Have you noticed your child constantly leaning against support and having difficulty sitting or standing still? Does your child fatigue or tire easily? Is it hard for them to hold their head up or are they having difficulty feeding? These challenges can indicate low muscle tone, meaning children need to work extra hard to move their muscles and to hold a stable posture compared to children who have typical muscle tone.
What is hypotonia?
Hypotonia is a decreased level of tone in your child’s muscles. Hypotonia can occur by damage to the brain, spinal cord, nerves, or muscles. The damage can be from trauma, environmental factors, or genetic, muscle, or central nervous system disorders. Symptoms of hypotonia include problems with mobility and posture, breathing and speech difficulties, ligament and joint laxity, and poor reflexes.
To better understand muscle tone, relax your arm and pinch your bicep. The tension you feel is muscle tone. Even when a muscle is not being used, it still has a certain tightness. For children with low muscle tone, this tension is reduced, making their muscles feel soft and too relaxed.
It’s important to note that muscle tone is a spectrum. Each child is impacted differently. For some children, low tone is a mild nuisance. For others, it is an obstacle that has a significant influence on daily life.
What is the difference between muscle TONE and muscle STRENGTH?
Muscle tone and strength are two different things. Tone is the amount of “tension” inside a muscle when the muscle is at rest. When there is not enough tension in the muscle at rest, the muscle will feel soft or floppy. Tone is controlled by the brain at an unconscious level and it is determined at birth. On the other hand, muscle strength occurs when you actively contract your muscles to lift, move, push, or pull. Tone cannot change through exercise, but muscles can get stronger to compensate for the low tone and help make movement easier.
Is there a cure for low tone?
No, but through intervention like physical therapy, your child can gain stability, confidence, and new skills.
Exercises to help support hypotonia
The following activities are recommended to help support children with hypotonia:
- Squatting to pick up toys
- Going up stairs
- Crawling back and forth
- Tall kneeling
- Standing on one leg
- Standing on a pillow
- Crawling over cushions