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Hypotonia in Children and What to Watch Out For

Hypotonia is a decrease or a slowing in the development of muscle mass. It can strike anyone at any age, and there are many different causes, but hypotonia is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Particularly in children, it can be a sign of an underlying problem like muscular dystrophy, Marfan syndrome, or cerebral palsy.

As a parent, the only thing you can do is be aware of the signs of hypotonia and contact your pediatrician so that your child can begin to get the care they need as quickly as possible. We’re going to look at what hypotonia is, what causes it most frequently in children, and how you can spot it so you can intervene.

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What is hypotonia?

Not all children will experience hypotonia in the same way – all people are different and all diseases progress differently. The primary things to watch out for are:

  • An obvious feeling of muscle floppiness or softness
  • Weak, shallow breathing
  • The child can hyperextend their arms or legs, beyond what should be normal
  • Missing developmental physical milestones, like jumping, running, crawling, etc
  • In babies, they will have difficulty feeding
  • Protruding tongue and a mouth that hangs open

As we said before, hypotonia can have a myriad of causes, from Down syndrome to cerebral palsy, but there is also benign congenital hypotonia. Children with this condition will simply have a slower time gaining gross motor function, but will likely not have significant developmental delays or impairments in other faculties.

Treatment Options for Hypotonia

Children with mild hypotonia can benefit from physical therapy, which can help them speed up their gross motor function and ease delays in development. While not all cases of hypotonia are the same, physical therapy does seem to help in many cases.

A child will undergo exercise and therapeutic massage to help reduce muscle weakness and increase strength. Other physical interventions can help your child with posture, endurance, and dexterity, which not only will improve their developmental timeline but also improve their confidence and quality of life.

Speech therapy can assist with speaking but also jaw and tongue strength, and again, helps develop mastery, improving confidence and overall happiness.

For children who have progressive or more severe forms of hypotonia, there are mechanical interventions that can help as well:

  • Wheelchairs can improve mobility while physical therapy can improve overall muscle strength and prevent further atrophy
  • Braces can help prevent dislocation injuries

However, occupational therapy is the best intervention for long-term success. A therapist will meet with your child regularly to evaluate their current abilities and practice low muscle tone exercises and motions that help them improve. They can help you understand what to expect in terms of gains, what to be mindful of as your child ages, and ways you can help at home.

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The importance of identifying hypotonia early

For many children, hypotonia – if treated – isn’t life-threatening unless it’s part of a broader disorder that itself is dangerous. With that said, untreated hypotonia in toddlers can significantly delay their development and affect other facets of their life. Additionally, other conditions can present similarly to hypotonia and are require more urgent care.

If you notice any of the physical problems we listed above, you must speak with your pediatrician as soon as possible. The earlier intervention begins, the better the outcomes in most cases. If you’re looking for pediatric therapy in the northern New Jersey area, Infinite Therapy Solutions has openings for new clients.

Key Takeaways:

  • Hypotonia is a decrease or a slowing in the development of muscle mass
  • Hypotonia can have a myriad of causes, from Down syndrome to cerebral palsy
  • Untreated hypotonia in toddlers can significantly delay their development and affect other facets of their life, so it is important to identify it early.

Contact Infinite today and see what a difference therapy can make in the lives of you and your child.