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What Are the Different Types of Reflex Testing?

The bottom of the foot is rubbed during the Babinski reflex to test the nervous system.
A reflex hammer may be used to test ankle reflex.
A reflex hammer is commonly used in a knee motor reflex test.
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  • Written By: Troy Holmes
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2014
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A reflex movement is a condition in which the human body automatically responds to specific artificial conditions. This typically happens in the joints when specific pressure points are stimulated. During a normal medical checkup, a doctor will perform reflex testing to ensure the nerves of the body are functioning properly.

Reflex testing typically requires a doctor to gently hit specific pressure points with a small tomahawk-shaped rubber instrument. When these pressure points are hit, the body should respond by default with a jerking motion of the tested joint area. Reflexes are tied to the central nervous system and spinal cord and reflexes typically weaken with age.

The most well known reflex testing is the knee test. With the test, a patient is directed to set on a table with his knee hanging over the edge. The doctor will hit the pressure point below the kneecap with the tomahawk rubber hammer. If the nerves are responding correctly, the knee will immediately force the leg to swing up with a reflex movement.

The Babinski reflex test is designed to test the nervous system by rubbing the bottom of the foot. This tests the nerves within the spinal cord. If an individual has nerve damage, it will be indicated by his big toe shooting upwards, while the other four toes fan out. This reflex was discovered by Joesph Babinski in the early 19th century.

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Eye and hand coordination is another form of reflex testing. This typically involves pictures and reactive movement, including tapping on a counting device. This form of reflex testing is meant to test an individual’s ability to see and react to changes in his environment. This testing is not automatic as it requires cognitive thought to process the execution step rather than being an automatic response.

The bicep reflex test is meant to check the nerves within the upper area of the spinal cord. This type of reflex testing is accomplished by pressing on the bicep tendon. A positive reflex will cause the body to automatically flex the bicep area.

The ankle reflex test is performed by tapping the Achilles heal area of the foot with a rubber hammer. This test is a validation of nerve pathways between the lower disks within the spinal cord. A successful test will cause the foot to jerk when the Achilles heal area is tapped.

The grasp reflex is an automatic hand squeezing reflex that is used for testing the reflexes of babies. This automatic reflex dissipates after six months of age. It is considered an infant reflex and used for testing the nervous system within children.

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