Hypertonia in Babies: Symptoms and Causes

During the first months of life, progress is an event in every child’s development. He reaches out to try to pick up a toy, rolls around on the floor, crawls around the house, takes his first steps without help… but For these advances in motor development to occur, the child’s muscle tone must be adequate. And it’s not always like that, Then you may suffer from muscle hypotonia or hypertonia. We tell you what these changes are, what are the symptoms to detect and what to do in these cases.

What is muscle tone?

First of all, what is muscle tone? The Royal National Academy of Medicine of Spain defines it as “a partial and permanent contraction of the muscles, which depends on the continuous activation of the myotatic reflex – the automatic and involuntary response of the nervous system to a sudden stretch in the muscles – and which “Can be increased by activation of the stretch reflex.” and connects it This tension or resistance of the muscles at rest is “necessary to maintain posture”., as well as joint stability and the ability to respond to changes in body position. That is, muscle tone is influenced by the nervous system and the condition of the muscles.

Therefore, In case of babies, muscle tone is very important, Their motor and cognitive development depends on it, as it not only helps them maintain posture and deal with gravity, but also interact with the environment and other people by being able to walk.

However, Muscle tone may be affected, In adults, stress, lack of sleep, or suffering from diseases such as stroke or multiple sclerosis can cause changes in this and cause the muscles to become stiffer or looser.

And in children? The problem may be seen in the newborn or may appear after a few months. Sometimes it’s temporary, but sometimes it’s not, and Can harm their development (including skeletal deformities) and learning, Hence the importance of early detection of hypotonia or hypertonia, two changes in muscle tone.

muscle hypotonia in infants

The prefix “hic” means “down” and “tonia” means vowel. Therefore, this means that in hypotonia muscle tone decreases, Muscles are softer and looser than usual; Its elasticity is extremely high. The joints do not heal well so there is no resistance if we move their arms or legs. Every newborn baby has axial hypotonia (in the trunk and neck), but it disappears as the months go by (if it persists into the third trimester of life this is not normal).

Infants with muscle hypotonia are also calledlame baby syndrome“—They’re like “rag dolls” when you pick them up. If you put them on their back, their legs and arms are spread wide, while when they are placed on their stomach, they look as if they are frogs, with their legs out to the side .

⭐ reason

What causes hypotonia? What is behind muscle hypotonia in children genetic, neurological, muscular disorders…The most common are Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, congenital hypothyroidism or cerebral palsy. malnutrition or a lack of motivation There are other possible reasons also.

⭐ How to know if a child has hypotonia?

infantile muscle hypertonia
image: Polina Tankilevich

There are several symptoms that may alert you that your child may be hypotonic. Look for the following signs:

  • It’s hard for him to hold his head. It takes time to be able to keep it straight. As pediatricians point out, at 2-4 months you should have it without any problems.
  • During breastfeeding, you have problems sucking or mouthing and swallowing. Later, he starts having difficulty chewing and speaking.
  • He is a soft, flexible child.
  • It is not easy for him to move around when he is face down.
  • Obviously he doesn’t have the strength to sit still.
  • Slowly crawl (or crawl) and walk.

⭐ what to do

Most cases of hypotonia are benign, so with time the child’s muscles will gain adequate tone. Anyway, to help you achieve this, at home, don’t forget:

But, If you have any doubts, discuss it with your pediatrician. So you can diagnose. If necessary, he will refer you to a neuropediatrician and children’s physiotherapist to determine the most appropriate treatment, such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, orthopedics…

muscle hypertonia in infants

As its name indicates, hypertonia involves increased muscle tone. This does not mean that hypertonic children have greater strength, but rather that, when moving, their muscles show greater resistance; They are more stressful and difficult than usual. This is noticeable, for example, when changing a diaper or at bathing time. These children are under constant stress,

In fact, all newborns have hypertonicity of arms and legs: They keep them folded, it is difficult to stretch them and they keep their fists closed. And as was the case with hypotonia, this condition disappears as the child grows.

But it is possible that it may not be less. And herein lies the problem. Relaxing your muscles and making gentle movements may require effort and you may even experience cramps or tremors. Furthermore, repeated contractures or skeletal deformities are some of the medium and long-term effects.

Additionally, there are different degrees of hypertonia. is the most serious sclerosis: The faster the speed, the greater the muscle tone and the quicker resistance will appear.

infantile muscle hypertonia
image: designcologist

⭐ reason

Muscle hypertonia is typical premature babies, due to the immaturity of his nervous system. but there is also other reason This may be due to: trauma during pregnancy, high blood pressure in a pregnant woman, spinal cord injury, brain injury after lack of oxygen during childbirth, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy…

⭐ How to know if a child has hypertonia?

See if your child has the following symptoms. Your child may be hypertonic if:

  • His fists are always clenched; You can’t even see your thumb.
  • Her legs are shown in triple flexion (ankle, knee and hip) or fully extended.
  • Its feet are pointed and its toes are curled (equinus foot).
  • He is straighter than usual and seems to have a lot of strength in his neck: he is always tense.
  • Walk on tiptoes.
  • Sometimes you have visual or digestive problems.

⭐ what to do

If you have any doubts, discuss it with your pediatrician. So that you can make a prompt diagnosis and thus, as quickly as possible, determine the most appropriate treatment, whether pediatric physiotherapy, medication, surgery…

In any case, keep in mind that it is recommended:

  • Gently massage your baby’s arms and legs to relieve muscle tension.
  • Take advantage of bath time with your child to relax his or her muscles with warm water.

And if you want to know more, do not hesitate to consult our Erosky Consumer Baby Guide, where you can find all the keys to enjoy each stage of pregnancy and your baby.,

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