Hypotonia (Low Muscle Tone) in Kids – Answers to Questions You’re Asking

by Aculbertson

Hypotonia - answers to questions you're asking

Will my child have a normal life?

What will this mean for his or her future?

How can I help?

If you’ve recently received the hypotonia diagnosis, your head is probably swimming with these sorts of questions. And that’s ok. Your baby will need extra help and patience at times, but that doesn’t mean he or she can’t achieve great things.

Here are some of the basics you need to know:

What is hypotonia?

It goes by several names. Hypotonia is the medical term, but low muscle tone and floppy baby syndrome are also used. No matter which words you use, the definition is the same. It’s simply a lack of tone in muscles, which can make them look and feel too relaxed.

Kids and babies with low tone are sometimes compared to rag dolls. Limp limbs. Soft tissue. Decreased stability. And because of these obstacles, many kids reach milestones (grabbing, crawling, cruising, etc.) more slowly than others.

It’s also a spectrum. Both the severity and parts of the body low muscle tone impacts can differ from child to child.

Is my child just weak?

No, there’s a big difference between muscle tone and muscle strength.

Your child is not weak. What he or she lacks is stability, not strength. And because of this, movements we consider easy can be both difficult and exhausting.

But weakness and low tone are linked. Strength naturally develops as muscles are used. However, kids and toddlers with hypotonia compensate for their lack of stability by using muscles and joints in unique ways. This can leave some muscles ignored or underused. For example, if your child w-sits, he or she will not properly develop core strength.


What are the signs and symptoms of hypotonia?

Low tone is often identified early in life, even at birth.

But it affects each child differently. Some have a mild case. Others are more severe. Some only seem impacted in the limbs. And for others, it can be all over.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pronation
  • Impaired mobility
  • Poor posture
  • Breathing & feeding difficulties
  • Delayed speech
  • Poor reflexes
  • Ligament & joint laxity
  • Walking with a wide base
  • Delayed gross motor skills development (crawling, jumping, etc.)
  • Delayed fine motor skills development (grabbing toys, moving objects between hands, etc.)

Hypotonia Symptoms

Will my child ever walk?

Although there are rare examples of hypotonia that confines a person to bed or a wheelchair, the answer for the vast majority of kids is an emphatic, well-deserved, and tear producing yes!

If your little one isn’t walking yet, here a few ways you can explain why to family and friends.


What causes low muscle tone?

It’s helpful to think of hypotonia as a symptom rather than a diagnosis.

600+ conditions have been linked to it. Some are relatively common, such as Down syndrome. Other are much rarer and difficult to pinpoint. Even with testing, getting a definitive diagnosis is not guaranteed.

Here are just a few of the conditions that may be causing your child’s low muscle tone:

  • Down syndrome
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Angelman syndrome
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta
  • Joubert syndrome

What is benign congenital hypotonia?

But not all instances can be linked to an overarching diagnosis. When hypotonia is present without an apparent root cause, it’s referred to as benign congenital hypotonia.

Will my child outgrow hypotonia? Will it go away?

Unfortunately, no. Your child can gain strength, stability, and confidence, but tone is tone. It doesn’t really change.

Kids who seem to outgrow hypotonia have simply learned to adapt and thrive in spite of the challenges.

That’s why it is vital to get the right treatment as soon as possible. By taking a “wait and see” approach, your child can develop bad habits, poor alignment, and fall further behind.

Is there a cure?

There is no cure.

Surgery, medication or exercise won’t “fix” your child’s muscle tone. But there are treatment options that help get your little one on the right path.


What are the hypotonia treatment options?

If your child isn’t already receiving physical therapy, that is a great place to start. It helps strengthen muscles and develop motor skills. But PT alone won’t fix alignment. And even the most attentive physical therapist isn’t likely to spend more than an hour each week with your child.

What about the other 167 hours?

Surestep SMOs are an excellent complement. They act as your therapist’s hands by guiding feet into proper alignment. These tiny, flexible braces also provide an instant boost to your little one’s stability and confidence. For more than 15 years, Surestep has revolutionized the treatment of hypotonia.


Surestep SMOs treat hypotonia in toddlers and kids


Overall, the goal of treatment isn’t just standing, walking, and running. It’s to set your little one up for success today and tomorrow.

Hypotonia may be an obstacle. But never forget how resilient your child is.


What now?

One inchstone at a time.

That’s a common mantra in the hypotonia community. There will be good days and bad days ahead, but try to remember that even tiny steps forward are progress.

To find out if Surestep SMOs are right for your child, talk to your pediatrician or physical therapist.

And if you’d like to do a bit more research, here are a few more helpful links:


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