Can physical therapy help kids with arthritis?December 1, 2015
Did you know that physical therapy can help kids with arthritis? Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), also called Stills disease, is the most common form of arthritis seen in children and young adults. Children commonly complain of joint pain and stiffness, along with an occasional fever.
JRA can impact fine movements and overall mobility if left untreated. While medical therapy is the mainstay of treatment, physical therapy and rehabilitation are essential to restoring full movement and quality of life.
How does physical therapy help?
Physical therapists are trained experts at delivering a variety of treatments to help reduce pain and improve joint movement.
A child experiencing pain and dysfunction can feel isolated and left out, unable to participate in group activities with other children. A physical therapist can help the child to improve muscle tone, strength and reduce joint inflammation. This helps children regain the quality of life they deserve; allowing them to live with less pain and enjoy the benefits of unrestricted movement.
A physical therapist uses a variety of techniques to help kids recover from the effects of joint pain.
1. Exercise: Aquatic therapy (in a swimming pool), passive exercises, and various exercises to increase muscle tone in a group environment are safe, fun and beneficial for children.
2. Contrast therapy: Alternating hot and cold therapy results in a fluctuation in blood supply to the affected joints. Increasing and decreasing the blood supply helps reduce pain and inflammation. Ultrasound therapy can be used as an adjunct for further relief.
3. Manual therapy: Physical therapists can use manual joint techniques and soft tissue massage to help relieve pain.
4. Orthoses: This involves offering the patient aids to correct deformity, increase joint movement and facilitate mobility. A variety of devices that can support the spine, ankle, hip, and knee are available. These orthoses are usually custom made and can provide great relief from pain as well.
JRA is a common clinical problem in children and young adults. For a child, movement restrictions are crippling from a physical and psychological standpoint. Children like to move, participate in group exercise with other children and remain physically active. Physical therapy is a critical part of the treatment process for children with JRA. A licensed physical therapist can create a treatment plan to provide pain relief and improvement in joint movement. For a child living the ‘golden years’, physical therapy can improve quality of life.