Best Reflex Hammer
When it comes to testing the neurological reflexes of particular muscle groups, three things are of upmost importance: 1) Proper technique with positioning the patient and using the reflex hammer, 2) patient comfort, and 3) have a proper reflex hammer to test the reflexes with.
If you're a nurse or medical professional, the technique and patient comfort aspects of testing reflexes will be taught and practiced in your curriculum in person. You will most likely receive a little bit of information about the different types of reflex hammers, but after all is said and done, it's easy to forget about the advantages of having an effective and reliable reflex hammer, sometimes also known as a percussion hammer.
Therefore, in this article, we would like to review the best reflex hammers for nurses, but these can also be extended beyond the niche of nursing. These reflex hammers are not ranked in any particular order, as we review a variety of types of reflex hammers, so we can give you an idea of the variety currently on the market.
Reviews - Best Reflex Hammers
This is one of the most popular reflex hammers for nurses and other medical professionals, as it offers excellent value and includes all the most necessary features. In short, this is the reason we voted the MDF Tromner Neurological Reflex Hammer as the best value reflex hammer.
MDF Instruments is a very well-respected and reliable company that designs and manufactures lots of different medical devices including, but not limited to, stethoscopes, sphygmomanometers, and reflex hammers. The Tromner neurological reflex hammer is marketed as a 4-in-1 dual mallet-type reflex hammer. It's good for both adult and pediatric patients and is designed for eliciting myotatic and cutaneous responses.
The head of this reflex hammer comes with two mallets - one large and one small, allowing for a higher precision in tendon percussion. They are made of a soft silicone, which also enhances patient comfort. The handle is lightweight and well-balanced with the head of the hammer, and there is also a built-in brush that can be used to elicit cutaneous responses.
Overall, this reflex hammer offers great bang-for-your-buck, as it incorporates all the desirable features into one nice reflex hammer that can be used for both adults and children. If you are going to use this in a pediatric setting, you may have to adjust your technique slightly, but assuming you are practicing, then you already know this. This is also a great reflex hammer for nursing students, as it comes in at an affordable price point, but offers great quality and numerous features, so you should be able to get a lot out of it.
The Prestige Medical Taylor Percussion Hammer is a classic reflex hammer, the type that most people think of when they think about having reflexes tested. This is an extremely simple and conventional design, and as such, it's one of the most affordable reflex hammers on the market. While it doesn't come with additional features, it still offers good value, as it's crafted by a reputable medical company and very well-liked by nurses and other health care professionals.
This Prestige Medical reflex hammer comes with a conventional triangular rubber head positioned on a 7.5 inch chrome handle. While the entire setup is well-balanced, this hammer will require that you become quite proficient with testing reflexes in an accurate manner. The head of the reflex hammer is relatively light, so some nurses and physicians find they need to use a little more force, which can be uncomfortable for the patient. We're not saying these people don't know how to test reflexes, but rather, this particular reflex hammer simply requires a little more accuracy of placement and force.
Overall, we like this reflex hammer for the simplicity and cost. It's great for nursing students who want something cheap and simple to practice with, nurses and physicians who feel proficient enough to elucidate reflexes with this conventional and lightweight design, or anyone who wants to have a cheap spare handy.
This is another well-liked MDF reflex hammer. To be clear, we don't have any affiliation with this company, we just like their reflex hammers (we review another type of MDF reflex hammer below!). This one, the MDF Babinksi 2.0 Reflex Hammer, has a pretty clever design in that it comes with a spring-loaded locking system to keep the articulating head securely locked when in use.
The head of this hammer is placed over top of a chrome-plated brass disc, which is grooved to accommodate the silicone bumper, and the head is weighted for controlled striking. One really cool aspect of this reflex hammer is that it can be used in positions both parallel and perpendicular to the shaft, which can provide you with greater flexibility in eliciting reflexes over various regions of the body.
Lastly, the telescoping handle is a nice tough, as it allows even further flexibility in terms of applicable uses. Similar to the MDF Tromner Reflex Hammer, this MDF Babinksi Reflex Hammer comes with a brush at the base of the handle, which can be easily removed to elicit cutaneous responses.
Overall, this is arguably the best reflex hammer for nurses, nursing students, or really any medical professional. It comes with lots of different features, while still maintaining a high-quality and durable design. The reason we didn't vote this as the best value reflex hammer is because it does come in at a slightly higher price point, which some may find unnecessary, but in this case, the old saying "you get what you pay for" holds true.
Finding a really good pediatric reflex hammer isn't as easy as one may think. There are lots of factors to consider, including what age range you will be testing reflexes for, the appearance of the reflex hammer, and of course, the cost. That being said, while it's much easier to find something like a pediatric stethoscope, we still think are advantages to having a reflex hammer made specifically for pediatric applications.
