The Spinal Galant Reflex is one of many infant primitive reflexes - an involuntary movement pattern that we are all born with. The Spinal Galant is believed to play an important role in the natural birthing process. During labor, contractions stimulate the lumbar region (the lower back), which causes movement in the hips, thus helping the baby move down the birth canal. Additionally, “it also contributes to the development of the range of movements of the hips needed for crawling and walking.”
The Spinal Galant is triggered by stimuli to the back. This can be done by stroking down one side of the spine (while the infant is laying on their stomach), facilitating hip movement away from the stimuli. This can also be done while the child is in quadruped (on all fours). This reflex also plays a role in developing the vestibular system and is connected to the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR), which also plays a role in the birth process. Urination is also frequently associated with the Spinal Galant Reflex.
The Spinal Galant is developed in utero at approximately 20 weeks. It should be fully developed at birth and should integrate (go away) between 3-9 months of age.
Although there is no one scientific method to ensure full primitive reflex integration, there are some things to consider when discussing the integration of the Spinal Galant.
Let’s talk about sensory integration. By providing an infant with different types of sensory stimulation, new neural pathways will be developed in the brain, thus stimulating new movement and cognitive development. An article on sensory integration discussed that the engagement in sensorimotor activities promoted adaptive behaviors via neuroplastic changes - simply put, by experiencing different sensory activities, our brains can change and thus promote new behaviors!
So, what types of sensory activities should you provide to your newborn infant? Keep it simple!
Because every newborn is different and every experience is different, there’s no one way to guarantee that the Spinal Galant reflex will be successfully integrated by nine months of age. However, by using the above strategies, you can feel more confident that your baby is getting the sensory experiences necessary for potential primitive reflex integration.
Additionally, if a child has successfully integrated their primitive reflexes, a sudden or chronic bout of trauma, stress or injury can re-activate these reflexes.
While there is no guarantee for reflex integration, there are contributing factors to consider if your child has an unintegrated Spinal Galant reflex.
Because the Spinal Galant is directly related to the vestibular system and consists of a physical reaction, it directly impacts movement, balance, muscle tone, and coordination. As stated earlier, it also facilitates urination when stimulated.
Symptoms related to an unintegrated Spinal Galant in older children are:
If your child exhibits any of the above symptoms/challenges, the first step will be to talk with your pediatrician. Discuss your concerns. If your pediatrician is familiar with primitive reflex integration, they may already have a plan of action ready. If your pediatrician is unfamiliar with primitive reflex integration, feel free to share what you've learned! If you ever feel uncomfortable or that your concerns are being pushed aside don’t be afraid to seek out a new pediatrician.
Many Occupational Therapists (OT) are trained in primitive reflex integration techniques. Seek one out! Talk with friends and family members to see if they know anyone specific. Use Facebook groups and Instagram to find someone who has training. Physical Therapists (PT), craniosacral therapists, and chiropractors may also know of primitive reflex integration. It can take some time to locate the right professional, so don’t give up!
Meanwhile, there are some different exercises and play activities that you can incorporate into your child’s daily routine that can help promote the integration of the Spinal Galant.
For babies, decreasing the amount of waking time spent in containers is the best way to integrate the Spinal Galant reflex. When baby is awake, provide natural movement activities and as much tummy time as possible.
If your child is young, under three years old, focus on developmental movements:
If your child is older, you can still focus on the same developmental movements and increase the challenges, as well as try some other activities.
If your child is struggling with some of the signs/symptoms associated with an unintegrated Spinal Galant reflex, try some of these strategies:
As you continue on your path through primitive reflex integration, keep in mind that your child is unique, and there's nothing wrong with them! Even if they have an unintegrated Spinal Galant reflex and seem to be struggling more than other children, your job is to help guide them along the way and provide as much support as possible.
You and your child are doing the best you can with what you have, so keep researching and keep trying new things until you find what works. Even then, keep searching because what works now might not work forever, especially as your child grows and develops through different seasons of life!
Do you like to listen to your information? Make sure to listen to our podcast episode #103 which we dive deep on the Spinal Galant Reflex
Want to learn all about Retained Primitive Reflexes? Be sure to check out our Primitive Reflex Integration Training on Harkla.co!
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We all know about the five main senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch. Many people also know about two other very important hidden senses: proprioception and vestibular. Did you know there’s a third hidden sense- interoception? Learn all about it on our latest blog post!