Welcome to Buoy Health

Learn about your low muscle tone, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your low muscle tone from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Low Muscle Tone Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having low muscle tone.

Take a quiz

Low Muscle Tone Symptoms

The muscles of the body are always in a state of contraction. Whether you are sitting down and watching television or running a marathon, your muscles are continuously working to maintain your posture and allow your body to move.

The term "muscle tone" refers to the extent of resistance the muscles have to movement during a resting state. For example, if you are asleep and another person attempts to move your arm or leg, the resistance the other person feels when performing the movement defines your muscle tone.

Muscle tone can be defined as normal, low or high. Low or poor muscle tone, also called hypotonia, refers to a very low level of muscle contraction during a resting state. There is very little resistance when moving the limbs of a person with low muscle tone.

Low muscle tone is not only manifested during sleep or resting state; low muscle tone also affects the way a person moves and controls his or her body. Low muscle tone symptoms are often manifested early, soon after birth, but can also develop at any age.

Low muscle tone symptoms in infants and children include:

  • Poor or no head control
  • "Floppiness" or "rag doll" quality when held
  • Delays in gross motor skill development, such as crawling and walking
  • Delays in fine motor skill development, such as holding a cup
  • Delays in speech or problems with eating

Low muscle tone symptoms at any age include:

  • Decrease in strength
  • Weakened posture
  • Hyper-flexibility
  • Poor reflexes
  • Increased weakness and inability to perform normal activities

Regardless of age, it is important to follow up on low muscle tone symptoms with your doctor in order to get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Low Muscle Tone Causes Overview

Low muscle tone is triggered by a problem with the nervous system and/or muscular system. Problems in these systems can be hereditary/congenital or acquired due to injury, other illness and lack of use.

Hereditary or congenital low muscle tone causes:

  • Chromosomal: Many genetic conditions that affect the number of chromosomes in the body, such as Down Syndrome or Tay-Sachs disease result in low muscle tone symptoms in addition to various other problems.
  • Muscular: Genetic conditions that affect the body's ability to form and maintain healthy muscles lead to hypotonia. These conditions cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass that decreases the muscles ability to contract and resist movement.
  • Trauma: Brain damage in the infant as a result of infection or injury before or after birth can cause low muscle tone in the infant.

Acquired low muscle tone causes:

  • Trauma: Any situation that causes trauma or injury to the brain, spinal cord, nerves or muscles can lead to acquired symptoms of low muscle tone. Such situations not only include severe events such as motor vehicle accidents that can cause direct bodily damage, but also events such as strokes that that can cause direct injury to the brain.
  • Underuse: Lack of physical activity due to factors such as injury or aging, can result in muscle wasting and atrophy which ultimately results in low muscle tone.

Top 7 Low Muscle Tone Causes

  1. 1.Diabetic Hypoglycemia

    Hypoglycemia (severely low blood sugar) can occur in Type 1 (more common) and Type 2 Diabetes. It is usually caused by poorly timed use of blood-sugar-controlling medication.

    Severely low blood sugar is extremely dangerous. You need to go to the ER immediately, where blood tests to assess your blood sugar will be done quickly and stabilized immediately if found to be low.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, irritability, anxiety, racing heart beat, dizziness
    Symptoms that always occur with diabetic hypoglycemia:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  2. 2.Ehlers - Danlos Syndrome

    Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a rare inherited disorders that weakens connective tissues that support skin, bones, blood vessels, and other organs. This condition can result in the ability to overextend and easily dislocate joints, and in chronic pain in some people.

    You should visit your primary care physician, who will likely coordinate care with a genetic counselor. This condition has no cure, and treatment consists of pain management with pain killers.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    unexplained bruising, slow wound healing, delayed ability to walk
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Canavan Disease

    Canavan disease is an extremely rare genetic disorder. It causes the brain to degenerate into spongy tissue with lots of tiny fluid-filled spaces. Usually this disease is discovered in the first 3 to 6 months of a person's life. It causes progressive destruction of the brain.

