All about low muscle tone

understanding low muscle tone

On the surface of it, many people have misconceptions of what low muscle tone really is. Many assume it is a lack of biceps or abdominal muscles. Really, what low muscle tone describes is your muscles at rest. It is the amount of tension or tightness in your muscles when you aren’t using them.

Adults and children with low muscle tone have muscles that need to put in more effort to do the things other people do naturally – their muscles work harder at it. This is not to say that a person with low muscle tone cannot do the same things as someone without it, it just means their bodies will be put under more strain to do so.  This is why a child with low muscle tone will get tired more easily when walking, sitting up straight and colouring in. Their muscles are working their hardest to overcome the low muscle tone to do the activities (even if they don’t realise it themselves). Not all muscle tone is the same, some will be more severe than others. Here are some – not all – indicators that your child may have low muscle tone:

  • Late achievement of the major motor milestones (eg: sitting, crawling, standing, walking) – but not always
  • Late to achieve or difficulty achieving higher level motor skills such as jumping, hopping, skipping, going up and down stairs, climbing and playing on playground equipment
  • Clumsiness – they might fall more frequently than their peers, injure themselves more frequently, and have difficulty with ball skills
  • Flat feet, and may complain of foot or leg pain after walking or exercising. They may experience knee or leg pain at night
  • Poor endurance – they might tire very quickly, not like walking very far, might want to be picked up and carried by their parents more so than other kids their age
  • Difficulties with handwriting and drawing – they have difficulty holding their pencil with a proper grasp, they might push too hard or too lightly, and their hands might tire quickly
  • Difficulties with their mouth and jaw – this can include holding their mouth open and drooling especially when concentrating, difficulty progressing onto chewy foods, and for some children problems with learning to talk and clarity of their speech

Remember that babies do not reach all their milestones exactly at the average age, so having your child be “delayed” in one milestone does not necessarily mean they have low muscle tone. If they are delayed in a few, and as they get older if they start to show other signs, it would be a good idea to get them assessed by an Occupational Therapist

Toptots Early Learning SA

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