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Low Muscle Tone

Muscle tone is the amount of tension (or resistance to movement) in muscles.

Our muscle tone helps us to hold our bodies upright when we are sitting and standing. Changes in muscle tone are what enable us to move. Muscle tone also contributes to the control, speed and amount of movement we can achieve.

Low muscle tone is used to describe muscles that are floppy, which is also known as hypotonia. Children with low muscle tone may need to put in more effort to get their muscles moving properly when they are doing an activity. They may also have difficulty maintaining good posture when sitting or standing. Many children with low muscle tone have delays in their gross motor development (e.g. rolling, sitting, walking).

Low muscle tone may be caused by problems with the nerves or muscles. Often the low muscle tone is idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown.

Signs and Symptoms of Low Muscle Tone

If your child has low muscle tone, their muscles may seem to be floppy from birth.

Your child may:

  • seem limp when you lift them,
  • have increased flexibility in their joints,
  • have poor posture,
  • get tired easily (have low endurance) because of the extra effort they have to put in to activate their muscles or maintain their posture,
  • not have much strength in their muscles,
  • have delays in reaching gross motor milestones, such as rolling, sitting, crawling or walking.
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“Will my child grow out of her low muscle tone?”

Most children with low muscle tone will demonstrate slower gross motor development, but will ultimately catch up with their peers in time.

Low Muscle Tone and Learning

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Muscles are everywhere. They control all gross and fine motor skills so if they’re not working properly, especially if they’re requiring extra energy for normal function, seemingly normal activities can become a lot more taxing. Some of these kids are fighting an uphill battle just to climb out of bed in the morning let alone sit focused in a classroom for six to seven hours. Low muscle tone in the core of the body creates difficulties with posture and sitting up attentively. Similar problems in the hands can exhibit in poor handwriting and poor dexterity. If the facial muscles are involved, pronouncing words becomes harder and more labour intensive. Low muscle tone can affect muscles all over the body and because of that, the list of possible symptoms can be long, but here are a few to get you started.

Exercises and Activities

  • Running on the spot, stomping, star jumps, skipping with a skipping rope.
  • Crawling activities, crab walks, bear walks, bunny hops – make it fun by setting up an obstacle course, relay or race.
  • Tug of war – use a dressing gown cord or twist a bathroom towel to make a rope.
  • Play tug-of-war with your child either sitting, standing or kneeling.
  • Arm wrestles – sit opposite your child with elbows on the table. Hold each other’s hands and encourage your child to push against your resistance.
  • Bouncing on a mini trampoline before sitting at a table to do a drawing may help your child to sit up straight rather than slump. If your child is slouching after they have started an activity, get them to stop what they are doing and have them do 10 star jumps to activate their muscles.
  • Playing on a jungle gym.
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The perfect sports for children with low muscle tone: Swimming, horseback riding, martial arts and yoga...to name a few.

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