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What Is Gowers' Sign?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 30 June 2014
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Some medical conditions cause those affected by it to display recognizable signs of that condition while moving. Gowers' Sign is an example of one of these indicators, and is associated with people who have specific problems with muscles. Kids and adults with these issues display a certain way of standing up from a seated position, which uses the muscular strength of the arms and hands, against the legs, to pull up the rest of the body vertically to make up for weak leg muscles.

Dr. William Richard Gower was a specialist in the area of neurology. In 1879, he noticed that boys who suffered from a condition called pseudohypertrophic muscular paralysis used a specific movement pattern when they stood. Initially, these children faced the ground in a prone position, and then straightened the legs with the hands on the floor. Then they placed the weight of the top half of the body on one knee with one hand, and added the other hand. By moving the hands up the legs, the boys then were able to bring themselves up to standing.

Generally, the modern medical profession describe Gowers' Sign in a slightly different way, based on the way people stand up from a chair. Firstly the person bends the top half of his or her body forward, and places weight on the knees using the hands. Then the person transfers the body weight supported by the hands up the legs, until he or she is standing up.

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A healthy person generally uses various muscles, such as those in the legs, the back and the arms when standing up. When a person has weaker muscles than usual in these places, he or she has to stand up using other muscles in a different way to normal. Conditions that affect the strength of muscles, which may arise from problems with the muscles themselves, or problems with the nervous signals getting to the muscles, can result in Gowers' Sign. The most common medical condition that is associated with Gowers' Sign is Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

In very young children, Gowers' Sign may be recognizable as an early sign of one of these conditions. Although healthy children roll over prone on the floor before getting up, they tend to switch to alternate ways of getting up by about three years of age. Kids older than this who use this the majority of the time as a way of standing may be displaying signs of muscular conditions.

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