Living with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Part 1

Support Groups, Sports, and Medications

Material provided by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. You may visit their website at

JIA affects the entire family who must cope with the special challenges of this disease. JIA can strain a child's participation in social and after-school activities and make school work more difficult. There are several things that family members can do to help the child do well physically and emotionally.
Two young children holding each other looking out at a forest of treesMost importantly, treat the child as normally as possible. Explain to the child that getting JIA is nobody's fault. Some children believe that JIA is a punishment for something they did.

Consider joining a support group. The American Juvenile Arthritis Organization runs support groups for people with JIA and their families. Support group meetings provide the chance to talk to other young people and parents of children with JIA and may help a child and the family cope with the condition.

Ensure that the child receives appropriate medical care and follows the doctor's instructions. Many treatment options are available, and because JIA is different in each child, what works for one may not work for another. If the medications that the doctor prescribes do not relieve symptoms or if they cause unpleasant side effects, patients and parents should discuss other choices with their doctor. A person with JIA can be more active when symptoms are controlled.

Encourage exercise and physical therapy for the child. For many young people, exercise and physical therapy play important roles in treating JIA. Parents can arrange for children to participate in activities that the doctor recommends. During symptom-free periods, many doctors suggest playing team sports or doing other activities to help keep the joints strong and flexible and to provide play time with other children and encourage appropriate social development.

Do children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis ever have to limit activities?
Although pain sometimes limits physical activity, exercise is important to reduce the symptoms of JIA and maintain function and range of motion of the joints. Most children with JIA can take part fully in physical activities and sports when their symptoms are under control. During a disease flare, however, the doctor may advise limiting certain activities depending on the joints involved. Once the flare is over, a child can start regular activities again.

Swimming is particularly useful because it uses many joints and muscles without putting weight on the joints. A doctor or physical therapist can recommend exercises and activities.

Note: Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) was previously known as Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).

Updated on: 05/30/17
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Living with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Part 2
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Living with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Part 2

Most children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis get through school just fine; they just have to take a few precautions.
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