What is Muscle Tone?
- Muscle tone is the firmness and tension in a muscle, with vestibular processing responsible for developing the postural muscle tone of both flexor and extensor core musculature.
- Muscle tone is not the same as muscle strength, but the firmness and tension in a muscle allows us to hold a muscle position with stability, control, skill, and endurance.
- Low muscle tone (or hypotonia) is present when muscles lack firmness and tension. Without optimal muscle firmness, the joints are “loose”, hyper mobile and lack stability. Individuals with low muscle tone do not get good feedback from those muscles about movement because the muscles are “looser”, resembling a slack elastic band.
- Low muscle tone in core musculature can compromise postural stability, ribcage stability/breathing, and core strength.
- Low muscle tone in and around the mouth can compromise speech articulation, and result in drooling, pocketing food, and the need for increased oral-motor input.
- Low muscle tone in the lower extremity can compromise gross-motor skills, and result in compensatory movement patterns (w-sitting, turning feet out, foot slapping, toe walking) and the need for increased vestibular and proprioceptive stimulating gross-motor movement activities.
- Low muscle tone in the upper extremity can compromise upper extremity/fine-motor skills, and result in compensatory movement patterns (shoulder hiking, posturing of hands, fixing hands at midline, fist grips) and the need for increased touch and proprioceptive stimulating fine-motor activities.
- Activities to support low muscle tone, core strength, and proximal stability would include such activities as on-elbows position, jumping activities, knee-walking, crawling games, weight-shifting, sustaining postures (i.e. Simon Says), vertical chalkboards, oral-motor whistles and games, and so much more.