*Names have been changes according to HIPPA policies
During his initial evaluation with Mike, Donald showed decreased reflexes in his ankles and knees. During his treatments with Chip and Sharon, he attended all his appointments and completed his home program as directed. After two months of treatment, strength and range of motion increased, pain decreased, and his reflexes began to reemerge. Donald further continued with treatment, with a further increase in all objective and subjective measurements.
So, what’s with reflexes anyway? Why are they considered to be so important? Why do physical therapists always test reflexes and use them as a determination of therapy?
Here’s reflexes simplified.
When you walk around barefoot, the nerve signal travels all the way up to the brain, and your brains says, “Oh, this is my carpet, keep walking.”
But, when you step on something sharp, that signal does not go all the way up to the brain, it only goes as far the spinal cord, where it goes through what is called a reflex arc, which causes you to move your foot away from the sharp object very quickly. This is a survival reflex.
When Mike uses his little hammer to hit your knee or ankle, he is hitting the tendon of certain muscles to activate that reflex arc. He is testing what is called deep tendon reflexes (DTR) and that little jerk that happens signifies the functional health of the neuromuscular system.
But reflexes are not only about moving away from potential injury. Those previously mentioned DTR’s also make tiny adjustments in your muscles while you are walking or just standing still. So, having a good reflex arc is important for balance and coordination.