How to Test Tendon Reflexes

Written by anneline kinnear
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Tendon reflexes are tested by tapping the tendon muscle briskly. In healthy patients, this will cause an immediate and involuntary reflex action in the muscle, resulting in a visible jerk. Tendon reflex testing provides information on the state of the central as well as peripheral nervous system. Diminished reflexes generally indicate peripheral problems, while exaggerated reflexes may be indicative of central nervous system problems.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Reflex hammer
  • Exam table

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Instructions

    Deep Tendon (Patellar) Reflex Test

  1. 1

    Position the lower leg in a right angle with the thigh over the side of an exam table.

  2. 2

    Make sure the leg is relaxed and hanging loosely.

  3. 3

    Briskly tap the patellar tendon in the shinbone area with a reflex hammer to elicit a tendon reflex response.

    Biceps Tendon Reflex Test

  1. 1

    Rest the forearm of the patient in one hand with the forearm at a right angle to the upper arm.

  2. 2

    Make sure the arm is relaxed.

  3. 3

    Gently tap the inner fold of the arm at the base of the biceps tendon with a reflex hammer to obtain movement in the muscle.

    Triceps Tendon Reflex Test

  1. 1

    Rest the forearm of the patient in one hand with the forearm at a right angle to the upper arm.

  2. 2

    Make sure the arm is relaxed.

  3. 3

    Tap the triceps tendon at the rear of the upper arm just above the elbow to elicit a muscle reflex.

    Achilles tendon Reflex Test

  1. 1

    Position the patient in a prone position face down on the exam table, with feet extended over the edge of the table, toes pointing downward.

  2. 2

    Support the foot with one hand.

  3. 3

    Tap the Achilles tendon with a finger or reflex hammer to obtain a reflex action from the foot.

Tips and warnings

  • Reflexes will respond slower if the patient is using medication such as tranquillisers or depressants.
  • When testing tendon reflexes, limbs should always be in a relaxed position as this can influence the outcome of the result. If any abnormalities in tendon reflexes are detected such as diminished or accentuated reflex responses, contact a physician immediately to obtain expert medical advice.

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