    You should visit your primary care physician to get consultation about this serious condition. Unfortunately there is no cure, and treatment is focused on support and symptom management.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    muscle stiffness/rigidity, developmental delay, moving less frequently, poor control of head movement, low muscle tone
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Low Muscle Tone Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having low muscle tone.

    Take a quiz
  4. 4.Cri - Du - Chat Syndrome

    Cri du chat syndrome is a group of symptoms that result from missing a piece of chromosome number 5. The syndrome’s name is based on the infant’s cry, which is high-pitched and sounds like a cat.

    This diagnosis is typically diagnosed at birth.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    low muscle tone, developmental delay
    Symptoms that always occur with cri-du-chat syndrome:
    mental disability, developmental delay
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Ataxia - Telangiectasia (Louis - Bar Syndrome)

    Ataxia-Telangiectasia is a rare, brain degenerative, inherited disease causing disability. Ataxia refers to poor coordination and telangiectasia to small dilated blood vessels.

    You should visit your primary care physician to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options for managing symptoms.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    difficulty walking, difficulty with coordination, numbness or tingling sensations in skin, jerky, unsteady, or uncoordinated walk, motor disturbance
    Symptoms that always occur with ataxia-telangiectasia (louis-bar syndrome):
    difficulty with coordination
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Intraventricular Hemorrhage of Infancy

    Bleeding into the brain can happen as an infant, especially in premature babies.

    You should seek immediate medical care at an ER, where an ultrasound of your head would reveal the bleed. Treatment includes medication to reduce pressure in the brain.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    feeling confused and not making sense while talking, stopped breathing (apnea), shortness of breath, developmental delay, pale skin all over
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  7. 7.Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy

    Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) begins in childhood or adolesence, usually between ages 8 and 20, and lasts into adulthood. The most common type of seizure in people with this condition is myoclonic seizures, which cause rapid, uncontrolled muscle jerks.

    You should visit your primary care physician to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options for managing symptoms.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    sensitivity to light, brief fainting episode, mental disability
    Symptoms that never occur with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy:
    low muscle tone, arm weakness, weakness of both legs, leg weakness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Low Muscle Tone Treatments and Relief

Low muscle tone treatment varies depending on the underlying cause, but most forms of treatment involve rehabilitative and physical therapy.

Low muscle tone treatment in children and infants:

  • In infants and children with congenital causes of low muscle tone, early intervention is key.

  • With therapy, children with low muscle tone symptoms may be able to achieve developmental milestones such as:

  • swallowing solid foods

  • sitting upright

  • grasping objects

  • walking

Nevertheless, despite therapy, many children born with hypotonia will require wheelchairs or other assistive devices. Furthermore, since hypotonia can also make joints very loose, children can wear protective braces and casts to help prevent joint locations and injuries.

Low muscle tone treatment in adults:

  • In adults with acquired causes of low muscle tone, early intervention is equally as important.
  • If your low muscle tone is due to an injury or stroke, your doctor will suggest a physical therapy program that will allow you to increase your muscle mass and regain mobility and strength.

Low muscle tone prevention:

  • In order to prevent low muscle tone that occurs as a result of underuse, discuss with your doctor exercise regimens that you can start in order to keep your body healthy and strong.

If you experience any symptoms of speech difficulty, facial drooping, or weakness to the point you cannot move your body part at all, call 911 immediately. These could be signs of a stroke.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Low Muscle Tone

  • Q.Do you have multiple joints that are stiff?
  • Q.Do any of your body parts (e.g., toes, hands, ears) feel cold?
  • Q.Is the skin on the back of your hand very soft?
  • Q.Have others noticed that your speech is slower than usual?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our low muscle tone symptom checker.

Take a quiz

Low Muscle Tone Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having low muscle tone.

Take a quiz