Primitive Reflexes and Kinesiology– what you need to know

For a lot of people the very first question is what are primitive reflexes?  The way I describe them is to think back to when your child was a newborn, and the doctor sort of threw them around a little and you were a little bit worried they were going to break your precious baby?  Maybe that was just me…  What they were doing was to check that all these primitive reflexes were present, as they’re really important for the survival and development of your baby.

Primitive reflexes are quite simply survival mechanisms – they are there to keep your newborn baby alive.  They develop during pregnancy and birth to call for help (cry), get food, ensure they can breathe, and learn to move on their own, and grow and develop.  Once they have served their purpose, the primitive reflexes are supposed to “integrate” into more purposeful actions, and stop being the primary response to any stimulus oe trigger.

Sometimes they don’t.  This can be due to a number of reasons – sometimes due to not doing the movement of a particular reflex enough to integrate, sometimes there is a real or perceived trauma, and sometimes inflammation in the body can inhibit this integration.

What I will see in clinic is kids that were born by c-section (this is not a bad thing, it just means a particular reflex wasn’t used in the birth process), or didn’t crawl properly, or not for long enough for what their body needed, or they’ve had some sort of life trauma that their body has not processed.  Every one of us is different, and we don’t have a blueprint for each person to know exactly what we need to ensure reflexes ingreate.

What happens when a primitive reflex doesn’t integrate?

In essence, the survival system of the body stays as the primary response, rather than higher order thinking and reasoning.  This can look like:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Poor sleep
  • Immune system weakness
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Hyperactivity
  • Heightened physical and emotional sensitivity
  • Dififculty with friendships
  • Eating disorders

See how this can be an issue at home and school with your kids?

KinesiAlice Startle Reflex Adult

Adults can also have retained (or even reactivated) primitive reflexes

This can look like:

  • Ongoing anxiety with no obvious cause
  • Diagnosed or suspected adult ADHD
  • Feeling unmotivated to try new things or move on – get stuck in patterns and cannot change
  • Emotional mood swings or dysregulation
  • Ongoing or severe mental health issues

Primitive Reflexes, their purpose and signs of being retained

There are several reflexes, but what I would consider to be the ones that cause issues most often are:

Moro Reflex / Startle Reflex

KinesiAlice Baby startle Reflex

Designed to open the lungs and call for help (cry)

Signs of retained reflex:

  • Distractible by noise or movement
  • Overreactive
  • Mood swings
  • Coordination issues
  • Poor decision making skills
  • Tense muscle tone
  • Fatigue
  • Hypervigialnce
  • Tonsil and adenoid issues


ANTR Reflex

KinesiAlice ATNR Reflex

This one stops babies from rolling on to their face and suffocating, and helps develop spatial awareness

Signs of retained reflex:

  • Body and head do the same thing automatically
  • Poor eye tracking
  • Trouble with reading
  • Trouble with crossing the midline
  • Difficulty skipping or swimming
  • Impaired balance or concentration
  • Impaired hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulty with writing

Suck/Root Reflex

KinesiAlice Suck root Reflex

These reflexes help babies indicate they’re hungry, find food, and feed effectively

Signs of retained reflex:

  • Speech concerns
  • Fussy with food
  • Sucking on fingers/clothes/thumbs
  • Tongue too forward a lot of the time
  • Poor manual dexterity

Palmar Reflex

KinesiAlice Palmar reflex

This is when the baby’s fingers latch around yours – it helps hold on for safety.  It also supports the rooting rflex to find food, and is a key exploring to learn feature

Signs of retained reflex:

  • Difficulty with writing for periods of time
  • Sensitivy to touch
  • Holding on for safety externally

Spinal Galant Reflex

KinesiAlice Spinal Galant Reflex

This is a key reflex for the baby to work their way out when being born.  It also helps with learning to sit and crawl

Signs of retained reflex:

  • Bedwetting
  • Fidgeting or wriggling
  • Poor concentration

OK, I recognise some signs.  How do I get help with this?

Physical or manual therapy such as OT (occupational therapy), physiotherapy and chiropractic work (sometimes they do some kinesiology to work out spinal adjustments) is very helpful, as these can help with integration.

However, and naturally I’m very biased, but kinesiology is also great for this due to the mind body connection of kinesiology!  At the core of all retained reflexes, the body is saying it doesn’t feel safe enough to let go of the survival pattern.

What I do in my clinic is help you and your child understand what’s going on, how it’s not their fault, and then help their body feel safe and release tension with kinesiology techniques.  We use acupressure, energy work, maybe a little light massage, and also work through any emotional patterns, and discussion nutritional support.

We give you easy to implement home reinforcement to continue to help between sessions.  This only takes a few minutes a day!

Between sessions?  How many sessions does it take?

The great thing about kinesiology is that you don’t need to sign the rest of your life over to me.  Typically a reflex will take between 1-3 sessions to integrate, and sometimes when multiple reflexes are active, working with the primary one will allow other reflexes to integrate.

It’s rare that I would need to work on every single reflex (actually I don’t think I’ve ever needed to do this), which is a benefit of my style of kinesiology over other forms and other therapies.  Working with the primary reflex quite often solves the rest. It’s all connected!

We do need to see how things progress, but initially I would suggest 6-8 sessions is a good starting plan.  And the biggest factor I see that influences the amount of sessions is what you do between the sessions.  Less home reinforcement usually equals more sessions!


I want to get primitive reflexes assessed for myself or my child

Good plan!  Book in now for a consultiation, and let’s get started

Book here

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