Baby Muscle Tone

At Bodyworks Paediatric Physiotherapy we offer high quality, evidence-based holistic care to children and their families. Our aim is to create an environment that is fun and engaging for babies and children, individually tailored to your child, based around movement, play and treatments that are meaningful and encouraging.

High Muscle Tone – “Stiff Baby”

If your baby feels “stiff” when being handled, this could indicate having high muscle tone. This condition means there is too much tension in the muscle at rest and the muscles are tight and tense, which causes the arms and legs to be tightly contorted. This could be an indication of hypertonia or other Neurological conditions. If you are thinking that your baby feels stiff, further investigation is indicated.

Low Muscle Tone – “Floppy Baby”

If your baby is feeling floppy, it can indicate low muscle tone. Low muscle tone’ is a condition where there is a decreased amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle and decreased resting muscle tone. Low muscle tone occurs when the length of the resting muscle is slightly longer than typical. This means that the muscle fibres are not overlapping at an optimal level and there are fewer points where the fibres can attach and generate pull on the muscle. As a result, the person’s muscle needs to go through a greater range of motion and, as a result, more energy is used. The use of extra energy contributes to the decrease in the child’s endurance.

Hypotonia and Hypertonia in Infants

Low muscle tone is referred to as hypotonia and high muscle tone is known as hypertonia.  A child may have a high or low tone, in one or more muscles of the body. High tone is commonly seen in children diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy or in children who have had a stroke or a brain bleed in utero. Low tone is often seen in children with Down Syndrome. There may be a neurological diagnosis that is the cause of the difference in tone; however, some children will exhibit low tone with an unknown cause. These children may be slower to reach some of their motor milestones but otherwise, do not typically show any other delays.