Childhood Arthritis and How Physical Therapy Can Help

Getting a Jump on JA

Early Diagnosis of Juvenile Arthritis | JA

Early diagnosis is critical to help children with juvenile arthritis. JA affects more than just joints and can actually represent a hazard to growing bones. Youngsters with JA are at risk of bone loss and weakened bones due to inflammation that make them more susceptible to fractures, including those of the spine. Physical therapists can help with:

  • Strengthening bones and muscles
  • Relieving pain
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Maintaining range of motion
  • Nutritional advice
  • Monitoring bone density
  • Alleviating sleep disturbances

Childhood Arthritis | How Physical Therapy Can Help

Eating a healthy diet is essential for children with JA, but parents and caregivers need to be aware that some foods can cause inflammation and flare-ups that can result in loss of appetite. Some medications can cause dietary disruptions and problems ranging from dry mouth to excessive thirst. Other youngsters may experience high-appetite episodes and medications for JA can disturb appetite and eating habits.

Childhood Arthritis and How Physical Therapy Can Help

Juvenile arthritis (JA) isn't a specific disease, but an inflammatory and autoimmune condition in youngsters under age 16. JA affects approximately 300,000 children just in the U.S. and it's classified within seven different types, depending upon a range of symptoms and co-conditions.

All forms of JA have pain, swelling and inflammation in common and include:

  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), which is the most common
  • Juvenile dermatomyositis results in muscle weakness and a rash on the knuckles and eyelids
  • Juvenile lupus is an autoimmune disease affecting the joints, blood, kidneys and skin
  • Juvenile scleroderma causes tightening and hardening of the skin
  • Kawasaki disease is marked by inflammation of blood vessels
  • Mixed connective tissue disease combines symptoms of other types
  • Fibromyalgia is more common in girls and causes pain, stiffness, fatigue and sleep disruptions

There's no cure for JA, no way to test for it, and a single cause hasn't been determined but it may have a genetic component. With early detection and the help of a physical therapist, symptoms can be managed and lessened, and flare-ups reduced. The goal of physical therapy is to relieve pain, maintain mobility, and improve quality of life.

Managing JA with PT

Managing Juvenile Arthritis | JA

Your physical therapist will provide therapies designed to relieve pain, enhance bone strength, maintain mobility and range of motion, and build endurance. A customized program of specialized exercises will be developed that will factor in the many facets of your child's condition.

Multiple exercises are available that children can perform independently and manual manipulation is available if your child has difficulty moving on their own. Hydrotherapy is an excellent exercise therapy that alleviates the effects of gravity and weight on your youngster's body, making movement easier and less painful.

Therapeutic massage helps relieve pain, inflammation and improves circulation. It's also beneficial for relieving tension and stress that can cause a flare-up of symptoms. Massage therapy has a strong psychological component that helps ease your youngster's anxiety, fear and frustration of coping with the condition and it promotes restful sleep.

Your child's physical therapist may employ heat and cryotherapies for relief from pain and inflammation, along with dry needling, acupuncture, or electro-stimulation for older youngsters. Assistance is also available with crutches, canes, walkers and wheelchairs when applicable to help reduce the risk of falls and injuries and improve mobility.

Nutritional counseling and supplement recommendations from your physical therapist ensure your child has the necessary resources for health. Specialized accommodations, ergonomic solutions and adaptive techniques help your child perform tasks easier, more comfortably, with less pain, and with less chance of injury. Being as self-sufficient as possible improves confidence and your child's self-image.

Children with juvenile arthritis face multiple challenges and your physical therapist can help manage every stage of the condition. The techniques and therapies will help your youngster stay active, manage pain and flare-ups, and improve quality of life.


A healthy way to switch up your everyday diet

The American diet has long been focused on centering meals around meat and dairy products. While this choice isn’t exactly a poor one, there are healthier alternatives out there that contain the same nutritional benefits without the negative side effects often associated with meat and dairy products, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other cardiovascular diseases. Plant-based diets have rapidly gained popularity among many, and for good reason! Studies have shown time and again that diets heavy on the plant and light on the animal are helpful in reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and all of the co-morbidities associated with these chronic diseases. Here are some facts as well as common misconceptions about the plant-based diet craze.


Plant-based diets are an excellent source of protein!

It is a common misconception that meat, dairy, and poultry products are the only sources of dietary protein available. In fact, plant-based diets can contain vast amounts of protein, you just have to know what you’re looking for. If you are trying to replace your meat-based protein with a plant-based alternative, look no further than soy! Soy products, such as tofu, taste very similar to their meaty counterparts but are often healthier. If tofu isn’t exactly your thing, not a problem! Black and kidney beans, hummus (made from chick peas), quinoa, and other whole grains are all excellent sources of protein as well. There is also a plant-based protein powder for those who enjoy a scoop of protein powder mixed in with their yogurts, smoothies, and other post-workout drinks. These protein supplements are often made from brown rice and quinoa and have been shown to be just as effective as whey (dairy) protein in helping with muscle recovery after exercise without all of the added sweeteners.

You can obtain essential vitamins and minerals through a plant-based diet!

Another common misconception is that it is extremely difficult to obtain essential vitamins and minerals through a plant-based diet. Iron is often thought of as being found in red meats, and this is true. However, there are many other sources of iron available to someone on a plant based diet! Popeye never ate a slab of meat before he saved the day; he ate a can of spinach! Spinach, kidney beans, cashews, soybeans, raisins, and cabbage all contain ample amounts of iron to help keep you feeling strong all day long!

