Hoffman’s Sign Test

Learn how to conduct the Hoffman’s Sign Test and download our template to record patient results.

By Matt Olivares on Apr 08, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is Hoffman’s Sign Test?

Spinal cord compression happens when pressure is exerted on the spinal cord. When pressure is exerted on it, there’s a chance that it might compromise its functioning and may result in the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the back and other parts of the neurological system
  • Numbness and weakness
  • Problems with coordination and motor function
  • Changes in reflexes
  • Sensory deficits
  • Bladder and bowel dysfunction

If these symptoms are present, a person should get checked by a healthcare professional as soon as possible, especially by someone specializing in neurology and physical therapy.

There are different methods that such specialists can take to kickstart a comprehensive examination of a patient. One of these methods is by conducting Hoffman’s Sign Test.

The Hoffman’s Sign Test is a type of physical examination devised by the German neurologist Dr. Johann Hoffman. This particular test was created to help neurologists and similar healthcare professionals detect the possibility of central nervous problems (specifically compression or pressure problems in the spine) in people through a simple technique.

Printable Hoffman’s Sign Test

Download this Hoffman’s Sign Test to help healthcare professionals detect the possibility of central nervous problems.

How do physical therapist’s conduct Hoffman’s Sign Test:

The Hoffman’s Sign Test is an easy test to conduct! It doesn’t require any special equipment. The professional needs to have two chairs ready: one for the patient and one for the professional. The test will rely solely on the professional’s hands because they will examine a patient’s fingers and thumb reflexes.

You can begin conducting this test once you’ve prepared a small room with two chairs. Here’s how to conduct it:

  • Have your patient sit down
  • Tell them to relax the whole time
  • Pick one of their hands and position it in a way that ensures the dorsiflexion at the wrist and the partial flexion of their fingers
  • Hold the patient’s partially extended middle finger and stabilize the proximal joint using your index finger and middle finger
  • Once their middle finger is in position, you need to perform a flick of your thumb (you must ensure that it makes contact with the nail of your patient’s middle finger)
  • The flick doesn’t have to be too strong. It needs to be abrupt

The result of this test will depend on the reaction of the flicked middle finger.

How do you interpret the results of Hoffman’s Sign Test?

There are only two possible results for the Hoffman’s Sign Test, and it will depend on the reaction that ensues when the middle finger is flicked.

The test is negative if you flick the middle finger and there’s no reaction or movement.

The test is positive if the index finger and thumb flex after flicking the middle finger. To give you a visual, there should be a pincer-like movement when the index finger and thumb flex. The positive result is Hoffman’s Sign.

If Hoffman’s Sign is present, that points to the possibility that there is spinal cord compression, a disorder of the central nervous system, or some type of neurological disorder.

If you have a patient with a positive Hoffman’s Sign Test, it’s best to schedule them for a comprehensive examination to determine what is causing the hyperactivity of their reflexes.

Hoffman’s Sign Test example (sample)

Now that you know the gist of spinal cord compression and what the Hoffman’s Sign Test is all about, it’s time to acquaint you with our Hoffman’s Sign Test template.

Usually, physical examinations that involve techniques such as Hoffman’s Sign Test don’t come with results sheets. If you’re a physical therapist or a similar healthcare professional who knows how to conduct the Hoffman’s Sign Test but doesn’t have a sheet to record the results, look at our template!

Our Hoffman’s Sign PDF template contains instructions about the test. The instructions should help you jog your memory in case you have a mental block and temporarily forget how to do it. It also has two checkboxes indicating whether the test is positive or negative.

If you like what you see and believe this is an excellent way to record Hoffman’s Sign Test results, feel free to download our free Hoffman’s Sign Test PDF template.

Download this Hoffman’s Sign Test example: 

Hoffman’s Sign Test example (sample)

When is it best to conduct the Hoffman’s Sign Test?

When a patient complains about neurological symptoms

Suppose you have a patient who discusses symptoms like weak limbs, trouble with coordination, and numbness in the fingers or feet. Those symptoms are likely signs of a neurological problem like spinal cord compression or some other issue with the central nervous system. You should propose to examine them using Hoffman’s Sign Test. Explain to them how it’s done and what it’s for.

When conducting a comprehensive neurological exam

Let’s stipulate that you have a patient who is undergoing a comprehensive neurological exam, and the first set of tests suggests that the patient has the possibility of having spinal cord compression. You can conduct the Hoffman’s Sign Test as one of the tests to help you narrow down that possibility.

When conducting routine check-ups

For example, a comprehensive examination confirms that a patient has spinal cord compression and maybe some other neurological problems. You can schedule routine check-ups to monitor their recovery, and one way to monitor their recovery is to conduct several physical examinations that were part of the comprehensive examination. If Hoffman’s Sign Test was one of them, you can conduct this test routinely to compare results from previous check-ups and see if there are any improvements.

How can Carepatron help with physical therapy-related work?

Thanks for reading our guide about Hoffman’s Sign Test! We hope this was an excellent introduction or refresher to this helpful physical examination technique. If you decide to use our Hoffman’s Sign PDF template, we hope it helps you easily record your patients’ test results.

While you’re still here, we’d like to request your time to check more of the Carepatron platform. We have a lot of nifty features that will help you with your work, and we’re confident they will convince you to consider us your number-one clinical documentation and physical therapy practice management software

We won’t discuss these features here, but we’d like to discuss one related to this guide you read: our resource library.

Our resource library is filled with clinical resources covering numerous healthcare fields, topics, and practices, especially physical therapy! We have many guides about different physical examination techniques you can conduct, like the Rhomboid Manual Muscle Test, Speed’s Test, Empty Can Test, and so much more. 

Each of these guides has a template tied to it, and the great thing about these is that they’re all free! So, read as many guides as you want and download as many templates as you need!

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Is the Hoffman’s Sign Test painful?
Is the Hoffman’s Sign Test painful?

Commonly asked questions

Is the Hoffman’s Sign Test painful?

It shouldn’t be since it involves flicking the patient’s middle finger. The specialist conducting it will be careful not to flick it too hard.

Is it possible for Hoffman’s Sign to go away in time?

If the underlying condition is addressed, then Hoffman’s Sign shouldn’t appear when the test is conducted again.

Is Hoffman’s Sign Test a diagnostic test?

No. It’s part of the diagnostic process, though. Even if it isn’t a diagnostic tool, it’s reliable because it looks for a specific sign to be considered positive for the test.

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