Muscle tone (not to be confused with muscle strength) is the resistance of our bodies’ muscles to movement. Muscle tone allows us to move while also controlling the speed and range of motion.
Three reasons muscle tone is important
- It develops. While some babies are born with low muscle tone (a condition called hypotonia), for most, a basic level of muscle tone is present, which helps babies further develop their muscles, balance, and range of movement. For instance, everyday actions such as rolling, jumping, skipping, etc., are possible through muscle tone. Apart from gross activities, muscle tone is also important for those fine motor skills such as grasping, pulling, and threading, which of course eventually progress to skills such as buttoning, writing, cutting, etc.
- It protects. Muscles, along with the spine, joints, ligaments, and bones, all contribute to movement as well as posture. Muscle tone acts as a protective shield for ligaments and spinal joints, minimizing the risk of injury. Children with good muscle tone are less likely to struggle with neck pain, back pain, and headaches due to poor spinal health.
- It aligns. Finally, muscle tone is crucial to keep the musculoskeletal system in alignment. One of the outcomes of low muscle tone here is poor posture, even when sitting or standing, since these, too, require muscles to hold up the hips, legs, knees, back, head, and neck. Without good muscle tone, children’s joints are prone to wear and tear and feel tired rather than agile since their body spends more energy maintaining simple postures.
Activating muscle tone
Right from babyhood, there are several ways parents can encourage healthy muscle tone development through different activities that target:
- Stability and balance. Tummy time for babies and resistance crawling for toddlers help improve core stability, as does using a therapy ball or a dynamic surface to build muscle stability during movements.
- Doing a warm-up activity like bouncing on a trampoline before sitting at a table to draw, write, or paint helps improve posture.
- Children with low muscle tone tend to demonstrate higher flexibility. Building muscle tone throughout the body helps maintain optimal flexibility in such children and avoids over-extending, which can lead to tightness or injuries in the future.
Chiropractic care uses adjustments to relieve stiffness, aid re-balancing, and provide non-painful opportunities for children to engage in activities that strengthen muscle tone such as sports and play.
A child’s physical growth follows both form and function, i.e., beauty and purpose. A good muscle tone is necessary for the correct posture and appearance, as well as agility and strength for an active lifestyle.