What are the Signs of Hypotonia?

Hypotonia describes low muscle tone. If your newborn has it, they'll most likely feel limp when you hold them in your arms — kind of like a rag doll. This is why it's also referred to as "floppy infant syndrome." 

Physicians can diagnose hypotonia within the first several minutes of the baby's life. They perform routine checks of the infant's muscle tone at one minute and five minutes after birth. In some cases, hypotonia appears a little later on, but it will typically be noticeable by six months of age

Poor muscle tone often signals a problem with the spinal cord, brain, muscles or nerves. However, physical therapy, seeing a pediatric occupational therapist and other treatments could help your child with better coordination and stronger muscles. But first, it's important you know what the signs of hypotonia are.

Signs of Hypotonia

Depending on what's causing hypotonia, the condition could appear at any age. Signs of hypotonia in babies and kids include:

  • Delay in the development of gross motor skills, like crawling
  • Poor or no head control
  • Delay in the development of fine motor skills like grasping a crayon

Hypotonia signs at any age include:

  • Decrease in strength
  • Decrease in muscle tone
  • Speech difficulties
  • Poor reflexes
  • Decrease in activity endurance
  • Hyperflexibility
  • Impaired posture

Once the doctor makes a diagnosis, they treat the underlying condition first. This is followed by supportive and symptomatic therapy for the hypotonia. Physical therapy could improve overall body strength and motor control. 

Occupational therapy could help relearn ways of addressing activities of everyday living. Setting up school consultations to discuss ways the school could help by setting up speech-language therapy could help with speech. Speech-language therapy could also help with swallowing and breathing difficulties. Therapy for newborns and younger children might also include sensory processing and stimulation programs.

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