Hypotonia and Hypertonia

What Are Hypotonia and Hypertonia?

Children with muscle tone disorders usually have either hypotonia or hypertonia. Hypotonia, which means low muscle tone, causes increased flexibility and looseness of the muscles. Hypertonia, which means high or too much muscle tone, causes rigidity, spasticity and inflexibility of the muscles.

All muscle tone disorders affect muscle strength, motor nerves and the brain. A child with a muscle tone disorder may have:

  • Feeding issues
  • Drooling
  • Breathing issues
  • Speech problems
  • Apraxia
  • Oral motor issues
  • Hypermobile or hyperflexible joints
  • Rigidity
  • Inflexibility
  • Rounded shoulders
  • Poor posture
  • Fine motor difficulties
  • Gross motor difficulties
  • Lack of appropriate body awareness
  • Poor head control (infant)
  • Weakened muscle tone
  • Poor reflexes
  • Low stamina
  • Low endurance

Muscle tone disorders affecting the brain, nervous system and muscles are:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Muscle tone disorders caused by genetic conditions are:

  • Prader-Willi Syndrome
  • Tay-Sach’s Disease
  • Down’s syndrome

Although neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder are not diagnosed as muscle tone disorders per se, these children commonly have:

  • Hypotonia
  • Low muscle tone in the upper part of the body
  • Body language difficulties
  • Coordination difficulties
  • Motor planning difficulties
  • Poor motor skills
  • Speech difficulties
  • Oral motor issues

What Your Doctor May Tell You About Hypotonia and Hypertonia

Your child’s doctor or specialist will likely tell you that there is no cure for muscle tone disorders, but with various treatment protocols it is possible to improve the muscle tone to maximize physical function, increase independence and improve your child’s general quality of life.

Treatment protocols may also slow down the progression of other symptoms associated with muscle tone disorders such as muscle contractures, joint deformities and loss of function.

Your child’s doctor may suggest medications to help improve muscle function, stop seizures and reduce pain; however, in certain cases surgery may be advised as an alternative option.

Your child’s doctor may also let you know that early intervention therapies are going to help your child maximize the most benefits to assure the best long term outcomes.

He or she also will probably suggest any of the following therapeutic treatment options:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Language therapy
  • Aquatic therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Braces/orthoses
  • Customized seating
  • Mobility training and equipment
  • Assistive technology devices
  • Augmentative communication devices
  • Medication

Another Way to Think About Hypotonia and Hypertonia

The Microbiome

The microbiome is the newly discovered organ in our gastrointestinal system that is home to trillions of bacteria (microflora).

The human gut “microbiota” is the name given to the colonies of microbes that live in our digestive system.

These gut microbes are essential for communication with the brain and the immune system.

This connection between the gut and the brain is called the gut/brain axis.

The body makes muscle tone because we eat protein and in a healthy gastrointestinal tract, the protein gets broken down into amino acids.

These amino acids are vitally important because they feed the neurotransmitters in our brain which sends messages to the brain cells to tell the body what to do, and in this case, to create muscle tone.

If the microbiome is altered due to inflammation, not enough oxygen in the cells, and bad bacteria, then the normal digestive process is disrupted.

When this happens, not enough stomach acid is created to break down proteins, so amino acids are not feeding the neurotransmitters.

Without the amino acids, communication with the brain is limited and the neurotransmitters misfire, sending inappropriate messages.

Therefore, in order to have healthy brain functioning and a healthy body creating good muscle tone, a healthy microbiome is crucial.

The Krebs Cycle

Muscle contraction, on the other hand, requires ATP, known as adenosine triphosphate.

How is ATP created in our cells?

The Krebs cycle, found inside the mitochondria, is responsible for converting our food – carbohydrates, protein and fats – into energy.

The mitochondria are found inside our cells and have the primary job of converting this energy from the Krebs cycle and storing it in the ATP.

ATP needs a constant supply of energy from the Krebs cycle to create muscle contraction.

The Krebs cycle requires the following to supply energy to the body to create muscle contraction and many other processes:

  • Oxygen
  • Co-enzyme A (CoA)
  • Co-enzyme 1 (NADH)
  • Co-enzyme Q 10 (CoQ10)
  • B vitamins

So if the Krebs cycle is not working appropriately because it lacks oxygen and/or the nutrients it needs to make it function, then there is going to be a breakdown in creating muscle contraction properly.

Muscle Tone Can Be Improved

The good news is the microbiome and gastrointestinal tract can be healed so that muscle tone can be improved.

The Krebs cycle can also be improved by giving the right nutrients to increase the production of energy to regulate muscle contraction.

There are also many important nutritional supplements for improving muscle tone and increasing protein and protein absorption in the body.

