Ellie Kirby
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Primary Reflexes

What Are Primary Reflexes?

Primary Reflexes are the first part of our brain to develop. They often start 9 weeks in-utero, which is around 7 months before we are born! There are 10 Reflexes which we have as babies in stages. For example, when you pass a baby your finger it will grip on. They then go through a phase of putting everything in their mouth. This are reflexes they are born with, which they grow out of, in time.

The reflex starts its development at a certain age, it develops through a phase, then it ends, which is known as ‘Integration’.

Except, sometimes we don’t integrate these reflexes and they can cause problems in later life. Here I will outline briefly each reflex, and list the issues associated with not integrating in childhood.

The Reflexes.

If you would like to skip to the part of the page about a specific reflex, click on the name of the reflex to skip down the page. It’s worth noting here that usually (not always, but usually) if one reflex has not integrated the following ones will likely not be developed either.

The Fear Paralysis Reflex
The Moro Reflex
The Palmar Reflex
The Infant Plantar Reflex
The Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex
The Root and Suck Reflex
The Spinal Galant Reflex
The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex
The Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex
The Babynski Reflex

The Fear Paralysis Reflex

This reflex starts to develop at 5 weeks after conception, so you’re in utero at this stage. It integrates at 9 weeks, so before the 12 weeks scan, this reflex has started and finished.

This reflex is the first step in learning to cope with stress in later life. It helps the body shut down the correct system in response to shock, regulate our heart rate and blood pressure, co-ordinate our movement and breathing.

Possible problems in people who have their Fear Paralysis Reflex not integrated are as follows:

  • Panic Attacks
  • Breath Holding
  • Shyness
  • Poor Self Esteem
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • ‘Stuck’ Feelings
  • Over Clingy
  • Fear Of Separation
  • Difficulty Verbalising Feelings

The Moro Reflex – The Startle Reflex

Kinesiology Primal ReflexesWhen babies are startled, or put into a position of fear, they will startle by throwing their arms back. See the video here for an example of a baby being startled and having this response.

By 4 months old this startle reflex should have integrated. It’s often not integrated in babies who have a panicked, rapid or caesarian birth. If their first breath was forced or coaxed it can mean the process will not integrate. It means that as adults we are panicked by anything, feel like we are in fight or flight mode a lot of the time, very on edge and have a low tolerance to stress. We may not fling out our arms (!) but it’s one of the ways we correct the reflex by repeating this exercise after a Kinesiology correction.

One of the things noticed in babies or children, if this is not integrated, is that when you put them down to sleep they fling their arms up and start screaming.

Possible problems in people who have their Moro Reflex not integrated are as follows:

  • Constantly on red alert
  • Very sensitive and emotional
  • Not good in new situations
  • Controlling
  • Don’t fit in
  • Anxious
  • Dislikes Change
  • Mood Swings
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Travel Sick

When integrated, it can mean we are calmer and more centred. Not quite so easily startled or scared, and not constantly on red alert. The exercises to help integration at home take a few weeks to help our brain integrate and it’s all detailed in a video for you to follow.

The Palmar Reflex

This is the grasping reflex which is strongest in the first 12 days after birth. It is replaced by a pincer movement, being able to grasp with the fingers later. It’s a reflex which is related to the mouth opening and being able to swallow as well as being related to the grasping and motor movements.

Possible problems with an un-integrated Palmar Reflex are:

  • Difficulty grasping things
  • Can’t catch a ball
  • Poor speech and language
  • Stuttering
  • Immature letter formation
  • Hand Tension
  • Voice Issues

Exercises include using stress balls and giving hand massages on specific acupressure points, once you’ve had the corrections in the Kinesiology session.

Plantar Reflex

toe walking kinesiologyThe the foot flexes or curls when we stroke or press on the ball of the baby’s foot. When your child is a baby, you may notice the Plantar reflex causing spontaneous exercising of the toes and feet. For example, if a baby is sitting, they may flex their toes without anyone touching or putting pressure on their feet. This continuous exercise of flexing the toes is thought to help with the development of motor pathways and connections in your child’s brain, which eventually is used for motor planning and how you learn.

This is a popular reflex in children and adults with learning difficulties. It also forms the basis of running and walking, and children with a retained plantar reflex will often be toe walkers.

Possible signs of an un-integrated plantar reflex are:

  • Dislikes wearing shoes and socks
  • Can’t walk or run fast
  • Curls toes when thinking
  • Has gait (walking) imbalances
  • Shin soreness
  • Frequent twisted ankles
  • A child or adult who often walks on their toes.

