Primal Reflexes

These reflexes are automatic neurological responses triggered in the brain, designed to help us survive in the womb and develop fully through the next 3 years.

Foetal reflexes are needed to help us develop in the womb and are replaced before birth by primal reflexes. These also develop in the womb but stay in place afterwards for different periods of time to help us develop the neurology to be born, to feed, to crawl, and then walk.

Once their use has passed, the reflexes should integrate so that adult ones can take their place, a process that should be completed by the age of 3. The adult reflexes are less instinctive, allowing a more conscious, thoughtful approach to situations and challenges.

Issues arise when a reflex stays open beyond its normal ‘use by’ date. The adult response is then influenced by the baby or toddler instinct which can have an unwelcome impact on our nervous system. This can lead to a range of symptoms from anxiety and fear through to sensitivity, learning difficulties, fatigue, poor co-ordination and self-esteem issues.

There are many reasons why a reflex stays open beyond its due date. Being born by C-Section is a good example, where all the reflexes designed to help the baby turn and twist through the birth canal remain unused, waiting for their moment. Equally, all those baby instincts to root, suck, wrap around their mother’s body and need her flesh with their fingers are based around primal reflexes and if a baby is not breast-fed, they stay open. That person who writes with their tongue hanging out is probably struggling with an unintegrated ‘root’, ‘suck’ and ‘palmar’ reflex.

It is not just unused reflexes that can cause problems. Illness, trauma, family arguments etc can unintegrate a reflex that had been previously integrated. This is why we sometimes regress neurologically in times of stress and duress. It may well explain why children who react badly to vaccines lose some of their speech and motor skills.

Most official writings on this subject suggest integrating reflexes using repeated physical movements over many months, a form of physiotherapy. However, kinesiologists in Devon have been exploring reflex integration using energy work to bring them quickly and fully into line. My thanks go to Sylvia Jackson for sharing this knowledge and research with me.

I have given you this leaflet because we have found reflexes to work on in the context of the goals we had for this session. They should now be integrated, but there will be a period of settling in time, about a month, when your adult reflexes will develop into the space we have created. This should be a gentle process but occasionally you may become aware of a sensation or a slight discomfort in the physical area involved, a foot sensation for the plantar reflex etc. Just be with the experience if you can and it will pass quickly.

My main sense with reflexes that sit unintegrated is that we can get by in that state, but each movement or action requires more energy and effort than is natural. It is much like walking the wrong way along an escalator, it can be done but your body is trying to work in a different way. You want to relax, your body is programmed for danger, you want to bend your arm as you look left, your body wants to straighten it. It is inefficient and can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety as well as more subtle emotional issues like low self-esteem. Integrating reflexes is an important piece of work in any healing journey.



Possible issues if retained


Help the foetus develop

No platform for primal reflexes to build upon


Panic, flight or fight, releases adrenalin and cortisol

Allergies, anxiety, ADHD, low self-esteem, sensitive,nightmares

Fear Paralysis

Slows breathing and heart rate due to shock

Anxiety, fear, depression, eating disorders, stuck, autistic, shyness, tantrums

Root and suck

Feeding and latching on

Food issues, additions, weight issues, snores, thumb sucker


Hand kneads as babies suckle, links hands and mouth

Hand and mouth move together

Spinal Galant

Helps arch back for birth and for skin to hear sound in the womb

Poor posture, bedwetting, sound sensitive, IBS, backache, poor memory and concentration


Cries to resist restrictions after birth

Learning difficulties, tantrums, bed-wetting, low self-esteem,


Hand grasping reflex to hold onto mother

Poor grip and co-ordination, poor speech and language, carpal tunnel, stuttering


Base for holding on with feet and walking

Stubborn, slow runner, lacks trust, feels stuck or lost


Prepares feet for walking

Poor co-ordination and walking, needy, dependent, invisible

Palmomental Plantomental

Hands and feet

Biting children, hands and mouth move together, stutter, poor speech, poor grip


Increase ankle flex, links feet & eyes

Heavy footed, poor balance, poor balance when head tilts


Develops muscles for walking and helps co-ordination

Back strain, walks on toes, dyslexia ADHD, spatial problems

Asymmetrical Tonic Neck

Same side movement of arms and legs, to twist in birth canal

Breathing issues, hard to crawl, co-ordination poor, ME or CFS, shoulder issues, fatigue

Symmetrical Tonic Neck

Aids crawling, walking and motor development

Wriggly legs, fatigue, guilt, low self-esteem, poor posture, stiff neck and shoulders

Tonic Labyrinthine

Body responds to change in head position, triggered at birth

Poor balance and spatial skills, fatigue, anxiety, vague, forgetful, slow, toe walker


Helps sitting and walking, lifting head, arms extend

Poor muscle tone in neck and back, low field of vision, lower body stiff


Co-ordinates arms and legs for crawling, linked to hypothalamus

Bed wetting, difficulties with walking and sugar. Postural problems. Hip, shoulder, ankle issues

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