Reflex hammer

Understanding the Reflex Hammer

A reflex hammer is a medical instrument used in neurological examinations to test the reflexes and muscle tone of a patient. It is a handheld device that consists of a handle and a rubber or synthetic head.

What is a Reflex Hammer?

A reflex hammer, also known as a percussion hammer, is a diagnostic tool used by healthcare professionals to assess the neurological responses of a patient. It is specifically designed to elicit and evaluate reflexes.

History of the Reflex Hammer

The reflex hammer was first introduced in the late 19th century by neurologist John Madison Taylor. Taylor’s design, known as the Taylor Hammer, became the prototype for future reflex hammers. Over the years, various modifications and advancements have been made to enhance its effectiveness and usability.

The Purpose of a Reflex Hammer

A reflex hammer serves multiple purposes in medical examinations:

Diagnostic Use in Neurological Examinations

The primary purpose of a reflex hammer is to aid in the diagnosis of neurological conditions. By assessing the reflex responses, healthcare professionals can gather important information about the functioning of the patient’s nervous system.

Assessing Reflexes

Reflex hammers are used to test the reflexes of different body parts, such as the knee jerk reflex (patellar reflex) or the biceps reflex. Abnormal reflexes can indicate neurological abnormalities or diseases.

Identifying Muscle Tone Issues

Another purpose of a reflex hammer is to evaluate muscle tone. By performing certain techniques with the reflex hammer, healthcare professionals can assess the resistance of muscles to passive movement, which can help identify conditions such as spasticity or hypotonia.

Types of Reflex Hammers

There are several types of reflex hammers available, each with its unique design and purpose. Some common types include:

Taylor Hammer

The Taylor Hammer, named after its inventor John Madison Taylor, is one of the most commonly used reflex hammers. It features a triangular rubber head on one end and a pointed tip on the other end for testing reflexes and sensitivity.

Babinski Hammer

The Babinski Hammer, also known as the Queen Square Hammer, has a flat and circular head. It is primarily used to test the plantar reflex, which involves stroking the sole of the foot to observe the response of the toes.

Tromner Hammer

The Tromner Hammer is a specialized reflex hammer with a rectangular head and a pointed tip. It is commonly used to assess reflexes in the upper limbs and is particularly useful for testing finger flexion reflexes.

Buck Hammer

The Buck Hammer, also known as the plexor, is a versatile reflex hammer with a small, rectangular head on one end and a brush on the other end. It is often used to test reflexes in sensitive areas, such as the face or hands.

How to Use a Reflex Hammer

Proper Positioning

Before using a reflex hammer, it is essential to position the patient correctly. The patient should be relaxed and in a comfortable position, with the body part being tested adequately exposed.

Techniques for Testing Reflexes

There are different techniques for testing reflexes with a reflex hammer, depending on the specific reflex being assessed. Healthcare professionals may use methods such as tapping, striking, or applying pressure to specific areas to elicit the desired reflex response.

Key Factors in Selecting a Reflex Hammer

When selecting a reflex hammer, several factors should be considered:

  • Size and weight: Choose a reflex hammer that feels comfortable and balanced in your hand.
  • Head material: The head of the reflex hammer should be made of a durable and non-toxic material.
  • Head shape: Different head shapes are suitable for testing specific reflexes.
  • Handle grip: A reflex hammer with a comfortable and non-slip grip allows for better control during examinations.


The reflex hammer is a valuable tool in neurological examinations, allowing healthcare professionals to assess reflexes and muscle tone. Understanding the purpose, types, and proper use of a reflex hammer is essential for accurate diagnosis and evaluation of neurological conditions.

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