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Retained Primitive Reflexes

What are primitive reflexes?

Primitive reflexes are involuntary movement reflexes and patterns that all babies are born with. These reflexes develop in the womb and help the foetal baby to practice movements needed for survival including breathing, sucking and swallowing. The primitive reflexes are housed in the central nervous system and integration should happen within the first year of life as the brain and nervous system develops. The integration of primitive reflexes allows for the baby to control their movements in gravity voluntarily and through postural reflexes.

What can happen if primitive reflexes persist?

When the primitive reflexes do not integrate, it is known as retained primitive reflexes. The delay in integration indicates slower brain maturation and is associated with learning delays, emotional challenges and coordination difficulties. Children who have neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, sensory processing disorder, autism, or other learning disorders often present with retained primitive reflexes which can affect their behaviour and learning skills.

How can the retained primitive reflexes be integrated?

Chiropractors assess children for retained primitive reflexes as it provides information on the integrity of the child’s nervous system, particularly the brainstem and spinal cord. Retained primitive reflexes can be integrated through gentle chiropractic care and specific movement-based exercises.


Common primitive reflexes tested and signs of it retained:

Moro Reflect

  • Poor balance/coordination
  • Over-reactive
  • Easily distracted
  • Poor attention
  • Allergies, asthma, and decreased immunity

Rooting and Sucking Reflex

  • Hypersensitive on the skin around the mouth
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing solid foods
  • Speech and articulation difficulties

Palmar Reflex

  • Difficulties with hand and finger control
  • Difficulty with pencil grip
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Messy handwriting
  • Hypersensitivity to touch of the hands

Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex

  • Low tone – weakness, poor posture and slumping while sitting
  • Poor timing/no rhythm
  • Difficulty with judging space, distance, depth and speed
  • Motion sickness

Spinal Galant Reflex

  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Poor posture
  • Bed wetting
  • Irritated by tucked-in shirt or tight waistband

Babinski Reflex

  • Poor balance/coordination
  • Tendency to walk on toes
  • Difficulty learning to walk
  • Running awkwardly

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

  • Poor hand writing
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulty using both sides of the body at the same time
  • Difficulty with activities that cross midline
  • Reading and visual tracking difficulties

Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Clumsy
  • Difficulty with synchronised movements
  • Difficulty refocusing eyes from near and far objects
  • Poor posture and tendency to slump while sitting

Retained primitive reflexes can present in many ways in children which may overlooked. For example, children who have a retained Moro reflex are often over-reactive which some parents believe are due to anxiety or simply being a “scaredy cat”. When retained primitive reflexes are identified and integrated through chiropractic care, the child’s health and lives thrive.

Dr Cindy Lam has a special interest in this area and may help to identify and correct the neurology and assist the integration of these reflexes. Please contact us if you wish to discuss your concerns.


Dr. Cindy Lam Chiropractor

Dr. Cindy Lam

After suffering with low back pain related to her menstrual cycle as a teen, and finding incredible results and relief with Chiropractic care, Cindy knew by the age of 14 that she wanted to pursue Chiropractic to bring that same opportunity to you. Having studied at Macquarie University, she has graduated with a Bachelor of Chiropractic Science and a Master of Chiropractic.

Dr. Cindy is grateful to be surrounded by a wonderful and exceptional team, and to be working in her chosen profession. She loves seeing the changes in people’s health and quality of life because of their body’s innate ability to heal.

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