Physiotherapy plays a very important part in the management of arthritis and your child should see a physiotherapist who has experience with JIA. The child’s Paediatric Rheumatologist or GP will be able to refer your child to a suitable physiotherapist. The physiotherapist will be trained to assess your child’s needs and provide invaluable advice. There will, of course, be differences in styles of treatment between physiotherapists.

A full assessment will be made of your child’s posture, walking style, freedom of joint movement and muscle strength. From this assessment they will give you a personalised exercise programme to follow at home.

It is essential that you and your child find time to carry this out as advised. The physiotherapist will also give you further appointments to monitor how your child is progressing and fine-tune their programme specifically for them.

The exercise plan may involve the following;

  • Muscle strengthening exercises
  • Balance and co-ordination exercises
  • Fitness training
  • Stretches to muscles and joints
  • Advice on icing, hot packs and other pain-relieving methods


Other forms of treatment

Hydrotherapy (exercising in water) may be offered. It is an ideal form of treatment as the warm water will ease pain and support the body to make exercising easier.

It is also very enjoyable and you can learn the exercises you are shown and perform them at your local pool. Some pools have specific sessions designed for those who have mobility problems. These sessions are quieter and the water may be at a higher temperature. It is worth asking at your local pool about these sessions, if they are not offered then exercising at your local pool is still advisable, however, keep the sessions shorter to avoid your child getting cold.

What you can do if the child does not like doing exercises

There can be times when your child does not want to do their exercises. This is perfectly understandable and it can be hard to motivate them but it is so important to encourage them, as it will help to reduce their pain and increase their muscle strength. These positive effects will help with their functional independence.

Having a set time to do the exercises and being present in the room with them, even if you are not actively involved, may help. Doing the exercises to their favourite music or DVD may help. A sticker chart or appropriate reward system may work with your child depending on their age.

It is useful to discuss these problems with your physiotherapist, as they may be able to assist by altering the exercises if they have become boring and review your child more frequently.

By explaining, in ways the child is able to understand, what happens within their joints with arthritis and why the treatment is so important you will be working together with the professionals involved to improve the quality of life for the child.