Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Stretching and Strengthening Exercises - Topic Overview
Stretching and strengthening exercises can help a child who has
juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) control pain and
stiffness and maintain mobility. A physical therapist can help figure out how
much exercise is appropriate for each child.
Stretching exercises are those in which
the joints are moved through bent and straight positions
without working the muscles against any resistance or weights, and
the muscles are gently stretched. This type of exercise is designed
to maintain the normal range of motion of a joint and can be done by a physical
therapist or parent for infants or toddlers. Older children can do these
exercises themselves. This type of exercise should be done even when a child
has acute inflammation and pain, as it is essential to help prevent joint
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Strengthening exercises are designed to
keep or improve strength. Strength is important for preventing osteoporosis
(loss of bone mass and strength) and for promoting good joint health. Muscle
strength is an important part of your child's ability to exercise
effectively. Children must do these exercises
themselves. There are two types of strengthening exercises:
Isometric exercises tighten the muscles without
moving the joint. During an acute flare of arthritis, mild isometric exercises
are helpful to attempt to maintain muscle strength.
exercises are those in which the child moves the joint through bent and
straight positions. Isotonic exercises can be done with or without weights.
When arthritis is less active, isotonic exercises can help regain or improve
When children with JIA have less active disease, they should be
encouraged to maintain aerobic conditioning through swimming, bicycling,
low-impact aerobics, walking, or dancing. Conditioning or aerobic exercises
involve a level of intensity and duration to increase endurance and provide