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Muscle Tone: High vs Low

Posted on April 5th, 2022 by Andries Lodder

By Daniel Sauer

What is “Muscle Tone”?

A term you may have heard alot is “muscle tone”. But what actually is muscle tone? Why is muscle tone important? These are the most common questions one usually asks around the topic.

Muscle tone is the amount of tension or resistance to movement in muscles. Our muscle tone helps us to hold our bodies upright when we are sitting and standing. Changes in muscle tone are what enable us to move. Muscle tone also contributes to the control, speed and amount of movement we can achieve. This then splits into high muscle tone, which is known as hypertonicity, and low muscle tone, which is called hypotonicity.

Hypotonicity (Low muscle tone) is used to describe muscles that are “floppy” and stretched. People with low muscle tone may need to put in more effort to get their muscles moving properly when they are doing an activity. They may also have difficulty maintaining good posture when sitting or standing. Many children with low muscle tone have delays in their gross motor development. On the other hand, hypertonicity (High muscle tone) describes muscles that are overly tight and require more effort to stretch and lengthen. This also affects one’s movement during regular activities of daily living, one’s posture and can lead to different degrees of spasticity.

Why is Muscle Tone Important?

There are three main functions for muscle tone:

It is important to recognize that muscle groups are all connected. The way we maintain balance and the ways in which we compensate for uneven stress on the body is largely dependent upon muscle tone. By having a basic tension in the muscles, our bodies are able to move and exert without running the risk of injury or undue strain. 

Muscle tone contributes to physiological function over the entire body. Some of the key areas that make muscle tone important are:


Hypertonia is a condition in which there is too much muscle tone. This means that one’s arms or legs, for example, are stiff and difficult to move.  Muscle tone is regulated by signals that travel from the brain to the nerves and tell the muscle to contract or relax. The main cause of hypertonia is when the regions of the brain or spinal cord that control these signals are damaged.

This can occur for many reasons:

Hypertonia often limits how easily the joints can move.  Symptoms include:


Hypotonia is a medical term used to describe decreased muscle tone.  Normally, even when relaxed, muscles have a very small amount of contraction that gives them a “springy” feel and provides some resistance to passive movement. It is not the same as muscle weakness, although the two conditions can co-exist.

Hypotonia can happen from damage to the brain, spinal cord, nerves, or muscles.  The damage can be the result of:

Hypotonia is more commonly seen in:

The most common symptoms of Hypotonia include:

There are a few differences in the treatment of both, hypertonia and hypotonia. However, many of the treatment protocols do overlap. Your biokineticist will know when to apply each protocol.

Treatment for Hypertonicity:

Treatment for Hypotonicity:

If you, or anyone you may know has either of these conditions. We are here to assist! Call and book an appointment with us for all of your injury rehabilitation and chronic disease management needs!


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