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Muscle Tone

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An Introduction to Muscle Tone

Muscles are one of the most important supporting structures of our body. We can sit, move, stand, talk or do any physical activity for the flexibility of our muscles. Under normal circumstances, friction or resistance acts on the muscular tissues. Hence, it acts against the tissues getting extended. This tension detected in the muscles is known as muscle tone. This property of the body helps to undergo different movements and modify its speed. 

Therefore, to check the condition of the muscles, this factor is examined. The physician usually asks the patient to relax completely. Then he goes on to expand or move each joint through its full range. It acts as a muscle tone assessment. 

Types of Muscle Tone Abnormalities

In a body, muscle tone might alter due to several problems. The muscle tone refers to the degree of resistance offered by the muscles. This degree of resistance can be usual, hypotonic, or hypertonic. When diagnosed with a hypotonic situation, the muscle tone is lower or less than what it should be under normal circumstances. A muscle tone assessment helps to identify this situation. 

Hypertonic suggests that the muscle tone is high or more than the regular. Due to the condition of hypotonia, a person might have to put more effort. To be able to undergo a single movement becomes a task. Hypertonia, on the other hand, might result in the stiffness of the muscles.

Low Muscle Tone

Usually, people have different types of muscle tones. A low muscle tone suggests that the muscle has become floppy. This condition is also known as hypotonia and results in difficulty in any muscle movement. Due to this state, it might be difficult for a person to maintain their posture. A person with hypotonia might require much more effort for any ordinary movement. In children, low muscle tone can cause difficulty in growth.

Low muscle tone often gets detected in babies at birth. However, this condition might also develop in the later stages of life. Nervous disorders or weakness in the bones might lead to hypotonia. A muscle tone abnormality might sometimes have no diagnosed reason. Such a condition is called idiopathy.

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How to Check Muscle Tone? 

Low Muscle Tone

According to muscle tone physiology, the muscle tone of an individual remains low during sleep. Some people experience difficulty in maintaining their posture. The body posture might be poor or strain the person. It leads him to put extra effort into his movement. Children, when lifted, might have limp arms or legs. Activities like sitting, crawling, or walking may be very slow. In such cases, a muscle assessment should be done to check the condition that causes these problems in the body. 


High Muscle Tone

In the case of hypertonia, the muscle tone becomes so high, that makes it is very difficult to regulate any movement. To understand what muscle tone is, we also need to know that muscles send the brain signals which allow them to contract or expand. Certain regions of the brain or spinal cord control these signals. If these get injured or damaged, hypertonia can occur. Hypertonia reduces the flexibility of the joints. Headstrokes, brain tumours, and other toxins can result in high muscle tone.

Several symptoms emphasize the fact that a person is suffering from hypertonia. The functionality and movement of the joints decrease due to increased muscle tone. When this condition affects the legs, the person might trip and fall as he will not be able to maintain balance. Among the types of muscle tone, spasticity is the condition that results in increased muscle spasms. The affected muscles become very tender and can often cause pain.

Balance is not a learned phenomenon. As a child grows up, he or she automatically balances her body. This can be either to sit in a stable posture, crawl or even to stand or walk. However, in the case of those kids who suffer from hypotonia, balance develops very slowly. The joint muscles are soft and hence there remains the risk of dislocation of the neck, jaw, or hip muscles. Children with hypotonia usually face difficulty in eating as their muscles are too weak to stably control the processes of eating, chewing, or swallowing. Often the child takes in very shallow breaths and can speak out words clearly with difficulty.

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FAQs on Muscle Tone

1. When should you consult a doctor for alteration in muscle tone?

Often due to certain nervous disorders, low muscle tone is observed in the body. Many infants are diagnosed with muscle tone abnormality at birth. In such cases, the child should be taken to a physiotherapist or a pediatrician. The concerned doctor will be able to diagnose the reason for the weakness in the muscle. Only a medical professional can identify if the hypotonia or hypertonia in the patient’s body is curable or not. They will be able to suggest ways to increase muscle tone. A nurse from the maternal and child health care department can also be consulted for improvement in the child’s muscular movements. The doctor examines the underlying possibilities for weakness in the muscles. He will conduct tests to detect whether the individual is suffering from a muscle abnormality. It can be either hypertonia or high muscle tone, or hypotonia, or low muscle tone.

2. How can hypertonia or hypotonia be treated?

Physical exercises and warm-up activities can help improve muscle movements. These exercises usually do not change the muscular abnormalities permanently. However, it might help the patient to gain more stability and improve their posture. It helps to increase muscle tone. He should exercise every day such that the power and the strength of the muscles increase. Practicing these exercises regularly is especially beneficial for children affected by abnormal muscle tone. As they grow up, their strength and capacity to control their muscular functions increase. Squeezing playdough can help improve the grip on a pencil. Simple activities like catching or throwing balls or even pressing a spray bottle can also act as physiotherapy for the weak muscles of the body.