Juvenile arthritis (JA), or arthritis in children ages 16 and younger, can limit a patient’s physical activity because of the joint and muscle pain, stiffness and discomfort associated with the disease, and these children are known to be less physically active than their peers.
However, exercise has been linked to a positive outcome in children with JA. Studies of physical activity and JA find these young patients report fewer symptoms, increased confidence, and improved physical fitness.
What is the purpose of physiotherapy for juvenile arthritis?
On average, patients lose muscle mass and flexibility during a flare, or period in which symptoms significantly worsen. Typically they are not able to regain these abilities in between flare-ups, so their physical fitness slowly declines over time.
Physiotherapy aims to improve joint flexibility, muscle strength, and the overall fitness level of children with JA. Medications may help to relieve some of the pain and inflammation associated with the disease, so therapy plans that include both pharmaceutical treatments and physiotherapy are often recommended both to relieve symptoms and to limit the detrimental effects of the disease on a child’s growth and physical development.
How does physiotherapy for juvenile arthritis work?
A physiotherapist, or a physical therapist, will assess a patient’s joints, muscles, and range of motion to develop an individualized treatment plan. Usually, this plan includes exercises that should be done regularly at home, in addition to those completed at the clinic.
Stretching is a key part of therapy. With the help of a physiotherapist, patients will stretch muscles, one at a time. This is beneficial even if the patient is experiencing a flare. Exercises to improve muscle strength and stamina will be included. Typically, these are highly repetition-low weight resistance exercises that target specific muscles or muscle groups.
Physiotherapists may also recommend assistive devices for children with JA, such as splints, which can help to keep joints properly aligned and passively stretch them. They may recommend using ice or heat packs to reduce swelling.
Although not part of a physiotherapy treatment plan, JA patients are usually advised to in sports and fitness activities, such as swimming and cycling, as often as possible. A hydrotherapist can help patients learn of low-impact exercises that can be done in a pool to improve range of movement and stamina.
Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.