When you think of calcium, you usually think of the old “Got Milk” commercials. While drinking milk is an excellent source of calcium, dairy products often can cause an upset stomach and digestive issues. If you don’t like the way a tall glass of milk makes your tummy feel, try plantbased alternatives! Kale is a great source of calcium, as are tofu (soy) and cabbage! Adding kale to a smoothie or salad is a simple, refreshing way to get your daily dose of calcium without upsetting your gut.

“Diets focused more on plants (fruits, vegetables, and grains) help to significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.”


There’s no need to cut out meat and diary entirely! Just shift the main focus of your meals to plants!

Just because it’s a plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you can’t eat meat and dairy! Just try to focus a little less on the animals and a little more on the plants! The Dietary Guidelines Committee of the Department of Health and Human Services has reported studies that have shown time and again that diets focused more on plants (fruits, vegetables, and grains) help to significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. By taking the small steps to add more plants to your daily diet, you will be able to do all of the things you love while feeling happy and healthy! Be sure to talk to your Physical Therapist about the benefits of adding more plants to your diet as they are knowledgeable and able to provide you further insight into this healthy trend.


  1. Joy, Jordan M.; et al. The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance, 2013. Nutrition Journal. DOI:10.1186/1475-2891-12-86
  2. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the dietary guidelines for Americans, 2010: to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC: Agriculture Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2010. May

Taking Care of Tennis Elbow

Care of the arm until an appointment with a physical therapist can be made is simple. Don't try to power through a task or continue to play if the symptoms of tennis elbow are present. It can exacerbate the condition and result in more damage.

The affected arm should be rested and ice treatments applied every 10-20 minutes. It's also helpful to support the injured arm and elbow by wrapping it with an elastic bandage to relieve pressure on the muscles and tendons.

Physical therapy for tennis elbow is beneficial for:

  • Relieving pain
  • Reducing inflammation and swelling
  • Strengthening muscles and tendons
  • Reducing the risk of re-injury
  • Rehabilitation if surgery is required

Tendons heal slowly and left untreated, the condition can take weeks or even months to heal and if the injury is severe enough, recovery can take up to a year. The condition can become chronic, with periodic flare-ups upon usage, accompanied by inflammation and swelling.

It's important that individuals use equipment that's appropriate to their size, strength and fitness level when participating in sports. People begin to lose strength in their forearms as they age that increases the potential for injury, while others over-estimate their fitness level.

People who have weak forearm muscles are at increased risk of tennis elbow, along with those who are performing unfamiliar tasks, doing something they seldom do such as hammering, or learning a new skill like knitting.

Back In The Swing: Physical Therapy and Tennis Elbow

Back in the Swing: Physical Therapy and Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is one of the most common injuries that people sustain, but it doesn't just happen to tennis players. Less than 5 percent of all tennis elbow injuries occur in people who don't play tennis at all.

The term tennis elbow is often used to describe any injury that occurs as a result of someone using their elbow, wrist or hand in repetitive motions as part of their job, hobby or sports activities. Since the muscles and tendons in the hand, wrist, arm and forearm are interconnected with the elbow, a case of tennis elbow doesn't even have to be the result of flexing the elbow.

From office workers and mechanics to musicians, anyone who performs the same type of motions over and over can experience the intense pain of tennis elbow. Men are more likely to develop the condition than women and it typically flares up in their 30s to 50s. Even children can develop tennis elbow.

The condition can be the result of actions over time or it can happen suddenly when an individual performs a forceful action that includes a pulling, swinging, lifting or twisting motion. Someone who has developed tennis elbow will have pain that can be more intense in the elbow or wrist and have difficulty grasping and holding objects.

Even holding a cup of coffee, gripping a fork to eat, or opening a door can result in intense pain. There will also be a lack of strength in the hand, wrist or forearm. It's essential to have tennis elbow properly diagnosed to determine the extent of the damage.

PT for Tennis Elbow

<Back in the Swing: Physical Therapy and Tennis Elbow

Resting the arm is essential until your physical therapist says it's time to begin therapy. He/she will develop a plan of specialized exercises that help you maintain flexibility, range of motion, and strengthen tendons and muscles. Splints and counterforce braces may be used for stabilization and to distribute pressure throughout the area instead of just on the tendons.

During the healing process, your physical therapist may incorporate a variety of treatments depending upon the extent and severity of the injury. Dry needling, acupuncture and therapeutic massage may all be utilized to ease pain. The therapies are also beneficial for stimulating your immune system and improving circulation to the affected area that can help speed healing.

Ultrasound therapy and electrical nerve stimulation known as TENS therapy are other options that may be employed for your healing and pain relief. Dietary supplements may be recommended to ensure your body has the proper nutrients for the quickest healing.

Your physical therapist will teach you how to stretch your arm and warm up properly before engaging in activities. Ergonomic assessments and recommendations are available for ways to perform work and home tasks easier and more efficiently while you heal and to prevent re-injury.

In the most severe cases, surgery may be needed to mend a tear in the muscles or tendons. The same techniques for treating a milder case of tennis elbow are equally effective for rehabilitation following a surgical repair.

Tennis elbow is a painful condition and your physical therapist has a variety of therapies that will help you heal, improve conditioning, and aid in reducing the risk of re-injuring the arm in the future. With the care of your physical therapist, you'll heal quickly and prevent the injury from becoming a chronic condition.