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The Three Reflexes -      GREEN LIGHT    RED LIGHT    TRAUMA

All images courtesy of Colm McDonnell www.clinicalsomatics.ie


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TRAUMA- this reflex acts on the muscles of one side of the body.  It can be triggered by a fall or impact and it an automatic response to guard against injury. If you sprain an ankle or break a leg the trauma reflex lightens the load on the injured side until everything is healed.  However if this reflex becomes habitauted it can lead to the body leaning over to one side which will throw us off balance causing more weight to be on one side, leading to more wear and tear on our joints resulting in complicated postural imbalances. It can lead to conditions such as sciatica, painful hips and knees and plantarfasciitis.


copyright Colm MCDonnell

copyright Colm McDonnell

There are three full body reflex patterns which all vertebral animals have.  It is important that we can go in and out of these patterns consciously and voluntarily but problems can occur when we get stuck in these patterns.  These three reflex patterns are:

  • Green Light Reflex
  • Red Light Reflex
  • Trauma Reflex



Green Light- this is also known as the Landau reflex and is seen in babies about 6 months old when they first contract their back muscles to lift their head, their starting point of forward motion.  This reflex triggers in response to a demand upon us to move.  Our back muscles tighten so we can move toward what calls us – a knock on the door, a phone ringing, the alarm clock, a deadline at work. However in our industrialised society we are constantly being called by a myriad of responsibilities.  We are constantly on the move and this can lead to the habituation of the green light reflex. The green light reflex is like a soldier standing to attention, we were probably all told to “stand up straight” at some point in our childhood and we would have activated the green light reflex in full to avoid being in trouble.  When habituated this reflex can lead to many problems the most common being lower back pain and herniated discs.


Red Light- this reflex is also called the Startle reflex.  It is activated everytime we feel we need to protect ourselves from potential danger; when we hear a loud bang, someone shouts at us, activating the muscles of the front of the body so we make ourselves as small as possible portecting our internal organs.    It is equally caused by spending too much time at a desk, in front of a laptop, on an tablet or smartphone.  When it becomes habituated our posture becomes stooped leading to neck pain and headaches.  Also pain in hips and the mid back.  It leads to shallow breathing and this can promote fatigue , low self esteem and sleep issues.

copyright Colm McDonnell.

All reflexes are automatic brain reflexes and it is important that we can go into and come out of these voluntarily.  However if they become habituated we can sometimes just accept this as aging or just "how we are".  But habituation of the reflexes is about our response to what we face in life.  We all lead habituated lives - what reflex is causing you problems?  Whether you are a professional sports person, lead an active lifestyle or just want to be able to walk to the shops -  don't just accept pain or limited movement - teach your brain to regain control over your muscles once more - be Somatic.