Treating Childhood Arthritis with Physiotherapy

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If you were asked to imagine someone who suffers from arthritis, what image would come to your mind? Would you envision an older individual, somewhat hunched over in posture, perhaps holding his or her back as if in pain? If so, you’d be in good company — most people consider arthritis to be a disease of the elderly.

Although it’s true that many arthritis sufferers are older, arthritis can affect individuals of all ages. Unfortunately, juvenile arthritis is not as rare as one might guess; it affects 1 out of every 1,000 Canadian children under the age of 16, making it the most common pediatric rheumatoid disease. This statistic wakes us up to the reality that many children are dealing with grown up-sized struggles caused by a childhood disease.

Signs of Juvenile Arthritis

Is there a chance your child has juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)? The only way to find out is to have a physician assess him or her. However, if your child does have JIA, the symptoms you are likely to notice include

  • Skin rash
  • High fever
  • Noticeable clumsiness
  • Limping after waking
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes

It’s important to understand that juvenile arthritis is a leading cause of disability in children. It is crucial that a child who has JIA be diagnosed and treated for it as soon as possible.

What Causes Childhood Arthritis? Does It Last Into Adulthood?

Healthcare professionals aren’t sure what causes childhood arthritis, but they do know that it can be treated effectively. JIA does not always last into adulthood; many children outgrow the disease after suffering with it from several months-to-a-year or so. Other youths may experience a frustrating cycle of flare-ups/remission for years.

Childhood arthritis is painful and limiting, but the good news is, there are a number of therapies that can successfully treat it. Here are some examples of treatments that may control JIA:

— Diet modification

— Psychiatry

— Medication therapy

— Rheumatology

— Occupational therapy

— Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy: A Critical Piece of the JIA Treatment Puzzle

There are numerous treatments for juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and most kids suffering with this disease will require a combination of therapies. In almost all cases, unless expressly forbidden by a physician, physiotherapy will be crucial to a patient’s recovery.

Physiotherapy is one of the most effective treatments available to a child who has JIA. The article Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis states, “A physiotherapist is an important member of your child’s multidisciplinary healthcare team. A physiotherapist will work with you and your child to reduce pain; restore mobility, function, strength and flexibility; prevent unnecessary disability; and help your family cope with JIA in everyday life.”

A physiotherapist will use a wide variety of treatments to ease the pain and other symptoms caused by childhood arthritis. Physiotherapists routinely use heat packs, cold packs, ice massage, paraffin baths, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), weight-bearing activities, contract/relax techniques, and isometric exercises to reduce pain and prevent joint damage.

Physiotherapy is so vital to the juvenile arthritis treatment puzzle that it can make the difference between disability/deformity and health. Contact a physiotherapist today to learn more about how physiotherapy can help a child recover from juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

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