Therapy and Treatment for Hypertonia

child with hypertonia, polka dot kids

Facts about Hypertonia

Hypertonia is a condition in which there is more or too much muscle tone. Children with hypertonia may have stiff arms, hands, neck, legs, or trunk. They can be difficult to move. Hypertonia happens when the regions of the brain or spinal cord that send signals to the muscles telling them to contract are damaged. If the muscle tone is severe and prolonged, contractures or frozen joints can occur which is caused by the permanent shorting of muscles and tendons. Once a contracture forms, it cannot be “stretched back out” and requires surgical intervention. Hypertonia can present as spasticity (increased resistance to movement), rigidity (constant resistance to passive movement), and dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions causing repetitive or twisting movements).


  • Head trama
  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Toxins that affects the brain
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders like cerebral palsy
  • Neurodegenerative disorders like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
  • Metabolic conditions and disorders
  • Genetic conditions

Treatment Options

Treatment is typically based on the causation of hypertonia. Doctors may prescribe muscle relaxing drugs, insert a baclofen pump, or use botulinum toxin (Botox). They may also suggest occupational and physical therapy in addition to these medications and surgical procedures. Orthopedic surgeries can release contractures or lengthen tendons for improved range of motion. Exercise and movement are very important for people with hypertonia. Therapists work on stretching, strengthening, and improving overall mobility to minimize the impact of increased muscle tone. They may fit and utilize braces or splints to promote prolonged stretching to maintain movement. They help supply and adjust wheelchairs to assist with accessibility and mobility. If contractures and reduced range of motion are present, therapists may adapt the environment or task to help maintain independence and completion of the activity.

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