Primitive Reflexes

Woman checks primitive reflexes on a new baby

If you have taken your child to see one of our chiropractors, they will most likely have been checked for primitive reflexes. But what even is a primitive reflex?

Woman holds a baby and has her finger in its mouth checking sucking primitive reflex.

Primitive reflexes are reflexes that an infant is generally born with, but some will present through the first year of life. These reflexes are there to help the baby move through the birth canal and to survive for the first year of life (1). As a child grows and begin to move on their own these primitive reflexes will integrate and be replaces by postural reflexes. If primitive reflexes do not integrate appropriately then it is can be a sign that your nervous system is not functioning at its highest level. This can lead in learning difficulties and poor motor function (2).

Primitive reflexes include…

  • Moro or startle – when baby’s head falls backwards they will throw their arms out and then bring them back tight to their torso.
  • Rooting – helps the baby find the breast to feed
  • Sucking – the baby will automatically start sucking when something is in their mouth
  • Palmar – when baby grabs on to something placed in their hand
  • Plantar – when the ball of the foot is simulated the toes will flex down
  • Spinal gallant – when the skin on either side of the spine is stimulated, the baby will move their body to that side, this helps baby move their way out of the birth canal
  • Asymmetrical tonic neck response – when baby’s head is turned to the side the arm on that side will extend, again this helps baby move their shoulders through the birth canal.

If your child has one or more of these reflexes, our chiropractors can work with you to help integrate them. This will generally include low force chiropractic adjustments and specific at home exercises.

If you would like to bring your infant in to see one of our chiropractic team contact us to make your appointment.


  1. Bladt, D. (2016). Switched on Kids. Sydney: Printcraft
  2. Gieysztor, E. Z., Choińska, A. M., & Paprocka-Borowicz, M. (2018). Persistence of primitive reflexes and associated
    motor problems in healthy preschool children. Archives of medical science : AMS, 14(1), 167–173.
    doi:10.5114/aoms.2016.60503

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