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Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)

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What Exercises Are Used to Treat Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Exercise and physical activity are important for children with JRA. Exercise helps reduce pain, increase muscle strength, keep joints moving in a normal range of motion, and improve endurance.

With the help of physical and occupational therapists, children with JRA learn simple ways to perform their activities of daily living. Therapists teach them range-of-motion exercises to help with flexibility and strengthening exercises for muscle building.

Hot and cold treatments performed before exercise can also help to make the therapy easier as well as relieve stiffness and pain. Examples of these treatments are hot or cold soaks or applying hot or cold packs.

Therapists can also make splints for children to correctly position the joints and reduce pain. Splints are typically used on the knees, wrists, and fingers and are often used during sleep at night.

Children with JRA should be encouraged to participate in recreational activities. Contact sports are not recommended, but activities that are not stressful on the joints, such as swimming, are beneficial.

Are There Complications With Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

There can be complications with JRA and the medications used for treatment. Certain drugs such as steroids can stunt growth. Poor growth may also occur as a result of a poor appetite.

Eye problems are associated with some forms of JRA. It's important to have an ophthalmologist check the child's eyes frequently.

JRA patients also have complications with dental care. Their oral health is compromised because of their limited jaw movement due to inflammation of that joint. This makes it difficult for patients to brush and floss properly. Dentists can recommend special toothbrushes and flossing equipment to help children take care of their mouths.

Patients with JRA often have temporal mandibular joint (TMJ) or jaw pain. Pain and stiffness of the jaw can be alleviated by certain exercises. A JRA sufferer may also develop an overbite if the lower jaw doesn't develop correctly. This can usually be fixed by an orthodontist or, if necessary, by surgery.

Some patients with JRA need additional calories for growth because of the demands of their chronic disease. Other JRA sufferers may also gain too much weight because of their limited mobility and medication side effects. Too much weight can be dangerous because of the excess stress placed on the joints.

What's the Prognosis for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Permanent damage from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is now rare with proper treatment. Most children with JRA recover from the disease fully without experiencing any lasting disabilities if treated early.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on September 06, 2014
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