Palmar Reflex

The Palmar reflex is the infantile Grasp reflex.  It is essential for developing fine motor skills and enhancing stereognosis (the ability to recognise an object only by feel) and sensory input.  It is first apparent 11 weeks after conception and is fully present at birth.  This neonatal reflex should ideally integrate during the second or third month of life.  Failure of the Palmar reflex to appropriately integrate has been witnessed among children who present with difficulty writing and expressing thoughts.

As a baby we have an active Palmar, or Grasp, reflex.  When the palmar surface of the hand is stroked, the fingers (excluding the thumb) flex toward the palm in an attempt to clasp whatever object may be the cause of stimulation.  As motor control improves through proper neural development, the Palmar reflex matures into the pincer grip.  It is normal for this transformation to take place by the fourth to sixth month of life and is evident as the three ulnar digits, and the index finger flex in turn as the child attempts to wiggle their fingers.   Many children fail to integrate this reflex beyond this point to develop independent finger movements.

In children, their history often reveals poor handwriting, but more importantly, a poor ability to process their ideas and then write them down ie. copying words is easy, however the task of spelling words is more difficult and messy.  Stories in written form may lack detail and do not flow, as they would if the child were to ‘tell’ the story verbally.  Also, the child may be forced to slump when playing computer games, playing an instrument, or when performing any fine motor task such as playing with play-dough or making models.  A continued Palmar reflex can have a lasting adverse effect upon fine muscle co-ordination, speech and articulation.

In the adult, we often hear “my back hurts when I sit in front of my computer”.  Typing relies on independent finger movement, as does playing an instrument.  In these people core muscles which support the spine may weaken during these tasks creating bad posture. This may be particularly evident in office workers and musicians who mention symptoms associated with weak core stability, such as low back pain, bladder weakness, or tiredness when working.

This correction not only has a profound effect on fine motor skills, written expression and manual dexterity, but also verbal expression, articulation and working posture.