also known as the rebound phenomenon, this is a sign where an individual is unable to check a movement when passive resistance is suddenly released.

The patient is asked to push against the examiner’s hand, with their own hand or foot. When the examiner removes his hand the patient is unable to react quickly enough to the removal of the resistance and the limb kicks out.

A positive result may indicate damage to the cerebellum region of the brain and could be indicative of such conditions as hypotonia or cerebellar ataxia.

Early Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Holmes Sign First Hand

I experience this phenomenon on a regular basis, as I have done for many years. The kettle in our kitchen is not the one shown below.

Old Kettle eith holmes sign
Old Kettle

We have a modern electric kettle that sits on a plastic base unit from which it derives the main power. However, the kettle sits on a kitchen worktop located below one of the kitchen wall cupboards.

When I go to make a cup of tea or a mug of coffee. As I lift the kettle. There is a slight resistance as the kettle disconnects from the power socket on the base unit. When this resistance releases, despite knowing it is pending, I slam the kettle into the wall unit above. It is most infuriating and, because of this Holmes? Sign phenomenon, I am almost powerless to prevent it.

When one considers, fully, that multiple sclerosis is a mental illness. It is not difficult to understand that one of the symptoms is a slowing in thinking ability. Any of us with brain fog, know that phenomenon all too well. If inflammation of the brain is slowing our thinking, then it should be natural to expect our reflexes to suffer.

However, I have no wish to sound like a hypochondriac but, I am sure that is how I will be perceived.  There are a number of MS Signs like this Romberg’s Sign, and I experience them all most notably Uhthoff’s Symptom or a need to avoid the summer heat.

Holmes Sign

Rebound Phenomenon

The rebound phenomenon is displayed when a patient tries to push a limb against a resistance. When the resistance is suddenly removed, the limb would be expected to move a little and then jerk back, or rebound. This is a normal reflex.

However, the phenomenon is:

  1. Present in normal limbs
  2. Exaggerated in spastic limbs
  3. Absent in limbs affected by the cerebellar disease

Apparently, it used to be thought that the rebound phenomenon was a sign of cerebellar disease. But, the phenomenon can occur in a number of other conditions, including multiple sclerosis.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Linda

    MS is not a mental illness!

    1. Stephen Walker

      I am surprised you feel like that. I have had MS since 1994 and I feel cognitive problems every day. MS attacks the myelin surrounding the nerves, primarily in the brain, which dies if the disease activity persists for too long.

      Admittedly, some people have no brain problems of this sort. But the digestive problems, the urinary problems and the vision problems all come back to brain control breakdown.

      Why do you think it is not a mental illness?


      Stephen Walker

  2. Amber

    Your brain is an organ and can get sick. Just like any other organ. Therefore, it is a mental illness!

    1. Stephen Walker

      In essence, I agree with you entrirely. MS is a disease that affects the brain ergo it is a mental illness. However, on reserching the issue further it appeasr to be nore nuanced than I hade considered. In the psychiatric world, MS is NOT considered to be a mental illness! While MS can lead to depression and cognitive impairment, a mental illness affects emotions and empathy on a much deeper level.

      1. Patty

        I have always wondered about the genetic connection between these two diseases and ALS. My father had Holmes Cerebral Ataxia. It’s a horrible late onset disease. My daughter has MS and my niece just passed away from ALS. All three neurological conditions with similar manifestations. Seems weird to me that these are not somehow related.

        1. Stephen Walker

          Lou Gehrig’s Disease aka Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), like MS attacks the CNS in the brain amd spinal cord. I am so sorry to hear about your father, daughter and niece. Neurological condition can affect anyone without favour. Most neurological complaints share msny similar symptoms and impact everybody uniquely.

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