The eight basic steps of a neurological exam

There are eight basic steps of a comprehensive neurological exam you should know. Get the visual aide now.
Last update26th Nov 2020

The neurological portion of your assessment of a patient with headache can give you important clues and must be undertaken carefully and diligently. The basics of a neurological examination are covered in the first lessons of the Medmastery Clinical Neurology Essentials Course.

There are eight basic steps of a neurological examination:

  1. Mental status
  2. Cranial nerves
  3. Motor system
  4. Deep tendon reflexes
  5. Pathological reflexes
  6. Sensory system
  7. Cerebellum
  8. Gait and station

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Here’s a handy infographic to help you remember them:

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Recommended reading

  • Donohoe, CD. 2013. The role of laboratory testing in the evaluation of headache. Med Clin North Am. 97: 217–224. PMID: 23419622
  • Ferguson, LW and Gerwin, R. 2005. Clinical Mastery in the Treatment of Myofascial Pain. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Fernández-de-las-Peñas, C, Arendt-Nielsen, L, and Gerwin, R. 2010. Tension-Type and Cervicogenic Headache—Pathophysiology, Diagnosis and Management. Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
  • Goadsby, PJ and Silberstein, SD. 1997. Headache. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.
  • Goadsby, PJ, Silberstein, SD, and Dodick, DW. 2005. Chronic Daily Headache for Clinicians. Hamilton: BC Decker.
  • Lester, MS and Liu, BP. 2013. Imaging in the evaluation of headache. Med Clin North Am. 97: 243–265. PMID: 23419624
  • Rizzoli, P and Mullally, WJ. 2018. Headache. Am J Med. 131: 17–25. PMID: 28939471 
  • Silberstein, SD, Lipton, RB, and Goadsby, PJ. 2002. Headache in Clinical Practice. 2nd edition. London: Martin Dunitz.
  • Young, WB, Silberstein, SD, Nahas, SJ, et al. 2011. Jefferson Headache Manual. New York: Demos Medical Publishing.

About the author

Robert Coni, DO EdS
Neurohospitalist, Medical Director and Coordinator at the Grand Strand Medical Center, and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina.
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