Hoffmann’s Reflex: Sign of Brain/Spinal Cord Damage

Hoffmann's Reflex Test

Hoffmann’s Reflex Nerve Test

You may have not heard of a Hoffmann’s reflex which is another type of pathological reflex. This reflex is used like the Babinski’s reflex to assess for a upper motor neuron injury, which I have mentioned before. Compared to the Babinski relfex where you see the result in the foot in this case, the abnormal nerve reflex happens in the hand. Specifically the fingers.

I had a look around the web today for a video so you can get to see a patient who has a positive Hoffmann’s reflex response. I will also tell you how to perform this neurological reflex test correctly.

Pathological Reflex

A pathological reflex means that it is not a normal muscle-tendon reflex that should be present.

The Hoffmann’s sign shows a positive upper motor neuron lesion (UMNL). The upper part means is that there is damage to the spinal cord and/or brain.

An example condition of this type of spinal cord damage is seen in a cervical myelopathy. The nerve damage then causes the signal of the nerve to the arm and hand to give an abnormal response, like a Hoffmann’s reflex.

When I believe there is a  trapped nerve I use various neurological tests and I find this useful when I think the patient doesn’t have a normal cervical radiculopathy condition or a lower motor neuron lesion.

How to Do Video

In the following video you can see the left hand of a male patient being tested. Apparently he has a confirmed history of cervical myelopathy.

The Hoffmann’s test procedure is:

  1. The end of the third finger is flicked down by the doctor,
  2. The other fingers respond by also flexing,
  3. This is a positive sign confirming a Hoffmann’s Reflex

So the next time your doctor or chiropractor during your physical examination tests your fingers. Then you know they might be testing for a Hoffmann’s Reflex.

Image Credit: Some rights reserved by superman_ha_muerto