As parents, sometimes you may have heard your therapist throw around the term “low tone.” Low tone means there is not enough tension in the muscle when it is at rest. The muscle may actually feel floppy or slightly mushy. To explain what happens when you have low tone, think of reaching for a coffee cup. With your normal muscle tone, you reach out with your arm, your hand makes connection with your cup of coffee, and you bring it back to your mouth. No spills, no fuss! When someone has low muscle tone, you decide you want to have a sip of coffee however there is not enough tension in your muscles at rest. So you use a bit extra momentum, maybe by flinging your arm out! You bump the cup a bit, get your fingers around the handle and then drag it back, but the cup is heavy, and you use too much oomph at first (to overcome the lack of “tension” in your muscles) with the result that the coffee sloshes out! This makes every day activities harder when you are battling you muscles to complete activities.
Children with low tone in their muscles may battle to sit upright for any period of time. They may also lack endurance for gross and fine motor activities and may struggle with games that require coordinated, controlled movements. The tone of the muscles affects postural control and postural stability. Postural control and postural stability give you the “background” control of your body that is necessary for helping you to stay upright and to stabilize you during movement.
Postural stability needs to develop in three main areas:
– Neck muscles
– Shoulder girdle muscles
– Core or trunk muscles
Completing some simple tasks at home can help to address these areas. Completing sit ups on a therapy ball or lying on your stomach over a peanut ball to complete a puzzle or a game are just a few ideas to complete at home. They can also be modified to have the child over your legs or a small chair. There are different variations that can help with the strengthening.
Above is a picture taken of a child who present with low tone through his trunk and neck.
Above is a picture of a child who has low tone who is using his accessory muscles of his neck to stack and support due to the low muscle tone.