With roots dating back to the late 1800’s, the neurological reflex hammer is definitely one of the oldest diagnostic tools used by doctors and physicians. It is still used today, and its most common use is to check the “knee jerk” reaction during regular yearly examinations. It can also be used on other areas of the body to check reflexes. It was actually a design created from another common tool at the time, a percussion hammer.
The idea of the reflex hammer came about in 1875. Back then, there were no x-rays and other diagnostic imaging tools. Doctors were left to find out what was wrong with the patient by examining the outside of the body. The idea of deep tendon reflexes was mentioned in documents published by Heinrich Erb and Carl Westphal, two physicians studying the idea. Marshall Hall expanded on this idea and found that there are a number of uncontrolled reflexes within the body. To test the reflexes of the knee and other tendons, the first instrument used was the percussion hammer.
The percussion hammer was originally used to check the chest. Physicians quickly realized that these tools were not exactly what were needed to do the job for tendon reflexes. The device was redesigned and the neurological reflex hammer came into existence. The style most commonly used by doctors today was designed in 1888 by John Madison Taylor, a personal assistant to a doctor in Philadelphia. It featured the triangular shaped head that is still most widely used today, though several other designs have been introduced to do a check a variety of other areas of the body.
Another such design for a reflex hammer was done by Williams Christopher Krauss. This hammer is primarily used on the kneecap and elbow. Ernst L.O. Tromner created yet another design, made to test the reflexes of other areas of the body. Overall, all of the reflex hammers that have been created since the 19th century were done for the same reason: to test and diagnose neurological disorders and problems. Other designs are known as the Queen Square, Berliner, and Buck.
As you can see, the simple tool known as the neurological reflux hammer has quite a history. It was particularly beneficial when it was created because doctors in the 1800’s did not have a way to see on the inside of a patient’s body. Instead, they relied on the results of a reflex hammer and other diagnostic tools. Rather than create a tool from scratch, the idea of the percussion hammer was used for years. It was later altered to build a better tool that was more suitable for checking tendon reflexes. Many variations have been made sense then to test various tendon reflexes throughout the body.