What is Hypotonia?

Posted by

Alicia Amsberry, PT, DPT

Time to read

2 minutes

What is Hypotonia?

Hypotonia is a medical term for low muscle tone. In other words, it is the decreased amount of tone in a child’s muscles.


What is the Difference Between Muscle Tone and Muscle Strength?

Muscle Tone: is the level of tension in a muscle at rest1 

  • It is the potential ability to respond to an outside force, stretch or change in direction2
  • Examples: protective responses, balance reactions, righting reactions

Muscle Strength: is the amount of force the muscle exerts against resistance1 

  • Ability to actively contract and create force2
  • Examples: pushing, pulling, lifting, etc. 


Characteristics of Low Muscle Tone

  • Joint hypermobility and instability 
  • Poor Posture
    • “W” sitting
    • Difficulty holding head upright (propping head with hand)
    • Slouched sitting posture
    • Difficulty sitting for long periods of time 
  • Impaired Mobility
    • May appear clumsy with gross motor activities
    • May fatigue quickly; preference for sedentary activities
  • Delayed Development of Gross Motor Skills (examples: crawling, jumping, climbing, etc.)
  • Delayed Development of Fine Motor Skills (examples: grabbing toys, moving objects between hands, etc.)
  • Breathing and Feeding Difficulties 
  • Ligament and Joint Laxity 


Treatment Options

  • Occupational Therapy: teach skills to help address day to day activities
  • Physical Therapy: addresses muscle strength, coordination and posture
  • Speech Therapy: addresses swallowing, feeding and speaking

Goals for Treatment: 

    • Improve postural responses and righting reactions
    • Improve posture control
    • Improve functional strength
    • Facilitate motor planning 


If you have concerns your child may be displaying signs of low muscle tone, please call our office today. We are happy to help. 



  1. SureStep 
  2. DinoPT

Photos: pixabay, SureStep, Living With Cerebral Palsy