Spinal reflex control allows your body to react automatically without effort of thought. The reflex arc is a nerve pathway involved in a reflex action. In your vertebrae, most sensory neurons do not pass straight to the brain but synapse in the spinal cord. The reflex arc involves three neurons: a sensory neuron, an intermediate neuron, and a motor neuron.
Your reflex begins with the stimulus (such as a cold wind or heat from a stove), followed by a receptor (a receptor is how you respond to the sensory information and transmit the signal to a sensory nerve), then a sensory neuron (this passes your nerve impulse to the spinal cord), an intermediate neuron (this links the sensory neuron to the motor neuron in your spinal cord), a motor neuron (carries the nerve impulse from the spinal cord to a muscle), and finally an effector (the muscle that is stimulated to produce an effect).
Reflexes allows our bodies to protect themselves with fast reaction times using quick automatic processing. The presence and strength of spinal reflex control is a significant sign of your nervous system development and function.
What Having Poor Spinal Reflex Control Can Tell You
Having normal spinal reflex control means the body is responding appropriately; however, those who see an absent in their reflexes could mean their spinal cord, peripheral nerve, nerve root, or muscle has been damaged. When your reflex response is not normal, it could be due to your sensory (feeling) and/or motor (movement) nerves being disrupted. Below are some examples of what abnormal spinal reflex controls can mean:
- Glabellar Reflex (Myerson’s sign)
The glabella is an area between the eyes and above your nose. When the glabella is tapped, it is a common reaction to blink. Typically, when a person is tapped multiple times their blinking will stop, but if the blinking continues with each tap on the glabella, it is a Myerson’s sign. This is mostly seen in those with Parkinson’s disease and usually means there is some brain abnormality.
- Clonus Reflex
This is a hyperactive reflex that can be a condition or caused by another condition. This reflex is tested by moving the foot in a specific way. Although reacting with one or a few twitches is normal, patients who react by having an involuntary, repetitive muscle spasm where they quickly flex the foot repeatedly for several seconds could have spinal cord or brain damage. This spastic reaction is a regular sign of an upper motor neuron disorder or a spinal cord injury.
- Snout Reflex
Also known as pouting or pursing of the lips, the snout reflex can be either bilateral (happen on both sides) or unilateral (happen on one side) and is activated by a light tap on closed lips near the midline. This is a natural childhood reflex that vanishes with age and is considered an abnormal reflex in adults. For adults who have this type of reaction, it can indicate a frontal lobe problem (this can include a frontal lobe stroke or frontal lobe head trauma).
- Babinski Reflex
A normal reflex in infants and one of the most common reflexes tested by neurologists by scratching the bottom of the foot. For adults who have the bottom of their foot scratched, their toes usually curl down, but in children until the age of two the toes will go up and fan out. If an adult responds with the same reaction of fanning out and pointing up their toes, it could be a sign of a stroke, meningitis (swelling of the protective membranes that cover your brain and spinal cord), brain tumor, or a spinal cord injury.
- Hoffman’s Reflex
Tested by flicking the patient’s middle or ring finger and observing the thumb to see if it twitches in response. This reflex, twitch in the thumb, is usually present in healthy individuals. If the twitch in one thumb is more significant than the other thumb, it could be a sign of a neurological disorder. When the reflex is stronger on one side it can usually means there is an injury to the spinal cord.
How do These Reflexes Connect to the Spinal Cord?
As mentioned earlier, most sensory neurons do not pass straight to the brain but synapse in the spinal cord (your reflex arc). The spinal cord also houses your central nervous system that consists of your brain and spinal cord. Your spinal cord carries messages from the brain to the rest of your body to coordinate movement and sensation. Having a spinal cord misalignment can cause the spinal reflex control to function improperly and produce abnormal reflexes.
How does Upper Cervical Help Spinal Reflex Control?
Upper cervical chiropractic is the study of the top two bones of the spinal cord, called the Atlas and the Axis. When one of the top two bones are out of alignment, it can change the form of your entire spine and weaken the tissue and muscles surrounding it. The spinal cord will follow the alignment of your top two bones; this is because the upper cervical misalignment causes your head to tilt and as a response the spine will twist, turn, and curve until the head is leveled again. This domino effect creates misalignments and pressure throughout the entire spine and your brain stem (located in the upper cervical area); this will affect your spinal reflex control.
When an upper cervical chiropractor adjusts the misalignment, pressure it taken off the brain stem to enable proper brain to body communication again and bringing balance back to your nervous system functions. Having your brain stem working properly allows the body to repair and heal damages throughout the body that cause the spinal reflex control to work improperly. A healthy spine and proper brain stem function will also allow the muscles and tissues surrounding the spine to strengthen and heal.
Upper cervical adjustments help the most significant parts of the body: the brain stem (which controls messages between the brain and the rest of the entire body) and your central nervous system (which controls most functions of your body and mind, consisting of both the brain and the spinal cord). Since upper cervical adjustments correct the body’s main communication and functions, it allows your body to heal and repair itself without interference. It is very common for patients who have had upper cervical adjustments to notice changes throughout their body shortly after the first adjustment. If you or someone you know has signs of improper spinal reflex control, upper cervical adjustments will help you repair and can heal the cause of damage.
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