Muscle weakness (hypotonia) in children

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Hypotonia means decreased muscle tone. It can be a condition on its own, called benign congenital hypotonia, or it can be indicative of another problem where there is progressive loss of muscle tone, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. It is usually detected during infancy.

  • An infant with hypotonia exhibits a floppy quality or "rag doll" feeling when he or she is held.
  • Infants may lag behind in acquiring certain fine and gross motor developmental milestones that enable a baby to hold his or her head up when placed on the stomach, balance themselves or get into a sitting position and remain seated without falling over.
  • There is a tendency for hip, jaw and neck dislocations to occur.
  • Some children with hypotonia may have trouble feeding, if they are unable to suck or chew for long periods.
  • A child with hypotonia may also have problems with speech or exhibit shallow breathing.

How Boston Children's Hospital approaches muscle weakness

Your child's muscle weakness can be caused by several different diseases, and treatment cannot begin without sussing out the real cause. At Children's, doctors have several tests available to diagnose the cause of your child's weakness. Once the diagnosis is nailed down, several treatment programs, including physical therapy programs, are at hand to help your child live a normal life.

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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