In addition, today there are many effective therapies for muscle tone disorders that can make a significant difference in a child’s life.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) in a hard chamber provides oxygen under pressure improves muscle tone, increases oxygen to the brain and revives the idling neurons to make significant improvement in muscle tone disorders.

Pediasuit

Pediasuit is another effective approach to treating muscle tone disorders.

The pediasuit accelerates the development of new motor skills and eventually over time strengthens muscle.

The goal is to have the child learn how to sit, stand and walk.

To find out about more exciting holistic and alternative approaches available to improve muscle tone disorders, see below.

Hypotonia and Hypertonia Healing Checklist

Make Lifestyle Changes

  • Get 10 hours of sleep per night (or more if your child is under 10)
  • Get outside every day
  • Get an hour of exercise or movement per day
  • Sync circadian rhythm by getting up when the sun does and going to bed after it sets
  • Limit screen time as much as possible
  • Use blue-blocking lightbulbs and glasses at night, especially when looking at screens
  • Put bare feet in wet ground when possible
  • Drink half body weight in ounces of water

Eat a Clean Diet

Use Only High-Quality Fats

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil (unheated)
  • Avocados
  • Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) oil
  • Grass-fed ghee
  • Duck fat
  • Grass-fed beef tallow
  • Cod liver oil (unheated)
  • Walnut oil (unheated)

Remove Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats

  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Safflower
  • Sunflower
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oils (Crisco, etc.)
  • Margarine

Include High-Quality Protein with Every Meal

  • Pasture-raised eggs, chicken and other fowl
  • Grass-fed beef, lamb and other red meats
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Legumes
  • Nuts

Eliminate High-Glutamate Foods

These foods and ingredients can exacerbate neurological symptoms because of the excitoxicity they cause in the brain. These are some of the most-common, high-glutamate foods to remove:

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Yeast extract
  • Gelatin
  • Barley malt
  • Bouillon
  • Natural flavors
  • Artificial flavors
  • Soy sauce
  • Corn starch
  • Others

Add Fermented Foods and Probiotics

These will keep the gastrointestinal system and microbiome healthy and strong which in turn will keep the immune system strong.

  • Eat kefir yogurts, if dairy is tolerated
  • Eat fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kim chi
  • Eat umeboshi plums, which are very alkalizing
  • Eat miso soup, if soy is tolerated
  • Take a quality probiotic, such as VSL #3, Gut Pro, Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics, Garden of Life, Klaire Labs. Work with your practitioner for a more targeted probiotic.

Optimize Blood Sugar

Blood sugar that is too high can lead to excess inflammation and hormonal imbalances.

Blood sugar that is too low can lead to attention and behavioral problems.

We recommend keeping blood sugar optimized so that it's neither too low nor too high.

Do an Elimination Diet

Children with chronic health conditions often have hidden food sensitivities and intolerances that exacerbate their symptoms. With an elimination diet, remove potentially inflammatory foods such as:

  • Casein
  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts

Clean up Your Environment

  • Identify and remove possible environmental triggers, such as mold, dust, pet dander, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
  • Identify and remove possible toxic exposures in the home from purchased products, such as detergents, soaps, lotions, and other cleaning and personal care products
  • Remove animals (both live and stuffed!)
  • Remove carpets
  • Use non-toxic cleaners
  • Use non-toxic building materials

Lower Stress Levels

Viruses, bacteria and other pathogens become more active when the body is in a state of stress.

By teaching your child ways to self-regulate with practices such as prayer, reiki, meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi and the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping), they can become good advocates for themselves and become active participants in the recovery process.

Practitioners of techniques such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Retraining) and jin shin jyutsu can lower stress levels for your child, as well.

See a Homeopath, Naturopath or Homotoxicologist

These practitioners can diagnose and treat gastrointestinal disorders naturally so that the child’s immune, sensory, neurological and nervous systems develop without being compromised.

Ask Your Practitioner to Run Some Laboratory Tests

  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for possible food sensitivities and allergies
  • Nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D
  • NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics Labs for malabsorption, gut dysbiosis, cellular energy, mitochondrial metabolism, neurotransmitter metabolism, vitamin deficiencies, toxin exposure and detoxification need
  • Organic Acid Test (OAT) for yeast overgrowth, other microbial infections and oxalates
  • Inflammation markers such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
  • Fasting blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA)

Have Your Child Tested for PANS/PANDAS

Pathogenic infections and environmental offenders can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause neurological symptoms known collectively as PANS/PANDAS. However, not many practitioners know how to test for and treat these conditions. Common tests are:

