Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis affecting kids ages 16 years and younger. It’s a rare condition, affecting about 1 in every 1,000 children1. JIA can cause pain and stiffness in joints throughout the body, including the facet joints (the joints of the spine).
JIA was previously known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s not a child version of adult rheumatoid arthritis (RA). JIA is a group of several different types of arthritis. When your doctor diagnoses JIA, he or she will determine the type.
Different types of JIA include:
JIA that affects the spine is enthesitis-related JIA. Learn more about enthesitis JIA and other types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis here.
To better understand how juvenile idiopathic arthritis affects your spine, it helps to decode some of the medical terminology associated with enthesitis-related arthritis.
While the joints in your neck (cervical spine) are among the most common spinal joints attacked by JIA, spondyloarthritis may cause pain and stiffness in the low back (lumbar spine).
Your doctor may recommend a multi-disciplinary approach to treating your JIA—that is, he or she may prescribe several types of therapies aimed at stopping disease progression and instilling healthy habits to help prevent future back pain.
As with the more common osteoarthritis (spondylosis), treatment often begins with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (eg, naproxen). Your doctor may also prescribe a corticosteroid to control inflammation. Although most patients' symptoms respond well to anti-inflammatory medication, these drugs do not treat the underlying disease.
Unlike osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis’ progression may be controlled by certain medications. For example, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can slow the disease’s progression. Also, TNF-blocking drugs may help block a protein called tumor necrosis factor that can cause inflammation. Etanercept (Enbrel) and adalimumab (Humira) are examples of TNF-blockers that may prevent the disease from progressing. You may read more about TNF-blocking drugs for JIA here.
Physical therapy and therapeutic exercise
Physical therapy stresses proper posture, joint mobility, and deep breathing. Some patients may develop forward posture; therefore, postural training and extension exercise is helpful. Stretching and range of motion exercise helps keep the facet and rib joints mobile. Additionally, deep breathing expands the chest (rib joints) and aids lung function.
This is not an all-encompassing list of the possible treatments your doctor may use to manage JIA. Depending on the type and severity, your doctor may recommend other approaches not mentioned here (including spine surgery). You can read more about the various treatments doctors prescribe for JIA in Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Treatment.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with JIA in the spinal joints, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the disease—including ways to combat it. Plus, being informed about your disease will encourage you to be empowered and engaged throughout the treatment process. Below are some resources to help you develop a strong knowledge base about spine-related juvenile idiopathic arthritis.