Hypotonia

Hypotonia is a term used to describe decreased muscle tone. Muscle tone is the ability of a muscle to respond to stretch. In order to perform motor activities our muscles receive continuous input from our brains telling them when to contract and when to relax. When a child has low muscle tone, his muscles contract slower than normal and are unable to maintain a normal muscle contraction. As a result of decreased muscle contraction, low tone muscles remain stretchy and loose, resulting in the child appearing “floppy.” Many people confuse low muscle with muscle weakness however these are two different conditions. In many cases Hypotonia is “idiopathic” or without a known cause however it is also a common symptom of many neurological, metabolic and genetic disorders. Symptoms of low muscle tone include:

 

  • Increased ligament laxity or flexibility

  • Delayed motor development

  • Poor postural control

  • Poor reflexes

  • Decreases activity tolerance

  • Complications with breathing

  • Speech delays

  • Open mount/protruding tongue

  • Constipation

 

Physical therapists play a vital role in helping children with hypotonia reach their maximum potential. At PTatric Therapy we utilize a multisensory approach to treat children with hypotonia. After performing a thorough evaluation a program is developed based on the child’s specific needs. Although muscle strength is different from muscle tone, strengthening of core/proximal muscles is often needed to allow for improved posture and function and to protect weak and lax ligaments surrounding the joints. In addition sensory techniques are utilized to alert the hypotonic muscles and improve the brain’s ability to allow muscles to contract more efficiently.

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