Physiotherapy for juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)

What is the purpose of physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is used to treat the effects of JIA, such as pain, weakness, limited range of motion, or reduced physical ability. Physiotherapy should play an important role in the treatment plan.

Physiotherapy can reduce a child or teenager's pain and stiffness. It can help prevent long-term damage in her joints and muscles. Most important, physiotherapy helps the child or teenager to maintain her physical abilities and fitness. When she participates in routine exercises, she will have less joint tightness. Her muscles will get stronger. Her fitness level will improve.  

What does a physiotherapist do?

Physiotherapists can help to assess and monitor a child or teenager's JIA. They can advise how to improve physical abilities and fitness levels. They can help to decrease a child or teenager's pain and stiffness. Physiotherapists can also provide you with information about JIA. They can teach you how to manage this condition.

Types of physiotherapy

Examples of physiotherapies include the use of heat, ice, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

Physiotherapy also includes certain exercises that the child can do. These may involve the use of equipment such as weights, therapy balls, and treadmills.  

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

TENS is a non-invasive treatment to reduce pain. TENS is thought to reduce pain by interrupting the pain signals going to the brain. TENS may also promote the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. TENS may help a child or teenager to participate more fully in everyday activities. TENS machines are often used as a treatment by physical therapists.

TENS is applied using a small battery-powered device attached to wires and electrodes. The electrodes are placed on the skin, usually on either side of where the pain is located. Through the electrodes, electrical impulses are transmitted into specific nerves. TENS can be used to treat acute and chronic pain. It may be used in combination with pain-relieving medications.

Pain relief may be short term, lasting from minutes to hours. With prolonged use, pain relief from TENS may last much longer.