What is Low Muscle Tone (Hypotonia)?

Muscle tone is the resting state of your muscles.  “Low” muscle tone means that the amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle is lower than normal. The resting length of a low tone muscle is a bit longer than a typical muscle resulting in fibers not overlapping at an optimal length. There are also fewer places where the fibers can attach and generate a pull on the muscle. This causes the muscles to go through a greater range of motion to produce a movement. The response time of the muscle is also usually delayed. Both the greater range of motion of the muscle and delayed response time increases the energy needed to do functional tasks. All this extra energy causes a decrease in the child’s endurance.

Common difficulties often (but not always) experienced by those with low muscle tone:
Fatigues quickly
Poor posture
Increased flexibility, increasing susceptibility to injuries
Poor persistence to gross motor tasks
Lack appropriate body awareness feedback
Avoids chewy foods
Preference to engage in sedentary activities

Improving strength and endurance is important. Because it is difficult to move, many of these kids don’t move as much as their peers do. This results in weaker muscles and poor endurance.  Improving core strength is very important with these kids. Since it is harder to move and activate their muscles they need more practice to do gross and fine motor tasks.

Physical and occupational therapy can help children with low muscle tone become stronger, improve endurance, and improve functional skills.

Other helpful references for information on low muscle tone:
http://developmentalgym.com/therapist-low-muscle-tone
http://www.skillsforaction.com/rethinking-low-muscle-tone

 


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