Child Physical Therapy: Low Muscle Tone

Have you noticed that your child is easily fatigued after minimal exercise? Does he or she have poor posture and is very flexible? These are all common symptoms of hypotonia, commonly known as low muscle tone.

What is Low muscle tone?

Low muscle tone is when a person has an abnormally low amount of muscle tension. It does not mean the child necessarily has low muscle strength, as muscle strength refers to the actual properties of muscles that we can control and modify. Muscle tension is a neurological process, generally out of conscious control. People with low tone use an excess amount of energy to activate muscles because their muscle fibers are not meeting at the ideal position. Low muscle tone can cause decreased strength, increased flexibility, and poor endurance.

Symptoms

Low muscle tone can range from mild to severe depending on the person. Some common characteristics of hypotonia include:

 - Easily fatigued

 - Poor posture

 - Increased flexibility

 - Increased risk of injuries

 - Poor persistent with gross motor tasks

 - Lack of body awareness

 - Speech or eating problems

 - Lack of interest in high energy activities

Types of Therapy

Physical, occupational and/or speech therapy may be encouraged depending on your child’s diagnosis. Physical therapists provide fun activities to help strengthen muscles by staying active. They will also work on better posture and balance for your child. Occupational therapists work on fine motor skills such as writing. They also treat for body awareness, as well as sensory and coordination difficulties. Speech therapists help strengthen oral muscles for articulation and swallowing.

At-Home Tips

  • Be creative. Children with low muscle tone often lack muscle strength and agility. In order to improve those skills, the child must stay active. Sneak exercise into fun activities that your child enjoys such as swimming, going to the park, or joining a fun gym class. Animal walks or donkey kicks are good practice for weight bearing, and additionally help build arm, shoulder, back and tummy muscles.
  • Encourage. Recognize your child’s strengths. If they enjoy being outdoors, use that time to be active. Be cognitive of their weaknesses. If they do not like to play baseball, do not force them to, but instead, offer a new sport to try. It may be difficult for your child to learn new motor skills causing them to become frustrated and give up. Encourage your child to stay persistent while being supportive of their efforts.
  • Make adjustments. Allow for extra time to complete certain motor tasks, instead of rushing your child. If an activity is too difficult at first, simplify it and add more each try. For instance, before enrolling your child in soccer class, kick the ball around each day for 5-10 minutes. Continue to increase the amount of time you practice soccer to around 30 minutes. Once your child feels comfortable with playing soccer at home for an extended period, sign them up for the class!

If you feel your child has low muscle tone, contact your physician for an evaluation. Lumiere Children’s therapy can provide an individual plan for physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy for your child.

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References:

Adesman, Andrew. "What Is." BabyCenter. Baby Center, n.d. Web. 14 June 2016.

Alexander, Lizette. "Hypotonia: Strategies for Success at Home and School." Hand Skills for Children Toronto Occupational Therapy Services RSS. © 2016 Hand Skills for Children Toronto Occupational Therapy Services., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016.

"Low Muscle Tone." Kids Sense Developing a Brighter Future. 2016 Kid Sense Child Development Corporation, n.d. Web. 14 June 2016.