The US Neurologicals Pediatric Reflex Hammer is decent, but its applications aren't as wide as the adult reflex hammers we reviewed above. The US Neurological Reflex Hammer is really small (as one could expect for a pediatric device), but it's actually small enough that it can be used quite well with babies. The shape and weight of the head is the main reason for this. However, on older children and adolescents, the reflex hammer is too small and the head is too lightweight to effectively elicit a reflex response without increasing the force you are using, potentially leading to the patient experiencing pain or discomfort.
For this reason, we would caution its use on children of all ages, as an adult reflex hammer may be just as good (or potentially even better) for older kids and adolescents. That being said, for babies and toddlers, this is a really good reflex hammer that incorporates some nice features. The appearance is attractive for lots of children, there head is bi-lateral with one head being blunt and the other head a little more pointed, and a sensor ball for the Babinsky reflex. Therefore, if you work with a lot of babies and toddlers, this could be a great option if you are willing to pay the high price, otherwise, you may be better suited to using an adult reflex hammer and adjusting the technique.
The third and final MDF reflex hammer we will review is the MDF Queen Square Reflex Hammer. This reflex hammer is slightly cheaper than the other MDF reflex hammers we reviewed, but a little bit more expensive than the conventional Taylor style percussion hammers. The MDF Quees Square Reflex Hammer has a couple interesting characteristics, and while it's not loaded with features like the Babinksy 2.0, it is especially good in certain situations.
The Queen Square style of reflex hammer comes with a softer bumper and a blunted tip for patient comfort and ease of use. Additionally, the removable grip and the more flexible handle can allow for improved accuracy of technique, and the red handle tip can be used as a target for testing visual fields.
The soft bumper we just mentioned encloses a chrome-plated brass disc and has a weight that is really effective at inducing myotatic responses. The handle is made of a nylon-plastic blend, which offers greater flexibility, as well as a tapered point that is useful when trying to elicit plantar and abdominal reflexes.
Overall, while this MDF Queen Square Reflex Hammer isn't completely loaded with a bunch of fancy features, it is certainly well-designed and very effective for testing reflexes. This is very well-liked by nurses, students, doctors, and other medical professionals, all of which are usually impressed at the effectiveness of this reflex hammer. It doesn't quite offer the all-around capability of the Tromner or Babinski reflex hammers, but at a lower cost, this still gives the Tromner a good run at our Best value pick!
Common Reflex Tests
The Babinski reflex involves the foot, more specifically, the plantar surface of the foot. Briefly, you simply take the edge of your reflex hammer and slide the edge up the bottom of the foot from heel to toe. If the adult patient's big toe points upwards and the little toes fan out, then there may be a neurological issue at play. For a full description on the Babinski Reflex Test, check out the following video tutorials:
The patellar reflex is probably the reflex test that first comes to mind for most people. This reflex involves the patient sitting comfortably at the end of the bed with their legs hanging down in a relaxed position. As you strike the patellar tendon with the reflex hammer, the knee joint should extend as a normal reflex. The absence or decrease of this reflex is known as Westphal's sign, and is an indication of an underlying neurological problem, likely associated with the femoral nerve (L3, L4). For a demonstration, please consider the video tutorial below:
The Achilles reflex is another common reflex test that can be done either with the patient in the same position as the patellar reflex (most doctors find this easier) or with the patient lying down in a supine position with one leg crossed over the other.
The Achilles tendon is really easy to identify, so it's a fairly simple test to run. However, unlike the patellar reflex, you will want to support the patient's foot with your hand so that their ankle is in a neutral 90 degree position. Then when you strike the Achilles tendon with the reflex hammer, this should cause a plantarflexion reflex, which you will see and feel by the patient pushing their foot down into your hand. If this reflex is absent, it could indicate an issue associated with the sciatic nerve (S1, S2). For a demonstration, please consider the following video tutorial:
Upper Limb Reflexes
The above-mentioned reflexes are some of the most popular to study and learn about reflexes in general. However, depending on the patient and their injury or condition, these may or may not be applicable at all. There is a huge amount of reflex testing that you could do with any one individual patient, so we won't go into them all.
For a really nice overview of various reflexes of the limbs, with a good focus on upper body neurological testing, please check out the following video tutorial:
All of the reflex hammers and reflex testing we discussed above is just the tip of the iceberg. That being said, we hope this provides you with enough information about the differences between different types of reflex hammers, as well as how they can be used during neurological testing. This, combined with your curriculum teaching you how to perform and evaluate these tests, should allow you to become highly proficient with neurological testing. Good luck!