Low muscle tone, also called Hypotonia, is a term used to describe the resting length of a muscle before it is activated for purposeful movement. If a muscle’s resting length is greater than average, a child may present with hyperextenion of the joints. In addition, hypotonia refers to the speed of a muscle contraction, difficulty in maintaining a static pose and difficulty in completing dynamic movements. This is not to mean that a child has no muscle tone, but rather that a lower muscle tone makes it more strenuous to complete age-appropriate tasks.
Hypotonia is often identified at birth or during infancy. You may see low tone as a child ages as well. A common indicator of hypotonia is delayed motor skills. It can be associated with certain medical diagnoses, including Down syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome, or can be independent diagnoses.
Other common signs of Hypotonia
- Open mouth posture
- Difficulty in initiating a suck or swallow reflex
- Breathing difficulty (could be shallow or labored)
- Slow reaction times to stimuli, including pain, surprise or humor
- Difficulty in flexing arms and legs in infancy
- Delayed motor skills
- Difficulty in maintaining a seated posture
- Inability to lift or carry body weight
- Low foot arches
Hypotonia cannot be cured, however, with consistent physical or occupational therapy, low muscle tone can be managed and treated. A therapist will complete standardized testing and clinical observations to determine how a child is performing certain tasks and what aspects of the task are proving difficult. Therapy will focus on providing multisensory and motor experiences to improve muscle tone, responses to sensory input and body awareness.
NSPT offers physical or occupational therapy services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!
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