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR)

primal reflexes kinesiologyThis reflex in babies, is where the head will be normally more on one side than the other. The arm will usually be out to that same side (nicknamed the boxer pose!) and the opposite leg will be bent. Between 6-8 months the body will become symmetrical if the reflex is integrated.

Possible problems if this reflex is not integrated includes:

  • Crawling difficulties
  • Hand-eye co-ordination problems
  • Difficulty with left and right
  • Finds holding a pen difficult
  • Concentrate issues
  • ME  (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis)
  • Breathing problems
  • Messy eating
  • Problems with using cutlery
  • Speech good but cannot express self in written form
  • Spelling and grammar issues
  • Instant gratification issues – wants everything NOW

Root and Suck Reflex

Rooting helps a baby become ready to suck. When the roof of the babies mouth is stimulated it begins to suck. This doesn’t develop until 32nd week of pregnancy and is not developed until 36 weeks. Premature babies therefore may have a week sucking reflex because of this. Babies also have their hand-to-mouth reflex which means they will suck on their fingers or hands. This is a phase which will integrate at around 4 months of age.

Problems associated with this reflex not integrating include:

  • Speech problems
  • Thumb sucking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Dribbling
  • Invasion of personal space
  • Difficulty with peer relationships
  • Sensitive to cold
  • Closing eyes to process information
  • Issues with food and smoking
  • Menstrual cycle issues
  • Hyper messy and noisy eating
  • Chews pencils, pens or fingers when concentrating
  • Wants to rest after eating a meal
  • Nail biting

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex

The movement of the babies body is what is required to get through the birth canal. Often not integrated in those born by caesarean or forcep delivery as the head would not be moving in the natural way. This reflex helps strengthen the muscles to get the baby ready to crawl, where they are able to pull their head back to be able to look forwards.

You may notice a chid or adult with this reflex retained will wrap their legs around a chair leg.

Possible problems with this reflex being un-integrated include:

  • Inner ear problems
  • Difficulty judging space and speed
  • Fear of heights
  • Forgetful, late, slow and vague
  • Disorganised
  • Floppy child
  • Can’t swim with head in the water
  • Low self esteem
  • Makes silly mistakes
  • Difficulty copying from a board
  • Makes silly mistakes
  • Spacial awareness poor
  • Can’t give directions

Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflexes

This is the reflex for the sideways movement of the head. It’s also flexion of the hips pulling a baby up to crawling position. It develops the near vision and far vision, and helps motor activity such as crawling, standing and walking. This can be commonly retained in children who did not crawl, but bottom shuffle. Babies need to spend some ‘tummy time’ to be able to learn to crawl. If they are often left on their back then they may have this reflex undeveloped.

Problems with this reflex not integrating include:

  • Messy eating
  • Doesn’t like sitting cross legged
  • Wriggly legs
  • Wraps legs round chair leg
  • Poor concentration
  • Floppy
  • Poor Hand/Eye co-ordination
  • Doesn’t swim well
  • Stiff Neck
  • One of both feet turns in on walking

The Babynski Reflex

babynski reflexThis is the reflex of pulling the big toe upwards towards the head and being able to spread the toes. It involves muscles from the feet, the legs and the hips. It prepares the feet, legs and hips for walking and it also has an effect on the hearing, balance and co-ordination senses. 

Possible problems with this reflex not integrating, which is at around 2 years old, include:

  • Underdeveloped hearing
  • Undeveloped movement and sense of balance
  • Can’t walk or run fast
  • Dislikes wearing shoes (because they cannot pull their toes up)
  • Spreads toes a lot when thinking
  • Map limp
  • Foot problems in adults

This reflex is closely related to the plantar reflex as they are both associated with the soles of the feet.

Kinesiology For Primal Reflexes

In a session, there are several ways to be tested. If the adult or child who is a client will happily lay on my treatment couch, and participate in a treatment I will be actively involving the whole time in the tests, the results and the exercises at home. It’s a very easy and painless process which takes place fully clothed. Most clients say it’s very relaxing and a nice thing to have corrected. 

If the child is under three years old then we will use surrogate testing (their parent or caregiver we will use for testing) or I can test on myself using a test kit. Children who have learning disabilities who may struggle to be still on the couch, we can use the test kits and involve them even if it’s for a very short time. I am very used to making sessions flexible around children and their needs.

Once corrected, there are exercises to do at home every day for around 12 weeks. You can get babies to do them too, they’re quite easy once you know how, and I can teach you them. The exercises are really important for getting new neurons in the brain to make connections where they have not before, in order to develop the brain connections that should have happened when we were in the womb.