  • Serum Anti-Streptolysin O (ASO) titer
  • Serum Anti-Streptococcal DNase B (ASDB) titer
  • Cunningham panel
  • Lyme disease and Lyme co-infections
  • Specific viruses, especially herpetic viruses
  • Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection
  • Heavy metals and other toxins
  • Mold

Use Digestive Aids with your Practitioner's Guidance

  • Betaine hydrochloric acid
  • Digestive enzymes with DPP-IV for gluten and casein intolerances
  • Proteolytic enzymes
  • BiCarb
  • Bromelain
  • Papaya

Use Supplements with Your Practitioner's Guidance

Always work with your practitioner to determine the brand, type and dosage of supplements. Common supplements include the following:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin D3
  • Methylated B complex vitamins
  • GABA, especially PharmaGABA
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
  • Magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine and other minerals
  • Others

Help Your Child Detoxify

  • Make sure your child is pooping every day. Learn more about how to clear up constipation and diarrhea.
  • Have your child exercise or move every day. Sweating carries toxins out of the body.
  • See a homotoxicologist, naturopath or homeopath for drainage remedies and detoxification aids.
  • Optimize blood sugar to allow the liver to spend more time detoxing rather than processing sugar.
  • Ionic foot baths can help detox unwanted pathogens and are easy to do with children.
  • Infared saunas can detox heavy metals through the skin by sweating. However, this form of detoxification may not be suitable for young children who lack the ability to sweat.
  • Epsom salt baths add sulfur transdermally to help with detox.

Integrate Retained Primitive Reflexes

Most, if not all, children with neurodevelopmental disorders including learning disabilities, have retained primitive reflexes.

Find a therapist that is trained in integrating primitive reflexes, which can cause imbalances in the way your child's brain performs.

See a Chiropractic Neurologist

Chiropractic neurology is patient focused and utilizes the latest assessment techniques to create an individualized protocol to rehabilitate the central nervous system and develop neuroplasticity (changes in the brain) when addressing neurological conditions.

Children with developmental delays, cognitive issues and deficits have improper communication between the right and left sides of the brain.

See a Behavioral/Developmental Optometrist

A developmental optometrist can check for convergence and tracking problems with your child's vision. He or she can correct these issues with vision therapy, lens and prisms. Doing so can improve hand-eye coordination and school performance.

See a Craniosacral Practitioner

Craniosacral therapy can reestablish central nervous system functioning. These practitioners use approaches rich in vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile input and may also do oral motor therapy.

See a Neurofeedback Practitioner

Neurofeedback is approved as a level-one intervention by the American Academy of Pediatrics for ADD and ADHD, which are learning disabilities.

Even if your child doesn't have ADD or ADHD, they may still benefit from neurofeedback.

Find a practitioner that can perform a QEEG (quantitative electroencephalograph) brain map first so you can understand how your child's brain works.

See a Sensory-Integration Occupational Therapist

These occupational therapists address a variety of sensory issues with a child using hands-on equipment. This type of therapy calms down the nervous system to help integrate the senses and retained reflexes.

See a Chiropractor

A chiropractor can perform spinal cord adjustments, which can improve communication in the nervous system.

See an Auditory Therapist

Many children with learning disabilities have auditory processing problems that may be causing problems with focus and concentration.

An auditory therapist can devise a listening program that is specific to your child's needs. These programs can retrain the brain, calm down the nervous system and reduce sound sensitivities.

Find a Brain Gym Practitioner

A Brain Gym practitioner can have your child do exercises for sensorimotor coordination, self-calming and self-management.

Work with a Health Coach

Our Epidemic Answers health coaches are trained to understand the root causes of your child's chronic health condition.

They provide hands-on helping with the practical matters of healing such as cooking healthy foods, removing toxins from the household and helping you work more efficiently with your practitioner.

See an Acupuncturist

Acupuncture can help lower stress and anxiety associated with sensory processing. It can also help with blood-sugar and hormonal regulation.

See a NAET or BioSET Practitioner

Children with chronic health conditions typically also have food allergies and/or food sensitivities and intolerances.

NAET (Namudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique) and BioSET are two non-invasive methods of allergy elimination.

Use Sensory Therapies and Tools

Still Looking for Answers?

Visit the Epidemic Answers Practitioner Directory to find a practitioner near you.

Join us at Healing Together, where you’ll find even more resources plus a community to support you, every step of the way.

Sources & References

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Maes, M., et al. Lower plasma Coenzyme Q10 in depression: a marker for treatment resistance and chronic fatigue in depression and a risk factor to cardiovascular disorder in that illness. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2009;30(4):462-9.

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Power, R.A., et al. Carnitine revisited: potential use as adjunctive treatment in diabetes. Diabetologia. 2007 Apr;50(4):824-32.

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