- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Neurological Diseases Can be Found With a Simple Five Second Test
Demonstration of the Testing Procedure
Amazingly Simple Tool
The Babinski Reflex is a quick neurological test that anyone can do anywhere and anytime. Sometimes called the plantar response or big toe sign or phenomenon, it takes just seconds to perform. It's disarmingly simple and yet it can be quite accurate in detecting possible Central Nervous System trouble.
One constant in dealing with neurological disorders or damage is that the sooner it is recognized and treated, the better the chances are for a positive outcome. This test is one of the standard diagnostic tools used by doctors when diagnosing and treating neurology patients.
How It's Done
To perform the Babinski Reflex test, the subject removes his or her shoes and socks and lies on their back with the heels either supported on, or slightly hanging off of whatever is serving as a bed.
Using a pointed (not sharp) tool such as a letter opener or nail file, the tester runs the point up the midline of the sole of the foot, from the heel to the base of the toes. (A medium pressure is used). A normal reaction is for the toes to either remain still or else to curl downward.
The Babinski Reflex is present when the big toe points upward and the other toes fan out. Both feet are tested. Professionals sometimes test the outside edge of the foot and test across the upper sole also.
When the Reflex is Present
The most common cause for a positive result (Babinski Reflex being present) is either an error in performing the test or else in interpreting the results. (If the foot is pulled as the test is done then the toes may appear to fan). The best result is obtained on the first or second try; repeated tests will probably not yield accurate results. The test may be unreliable for children because their neurological development is in it’s early stages.
Some Possible Causes
What does the presence of the reflex mean? Unfortunately, it may indicate a serious neurological problem. Here is a list of some possibilities:
- Addison's anemia
- ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease)
- Brain tumor (sometimes)
- Familial periodic paralysis
- Friedreich's ataxia
- Grand mal seizure (sometimes a temporary Babinski's reflex is present after a seizure for a short while)
- Head injury
- Multiple sclerosis
- Polio (not all forms)
- Spinal cord injury or tumor
- Tuberculosis (when it affects the spine)
Don't Worry Unless the Doctor Tells You To
Testing for the Babinski Reflex is a good idea if someone has had any type of physical trauma, especially to the head, and also if stroke is suspected. It can give emergency responders additional information but you should never dismiss any symptoms based on your own test results.
Realistically, the chances of you finding any of the above listed conditions by doing your own Babinski Reflex test are quite small. Knowing how to do the test is interesting information but it certainly doesn’t give the layperson a reliable tool for diagnosing serious diseases. In the absence of any other symptoms, an apparent presence of the reflex can wait for your next trip to the physician to be checked out.
Babinski Reflex Article
- Babinski\'s reflex: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
Nat. Inst. of Health Site