21 Nov Low muscle tone and what it means.
Estimated reading time 4 minutes
One of the first things our mid wife noticed was that Ariel was a floppy baby and this was a marker for Down Syndrome. “Floppy baby” is low muscle tone or hypotonia and so far is proving to be one of our main challenges. Muscle tone is the amount of tension or resistance to stretch or activate in a muscle. It helps to maintain posture and low muscle tone often involves reduced muscle strength. This is not to be confused with muscle strength or the definition commonly used in body building.
I took the following from Wikipedia to explain it.
Neurologic muscle tone is a manifestation of periodic action potentials from motor neurons. As it is an intrinsic property of the nervous system, it cannot be changed through voluntary control, exercise, or diet. “…The child with low tone has muscles that are slow to initiate a muscle contraction, contract very slowly in response to a stimulus, and cannot maintain a contraction for as long as his ‘normal’ peers. Because these low-toned muscles do not fully contract before they again relax (muscle accommodates to the stimulus and so shuts down again), they remain loose and very stretchy, never realizing their full potential of maintaining a muscle contraction over time. “
Low muscle tone combined with longer ligaments that are looser than usual and short arms and legs make motor control, motor development, and motor learning very difficult and there can be a delay in development and reaching milestones. Decreased muscle tone can also cause constipation and reflux.
Now, I am not trying to be negative or paint a bleak picture, but it is something I do notice and I want to get a better idea of what it would feel like for a person with Down Syndrome.
Here is what I found out
- Ariel will need to exert more effort to activate her muscles. Because of this she will get tired easily.
- Low muscle tone in her face affects her speech and it would be like talking with a mouth full of marshmallow.
- Her core has the stability of a slinky so even keeping herself upright and moving her arms and legs is challenging and very tiring.
So, when I found this out I felt a little sorry for her. But we are not going to dwell on that. I am optimistic, as I see so many individuals with Down Syndrome doing all sorts of physical activities and some of them extremely well. I am in awe of the determination and courage they possess actually.
I am so pleased we started early intervention early. Our lovely OT has us working on the Gym Ball at the moment to strengthen Ariels core. It is working well and only takes a few minutes a day. We sing while we do it and make it fun. She is so close to crawling but I am in no real rush. We already know due to low muscle tone she may crawl and walk a bit later than typical children. Does that really matter? No it doesn’t. She will get there in her own time and we will be there to help her do it.
Here is little Ariel doing her core training.
On a side note I want to add that Ariel is improving every day. I wrote this blog over the last 2 days, and the thing about Ariel is she likes to defy a lot of the things we say about her and Down Syndrome. See for yourself on this video of her. She is pretty active don’t you think? ariel energiser bunny