How will I know if my child has low muscle tone?

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Paediatrician, Dr Simon Strachan responds: 

Low muscle tone is a term used to describe children who do not meet their motor milestones because they seem a little floppy.

The age of the child determines how the floppiness/low tone will be seen. Children in the first year will be slow to hold the head up, slow to roll and sit and crawl and will be a little limp in the muscles when handled. Older children who are already walking will seem a little clumsy, will slouch rather than sit up straight and will be weak in the shoulders and upper arms.

When you play with these children you will feel that they do not resist you/play back by pushing as much or as strongly as you would think they should. The spectrum of floppiness is wide and it is best to have the child assessed by a paediatrician or a paediatric neurologist to assess the degree and the cause.

In medical terms we see floppiness as a warning sign of potential neurologica problems but the term “low muscle tone” in general is used very loosely to refer to any child who is physically a little weaker than others or any child who is a little slow in achieving milestones.

Soin the case of your son, the fact that he is slightly built means that he will be a little weaker than bigger boys but this does not mean that he has low muscle tone. If he has achieved his milestones and he is up and about and active then he will be fine. Have him checked out by a doctor if you like, to allay your fears.

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