Does my child have low muscle tone or insufficient postural control?

child slouching

What is muscle tone?

Definition (medical-dictionary):

The internal state of muscle-fiber tension within individual muscles and muscle groups. Degree of muscle tension or resistance during rest or in response to stretching.

  • The tone in your muscle when at rest
  • This has nothing to do with muscle strength
  • You are born with a certain tone in your muscle or this may change after a traumatic incident
  • An individual may have low (hypotonia) or high muscle tone (hypertonia)

What is postural control?

  • The ability to assume and maintain different postures
  • To have stability at your bigger joints to feel safe in your body when stationary or when moving around
  • Underwritten by die vestibular and proprioceptive systems
  • Low muscle tone can co-occur with insufficient postural control


The automatic feedback we get from our ligaments and joints regarding:

  • The body’s / body parts orientation
  • Rate and timing of movements
  • Amount of force our muscle is exerting
  • How much and fast our muscle is stretching

Vestibular system

  • The sensory system that provides the leading contribution to the sense of balance and spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance – Wikipedia
  • The system is activated by movement of the head, vibration and gravity

Treatment ideas

Low muscle tone

Proprioceptive input normalized muscle tone thus the follow is usually recommended:

  • Sitting on an exercise ball/balance cushion
  • Heavy work activities that provide deep pressure input (proprioception)
  • Fidget toys that provides resistance or deep pressure input
  • Having a resistance band between the legs of your chair so the child can kick against it
  • Etc.

Insufficient postural control

Occupational therapy is usually recommended as both the proprioceptive system and vestibular system need to be integrated. The above mentioned ideas under low muscle tone will also be recommended to a child with insufficient postural control.

The vestibular system also needs to be addressed so here are some activity ideas:

  • Jumping trampoline
  • Swinging
  • Sliding
  • Monkey-bars
  • Summersaults
  • Balance-beam
  • Etc.

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