Why hypertonia occurs and how to prevent it

Hypertonia is a condition that has its effects on the muscles, although its origin is in the nervous system.

It occurs when the muscle tone is greater than normal, causing stiffness or greater efforts or resistance to move or stretch. Learn here about the different types of hypertonia, their causes and ways of prevention.

Muscles are structures and tissues present in the body of humans and most animals. They have the ability to generate movement by contracting and relaxing, always acting between antagonistic pairs.

They are made up of myocytes, specialized cells that have the property of increasing or decreasing their length when stimulated by impulses from the nervous system.

Muscle hypertonia is characterized by reduced agility of the muscles. These and translate into resistance, stiffness, limited trajectories or slower movements. In the long run, this condition can cause contractures or other muscle injuries.

The opposite of hypertonia is hypotonia, that is, a decrease in muscle tone or flaccidity. Specialists differentiate three types of hypertonia:

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Spasticity is the most common type of hypertonia in children with cerebral palsy and is characterized by the fact that some muscles remain permanently contracted.

This causes stiffness and narrowing of the muscles, affecting different functions and movements such as balance, ambulation, swallowing, manipulation or speech.


Another type of hypertonia is dystonia, this is a movement disorder in which there is a sustained or intermittent muscle contraction that can cause involuntary movement or alterations in the patient’s posture.

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Dystonia can be generalized or focal, in the latter case it affects specific muscle groups of a body segment.


Stiffness is characterized by one or more joints that offer resistance to movement, regardless of the speed at which it is performed. It can also happen that the moving limb does not return to the correct position or angle.

What to do to prevent hypertonia

Experts point out that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent any type of hypertonia, this includes the following habits:

Maintain a healthy diet

This type of diet includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals and lean meats. In some cases, specific foods are recommended to strengthen muscles and tendons, such as nuts, chard, spinach, mackerel, salmon, chicken or eggs.

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Those that promote brain function are also recommended, such as tuna, sardines, or anchovies, nuts, olive oil, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples or green leafy vegetables.

keep a healthy weight

Obesity or being overweight are risk factors for hypertonia, since they place a greater load or hinder the correct mobility of the muscles and joints.

To find out if someone is overweight, the body mass index is used, a technique that is calculated by dividing the kg. times the square of the height in meters (BMI = weight [kg] / height [m2]).

Weight is considered normal when it is between 18.5 and 24.9, overweight when it is between 25 to 29.9 and obesity when it is over 30.

Be active

The sedentary lifestyle consists of sitting or lying down for a long time, with little or no exercise. This can be the cause of many chronic diseases, such as obesity, a risk factor for hypertonia.

Specialists advise frequent physical activity, preferably moderate intensity, to maintain muscle, bone and joint health.

It is important that before and after exercising you stretch or stretch, so the muscles acquire greater flexibility and the risk of injury or stiffness is reduced.

Avoid overloads

When it comes to carrying or moving heavy objects, try to use the largest and strongest joints and muscles. In this way, you will distribute the load in large surface areas and reduce the stress on the smaller joints.

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Avoid or limit tobacco and caffeine

Smokers or those who consume excess caffeine are at higher risk of suffering joint, bone and muscle injuries, as well as damage or problems in brain functions.

Treatments for hypertonia

If you have swelling, redness, tenderness or pain when trying to move the muscle, you should see a professional as soon as possible.

In the case of hypertonia, a physical therapist can perform stretching and mobility sessions to alleviate the problem.

He may also recommend not moving the affected muscles to avoid discomfort or worsening the situation, and using over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), to relieve pain.

Sources consulted: US Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

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