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Symptoms of Low Muscle Tone in ChildrenDevelopmental Problems due to HypotoniaTreatment for Low Muscle Tone in Babies and Toddlers
Even in our most relaxed state, some muscles in our body are still partially contracted. This ability of our muscles is what helps us hold our posture without slouching. This characteristic of our muscles is known as muscle tone. Muscle tone is nothing but the ability of our muscles to stretch over prolonged periods.
Muscle tone naturally reduces when we are sleeping, allowing the muscles to completely relax. Muscle tone also reduces when we are hypnotised, or unconscious.
Some kids have naturally lower muscle tone than others. In other cases, low muscle tone - also known as 'floppy baby syndrome' - is also observed as a symptom of other grave conditions like hypothyroidism, spinal muscular atrophy, or disorders related to motor nerve control.
Symptoms of Low Muscle Tone in Children
Low muscle tone in babies (also known as hypotonia) can be diagnosed easily by looking out for the following symptoms:
'Floppy baby syndrome': babies and toddlers with hypotonia often appear limp, and are unable to hold themselves up, giving them typical 'rag doll' appearance
Difficulty in feeding: babies suffering from low muscle tone (also called hypotonia) find it difficult to breastfeed or even bottle feed. This happens because low muscle tone makes latching on the bottle (or the mother's breast) and then continuing to suck and swallow in tandem difficult. Feeding requires the mouth muscles to be held in a certain position for prolonged periods, and a baby with hypotonia is unable to do so.
Excessive drooling: while drooling is a common phenomenon observed in babies, excessive and uncontrolled drooling without the stimulus of food can be a sign of hypotonia.
Shallow breathing: this is another commonly observed symptom of hypotonia, wherein the baby is unable to draw steady long breaths and instead breathes shallow and ragged.
Another complication that can arise as a result of hypotonia is a dislocation of the bones
of the body. Muscles help support our bone structure, so in extreme cases of low muscle tone, a baby or toddler may suffer from a bone dislocation. Most commonly, the hip, jaw or neck bones may get dislocated.
Developmental Problems due to Hypotonia
Low muscle tone, as may be evident by now, creates a lot of developmental issues in babies and toddlers. However, it is important to remember that all babies that have hypotonia may NOT suffer from all problems listed below. The extent of these issues, too, varies and depends on the baby's overall physiology.
Delay in motor skill development
Developmental delays in motor skills
are the most obvious developmental problem caused by hypotonia. Babies with hypotonia will be late in learning to hold their head, roll over on their tummy, sit, crawl, walk, etc. As the baby gains weight and grows bigger, this problem may resolve itself. However, it is important to address the situation proactively rather than waiting for the baby's body to learn to cope with the problem. Note: Hypotonia need not be the only cause of delayed motor skill development. So, if your baby's gross motor skills (or even fine motor skills) development is not on track, take him to a doctor. Do NOT self-diagnose the delay as a case of hypotonia.
Reflex actions require rapid contraction and relaxation of different muscles in the body. A baby with hypotonia will not only show delayed reflex actions, he may not be able to hold the action for prolonged periods of time. For example, a toddler with normal reflex development will be able to move his hand away from a perceived danger (for example, a fire or an insect) at will, and be able to keep it away till the danger disappears. A toddler with hypotonia may not be able to do so.
Talking may seem like a fairly simple act, however, for babies and toddlers suffering from low muscle tone it is a rather difficult task to manage. A lot of muscles play a role in enabling us to talk; notice how our tongue or cheeks never get caught between our teeth no matter how fast we speak. This can only be possible through a careful control of all muscles involved. A baby with hypotonia may hence not be able to say certain words or syllables, or may just show overall slow and delayed speech development.
Slow Weight Gain
As previously explained, hypotonia in toddlers (and even in babies) makes feeding difficult, thereby affecting their overall growth and development slow. The most conspicuous effect of this is slow weight gain. Weight gain is an important parameter by which growth and development of children is monitored. Certain physiological changes in the body are dependent on weight too (for example, puberty, immunity, etc.).
