Babinski test?


I am currently experiencing several MS symptoms such as tremor, balance issues, flashing lights etc. My doctor did the babinski test and my toes did nothing. I know that upward flexion of the toes is a sign of MS but does anyone know what it means when your foot does nothing? He also tried other methods to elicit a response but nothing happened. What does this mean?


if both sides are the same as in no movement this would be considered a normal response

did your doctor test both legs and did both have the same response

Yes no response in both.


I had my first appointment today with the neurologist. I have various neurological symptoms which come and go. I’ve had them for probably 4 years now. I think I’ve been burying my head in the sand about it for ages and only really went to the doctors last Nov as it’s started to affect my job.

The neurologist hasn’t mentioned MS at all, she did a full neurological exam on me and said that she wanted to do an MRI scan on my brain and neck as their were a few issues that concerned her. One being that my eyes were jittery when following her pen side to side and I didn’t quite manage pass a couple of the tests.

Stupidly I didn’t ask what I hadn’t passed or even if she thought it might be MS. I just said ok and that I’d wait for an appointment.

I came home and looked up the test and have realised I failed the babinsik test?

My toes move upwards towards me when she used stroked my foot from heel to toe with a pin.

Can you fail this test and not have MS?

My other symptoms are

constant pins and needles in hands and feet

electric shocks in spine ( 5/10 times a day and night)

twitching legs awake and asleep

constant tiredness and foggy head

trouble recalling describing words and very poor memory

I also get the feeling that my skin is sunburnt?

Could it be a trapped nerve or something else?

Hello Tilly

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘failed’ the Babinski test. Do you mean that there is signs of neurological damage when the doctor does the test, or that there is no sign of damage? ie. did your big toe lift up (dorsiflex) when the sole was scratched?

If it did, then that would be a sign of damage. If the Babinski test didn’t result in your big toe having an upward reflex, then there may not be neurological damage.

Ultimately though I can’t answer your question. I don’t think Babinski is something you ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, it’s a test to see if your big toe has a reflex action that indicates something neurological may be awry. The other tests were probably sufficient for the neurologist to refer you for MRI scans; she must have some reason for doing so.

It’s as we always say, it’s just not possible to second guess the results of a neurological exam. Basically, it’s a case of waiting until you’ve had the MRI and have the follow up appointment with the neurologist.

(If you’d asked about MS, she probably wouldn’t have given anything away. She could have said ‘not likely’, or ‘possibly’. But I suspect she’d have said neither, just wait for the MRI!)


Hi Sue,

Sorry I should have been clearer. My big toe lifted on both feet rather than curl forwards. So tested positive for Neurological damage.

Your right, I should just wait and see what happens with the MRI. I think I was hoping someone would just say. That I didn’t have anything to worry about and it was probably nothing, and that the MRI was just a precaution. I’m also having my neck scanned. Any idea why that would be.

I know I should have asked these questions when I was there, but it takes me time to process things and by the time I’ve thought of what to ask it’s to late!


I’m not yet diagnosed, but have been told to expect it soon.

During my first neurological exam and in the midst of my first neurological event, I had an upward plantar reflex on one foot. The MRI showed lesions in my spine and brain.

6 months later during follow up, I had an absent reflex, neither up nor down, just nothing (same neuro conducting both exams) !!..1 year later, and 2 separate exams and MRI’s later the reflex has been both absent and then downwards(normal).

So, I think absent as well as upwards reflexes can indicate spinal cord inflammation, but it’s not definitive. I would also think that symmetry is important. If absent in both feet, that could be normal for the individual. During my last MRI the spinal cord lesion was/is still present, but didn’t necessarily present itself during my examination…

Babinski’s reflex or extensor plantar reflex is a test for dysfunction corticospinal tract.

The test consists of stroking the outside sole from heel to toe with a pointed object. The normal response is a bunching downward (flexor) movement of all the toes. In infants under 2 years of age and people with dysfunction in the corticospinal tract, this causes an upward (extensor) movement of the big toe.

Babinski’s reflex can occur unilaterally (in just one foot) or bilaterally (in both feet).

A positive Babinski’s reflex is consistent with several neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis.


The neck scan would be the bit of your spine that goes from your head to about your shoulders, it’s called the ‘cervical’ spine. It’s very common for a neurologist to request MRI of the brain and cervical spine.

(Yes I know, it’s very confusing!)

And everyone does that thing of forgetting what they wanted to ask / immediately forgetting what the neurologist said / failing to ask the neurologist means / etc. I call it neurologistitis!


Confused. Letter from appointment with neuro said " reflexes good but both plantars down going " I’ve read up on this but finding it confusing. If both feet do this (toes arch upwards) is this abnormal ? As opposed to only one foot doing it? Thanks.

Don’t know Trix. That’s the short answer.

I suggest you try to ignore little things like the Babinski test. Hopefully you’ll soon have your MRI and then follow up appointment with the neurologist.

That’s when you’ll get some proper answers.

I think when you’re stuck in this place of limbo, not understanding what’s going on, not knowing what different things mean, you try to pick apart the little details in the hope it will add up to something definite. The fact is, it won’t. The neurologist wouldn’t give you a diagnosis without clinical data. That’s why you’re to have an MRI. You may still not get an actual diagnosis after the MRI. More tests might be needed.

Keep notes of what you don’t understand. When you see the neurologist next time, you’ll have a list of questions to ask and hopefully will get some decent answers. Meanwhile, keep a diary of your symptoms so you have details to report to the neurologist.

Good luck. Keep coming on here, even if it is just to ask unanswerable questions!! We do understand why you’re asking and how things are just whirling round your brain. It’s really awful to have so many little pieces of a medical puzzle without the knowledge or data to complete it (like a jigsaw with just some edge pieces and a few small sections that fit together but no box with a picture of what the finished article is meant to look like, and way too many bits of the puzzle missing!)


Thank you. You are quite right. Need to just wait and see what comes from the next scan. Good to have someone who talks sense and help put things into perspective.