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Why does my baby stiffen their legs and arms?

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When you pick up your baby from the crib🛏️, you might have noticed their hands and legs got stiffened! This is normal! It usually happens when your little one gets too excited or frustrated👶, and her muscle gets tightened up. However, rarely there are some other cases that can indicate a problem!


What is hypertonia?

It is considered hypertonia when a baby’s muscles get stiff and hard to move because of damage to the brain or spinal cord that controls muscle movements🧍. Babies with hypertonia move in different ways because their range of motion is limited. Walking, balancing, grabbing, and letting go of objects could be difficult for them.

There are two types of hypertonia, which are Spastic and Dystonic. Spastic hypertonia is when muscle spasms when a baby moves. On the other hand, when a baby is with Dystonic hypertonia, their muscle tone stays the same whether the baby is moving or still. In order to figure out which hypertonia the baby has, doctors will move a baby’s muscles in different directions at various speeds🚶.


Why does it happen? Any symptoms I should be aware of?

To move muscles, we send signals from the nervous system travel to the nerves. However, if the brain🧠 or spinal cord is injured, those signals can’t reach the nerves, which causes hypertonia! This could happen when a baby had a lack of oxygen during birth. If his/her brain is injured or has a tumor, could cause hypertonia as well.

A baby with hypertonia generally shows trouble moving her joints in the arms, legs or neck. Their range of motion👋 gets limited, and they fall often because they lose their balance. 

If a baby has severe hypertonia, he can’t move the affected body part much because his joint freeze in place, which is called a contracture. 


Other reasons why your baby may stiffen their body

There are a few other possible medical reasons🏥 for a baby to stiffen their body. Other medical conditions related to brain damage, such as infantile spasms, cerebral palsy, seizures, and epilepsy can cause this symptom as well. 

Occasional muscle stiffening isn’t something to worry about. But if you feel suspicious too often, you should contact a doctor for a check-up and start a diagnosis and treatment👩‍⚕️.

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