Primitive reflexes are reflex actions originating in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that are exhibited by normal infants in response to particular stimuli. They are pre-programmed into our nervous systems to help us survive and thrive in particular situations. For example, the rooting reflex is present to help infants know to turn their cheek towards food when it is feeding time to help ensure successful breastfeeding. There are more than 10 primitive reflexes that are the first part of the brain to develop and should only remain active for the first few months of life however, sometimes they remain active for a lot longer.
Retention of primitive reflexes can be caused by a variety of factors. The birth process is a key factor in the integration and processing of these reflexes. A traumatic birth (a birth with excessive twisting and pulling, a birth using forceps or vacuum extraction or a c-section) may lead to retained reflexes. Additional causes of retained reflexes in children include poor posture, falls, lack of tummy time, delayed or skipping crawling, chronic ear infections, or stress on the child’s spinal column which surrounds their nervous system.
Retained primitive reflexes in children can lead to development delays, and sensory processing disorders. If the reflex remains retained into the teenage years and adulthood, they can contribute to issues in coordination and sensory perception.
Here are some examples of your child’s primitive reflexes and the secondary conditions (symptoms) that may be present if the reflex is retained.
Moro Reflex - primitive fight or flight reaction
Should Integrate (disappear) by: 2-4 Months
Signs of Retention: Hypersensitivity, Sensory Overload, Social and Emotional Immaturity
Rooting Reflex - response to turn head towards food
Should Integrate (disappear) by: 3-4 Months
Signs of Retention: Fussy Eating, Thumb Sucking, Speech and Articulation Problems
Palmer Grasp Reflex- automatic flexing of fingers to grab
Should Integrate (disappear) by: 5-6 Months
Signs of Retention: Difficulty with Fine Motor Skills, Messy Handwriting, Does Not Like Hands Being Touched or Held
Spinal Gallant Reflex- Assists babies with the birth process
Should Integrate (disappear) by: 3-9 Months
Signs of Retention: Postural Issues, Bedwetting, Poor Concentration, Poor Short Term Memory
So what can you do? Aside from getting adjusted by a paediatric chiropractor to remove the stress off of your child’s spinal column and nervous system, your paediatric chiropractor will perform remediation exercises on your child to help get rid of (integrate) the retained reflexes. You will also be required to perform these exercises at home with your child in between chiropractic check-ups.
Chiropractic adjustments on children are very safe, gentle and effective. The force we use to adjust a child’s spine is the same force you would use to see if a tomato is ripe.
For more information or to find a paediatric chiropractor near you visit The International Chiropractic Paediatric Association at www.icpa4kids.com