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What are primitive reflexes?

Have you ever thought about all the things your baby is able to do, without being told how to do them?

Things like turning their head as you stroke their cheek, grabbing your finger when you touch their palm and the cute leg/arm movements that they haven’t quite figured out how to control. All of these movements are actually there for a reason! Babies are born with “instincts” that are called Primitive Reflexes. These are unconscious muscle movements in response to stimulation which are important for development as your child grows These should disappear (known as integration) by around the time they turn one.

So why do babies need these reflexes? Why don’t adults have them? Primitive reflexes are the basic start of our nervous system and our ability to move. Each reflex has a purpose in preparing our body to move against gravity. As your child grows, these reflexes integrate into their nervous systems and as a replacement, they develop postural reflexes that are carried through adulthood. Therefore, adults still have reflexes, we have just developed a different form of them!

All of this information is probably overwhelming, but trust me, I have a point.

Sometimes instead of the body’s normal function to replace these reflexes, they are retained in the nervous system. Meaning they do not develop into something we can use in adulthood. So what happens? When these reflexes “stick” our body can develop unwanted habits such as fidgeting, poor focus or concentration, weak immune systems, low energy, anxiety, poor hand-eye coordination, ADD/ADHD and even bedwetting. Sound familiar? There are a number of reasons why these reflexes stick around longer than they should, and we may be able to help explain.

With every kid we see, we ask several questions about the birth process. Even if your child is in their teens! Birth is a traumatic event, even if everything goes smoothly. Throw in long labors, hours of pushing, c-sections, vacuums, forceps, pulling, twisting, etc, and it makes for an even more traumatic experience. Birth trauma is one of the key causes of retained reflexes. Then during the first few years of life they end up with falls, physical trauma, lack of tummy time, skipping important stages like crawling, chronic ear infections and so much more that can also contribute.

If I have caught your attention at all, here’s where we can help!

As I mentioned above, reflexes are a function of the nervous system. As chiropractors we make sure that your child’s nervous system is functioning optimally with regular adjustments. We are also trained to test for any retained reflexes. The tests are simple, painless and typically fun for kids to do! If we see something sticking that shouldn’t be, we can offer age-specific exercises to help integrate them. For toddlers and older children, most of the exercises are fun and kids won’t even realize they are training their brain! With a combination of adjustments to promote nerve function and some fun exercises, we often see positive results in reducing some of the symptoms associated with retained reflexes.

If you think your child may be expressing signs of a retained reflex or if you are at your wits end with treatments and seeing no progress, give us a call to schedule!

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