Treatment for Low Muscle Tone in Babies and Toddlers
There is no sure shot treatment method for low muscle tone in babies. But that does not mean the condition is incurable. Through sustained exercise and a healthy diet, muscle tone can be managed from a young age, so as to prevent it from affecting your child's quality of life.
5 Low Muscle Tone Exercises for Kids
Exercise forms a very big part of therapy for low muscle tone. Check out these 5 simple activities you can try with your child to help them overcome low muscle tone.
For babies, it may not be possible to use these exercises. However, toddlers with low muscle tone can definitely benefit from them. Give your toddler a straw, lay pieces of paper on the table, and ask your child to blow the pieces off the table. This fun activity will help develop your child's facial as well as oral muscles.
One of the best ways to get muscles to work is to first get some warm-up exercises done. Toddlers may have trouble sitting and writing in classrooms or even when they study at home, and so a few minutes of play time just before a class or homework can help them perform better in class. You can either engage your child in outdoor play or can give them modelling clay for some indoor fun.
Simple Floor Exercises:
Getting kids to work on their core muscles is a great way to get rid of hypotonia related constipation or other digestive problems. two great exercises for this are the bridge pose (wherein a child lies on his back, and then lifts his body off the floor on his feet and palms, to form a 'bridge'), and the superman-pose (wherein a child lies on his stomach and raises his hands and legs off the floor, so that his whole body is resting on his tummy).
Hypotonia can also cause a lot of emotional distress in children, and one way to tackle both these problems is through yoga. Yoga is a relaxing yet powerful method of exercising that helps create harmony between the mind and body. It is a great way to tone muscles, gain strength and improve flexibility.
Water Exercises: The natural buoyancy and resistance that water offers can prove to be of great help for children to overcome low muscle tone. Get in the pool with your child, and make them walk through the water. If the pool is too deep, you can practice the same in a bath-tub. You can also support your child, and encourage them to 'swim' - moving their hands and legs as if they were actually swimming.
5 Foods to Improve Low Muscle Tone in Kids
Only exercising will not benefit your child, if it is not supported with proper diet. Here are 5 foods you should encourage your child to eat in order to treat low muscle tone.
Veggies, fruits and grains:
You'll need to ensure that your little one has loads of veggies, grains and fruits daily. You should aim for 2 cups of vegetables, 1.5 cups of fruit and 5 ounces of grains for your little one each day. Choose whole grains. This calorie intake will ensure that your kid builds muscle tone.
- Proteins and dairy:
Remember this: if your toddler has low muscle tone, he needs a good round of exercise every day. Take him for a walk or make him play in the park regularly. When he is on the move, his muscles will start developing. Proteins are also important. Dairy foods should form a part of his diet. If your toddler’s intake is 1,600 calories or less, he will require 3 cups of dairy food in his diet. This needs to be coupled with 5 ounces of protein food. You can include eggs, legumes, soy products, cheese and nuts, among other proteins in his diet. These are among the best foods to improve low muscle tone.
To strengthen your little one’s muscles, calcium-rich foods are important as they initiate muscle growth. Try including milk, broccoli, almonds and cheese in his diet. Without the right amount of calcium, your tot will not be able to achieve the right muscle tone. A calcium-rich diet to help with hypotonia is a step taken in the right direction.
- Vitamin C:
To maintain the health of blood vessels, Vitamin C is vital. Taking this supplement will ensure that your toddler’s muscle gets the right amount of oxygen and nutrients. Increase his Vitamin C intake to boost his immune system and keep away viruses. Dark leafy greens, oranges and strawberries are perfect Vitamin C sources. Think of innovative ways to ensure your baby finds the food palatable. Of course, a low muscle tone diet can be tweaked to suit the needs of your toddler.
- Vitamin D:
If you want to improve your baby’s muscle contraction, strength, growth and body function, then Vitamin D is essential. This is particularly important if your little one is active. Make sure your child gets a good dose of cheese, soya and eggs in his daily diet to keep the Vitamin D levels in good keel.
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It is important to get to the root cause of hypotonia in your child. As mentioned previously, hypotonia is a stand-alone condition, as well as a symptom of other grave disorders. Make sure you find out from your paediatrician what the cause of low muscle tone in your child is, and act accordingly.