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Low muscle tone (Hypotonia)

Muscle Tone is defined as a muscle’s potential ability to respond or counter an outside force, a stretch, or a change in direction. A child with proper muscle tone can respond quickly to an outside force, whether it is through balance responses, righting reactions, or protective reactions. In addition, it allows the muscles to relax quickly once the change is no longer perceived. In children with hypotonia, muscles are slow to contract against an outside force, and cannot sustain a prolonged contraction. Children with low tone might have difficulties performing age-appropriate tasks and may have poor postural control and endurance.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypotonia:

  • Delayed motor skill development or slow to attain motor milestones
  • Decreased strength
  • Hypermobile joints
  • Increased flexibility
  • Rounded shoulder posture
  • Difficulty sitting upright without significant lean or support
  • Poor attention and motivation
  • Decreased activity tolerance
  • Difficulty transitioning in and out of positions
  • Clumsy or inefficient movement patterns
  • Difficulty with hand eye coordination
  • Prefer to observe rather than participate

Even though strength and tone are different, if a muscle is not adequately prepared for a contraction, its strength will be impaired.

How can physiotherapy help?

A comprehensive assessment of the child’s muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, and coordination can provide clues as to what is causing the child’s postural and movement difficulties. Once the impairments are identified and the possible factors that have contributed to these impairments have been identified an effective treatment plan that addresses impairments, function and participation can be implemented.

Treatment goals:

  • Increase proximal strength and support in order to facilitate distal strength and function
  • Improve postural control
  • Facilitate motor development and foundations of motor planning
  • Improve postural responses and protective reactions
  • Address fluidity and efficiency of movements
  • Improve functional strength