Arthritis is an inflammatory condition wherein one or more joints of the body swell causing pain and stiffness in the joints. The condition usually worsens with age. Some of the major risk factors for developing arthritis includes, age, family history, gender, obesity and history of joint injury. When arthritis affects children under the age of 16, it is called as juvenile arthritis. It causes chronic pain, stiffness, swelling, fever, rashes over the body and swollen lymph nodes. Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells and tissues. Although, the reason behind this is not confirmed; but it is believed to happen due to some genetic mutation.(1, 2) The fact that juvenile arthritis starts before the age of 16, it can have a major effect on the physical, emotional, psychological and social growth of the child. Due to this intense impact of the condition, it is very important to treat juvenile arthritis as early as possible. Let us look at the treatment, exercises and the natural remedies to handle the condition.
Treatment of Juvenile Arthritis
Treatment of juvenile arthritis aims at helping the child to maintain a normal and regular lifestyle that will include normal social and physical activities. In order to attain this final goal, the doctor will have to combine various types of treatments. Safely speaking it can be said that when it comes to the treatment of juvenile arthritis no single type of treatment happens to be enough. A combination of treatment procedures must be amalgamated to prevent swelling, relieve pain, improve movements and body strength and also keep complications at bay.(3) The treatment method includes:
Medication to Treat Juvenile Arthritis
The medication used in juvenile arthritis tries to reduce pain, improve bodily functions and also reduce joint damage. Some of the common medicines used in this context are as follows:(3, 4, 5)
- Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs or the NSAIDS: This group of medicines will include naproxen sodium (Aleve), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and others) which are used to decrease pain and also improve the condition of swelling. These drugs can come with side effects such as liver problems and stomach upset.
- Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs or DMARDs: When the NSAIDs fails to provide relief on their own, the doctors make use of this group of drugs so that the joint swelling and the pain can be controlled and a high future risk can be kept in controls. The most common form of DMARD that is used in the case of children is methotrexate or Trexall. Side effects of this drug can include liver problems and nausea.
Both the NSAIDs and the DMARDs can be combined and can be administered to slow down the further progression of the condition.
- Biologic Agents to Treat Juvenile Arthritis: This group is also referred to as the biological response modifiers. When the above conventional methods fail to work, only then biologic agents are advised. Biologics includes the tumor necrosis factor inhibitors or the TNF blockers like the etanercept also known as Enbrel and the adalimumab or the Humira. These drugs can reduce joint swelling and also damage of the joints. The other biologic agents such as the rituximab (Rituxan), abatacept (Oracenia) and Anakinra (Kineret) often suppress the immune system.
- Corticosteroids to Treat Juvenile Arthritis: Other medicines such as prednisone can also be administered to control the symptoms until another medication is administered to the patients. These medications can also be given to control swellings that happen in places other than the joints such as the sac around the heart. However, when these drugs are used for a long span of time, they can be adverse for the growth of the child and can make the child susceptible to infections.
Exercise for Juvenile Arthritis
One of the main aspects of the treatment that must be done religiously by juvenile arthritis patients includes at least some form of exercise. These exercises could vary depending on the parts of the body that has been affected by the condition of juvenile arthritis and also the extent of the spread. Pilates have been found to be a really good form of exercise for juvenile arthritis. Some other forms of exercises that can be of real help in juvenile arthritis are range of motion, cardiovascular, and stretching and strengthening exercises (5).
Survey and investigation have revealed that exercise and workout sessions happen to be much beneficial in managing the primary symptoms and also reduce the swelling and pain in the joints. Exercise improves movements, the index of strength and aspects like cardiovascular fitness. An optimal exercise regime will not just help to improve the joint flexibility and movement but will also be beneficial for the posture of the individual along with improving their aerobic capacity and body strength. Both pain and functional ability which is usually affected in people with juvenile arthritis will get improved and the aspect of weight management is also addressed. Bone health is also improved in the course.
Natural Remedies for Juvenile Arthritis
In America, nearly 1 child out of 250 has the problem of Juvenile Arthritis. Apart from other medications, exercise regimes and other treatment procedures, a good number of the affected children also get a huge amount of help from natural remedies.(3)
- Balanced Diet as a Natural Remedy to Treat Juvenile Arthritis: A balanced diet is one of the most essential elements that must be maintained for children affected with juvenile arthritis. Give your child a rich anti-inflammatory diet that will include generous portions of proteins, Vitamin D which helps to absorb Calcium and control inflammation, fiber, healthy oils, and limited sugar. Certain foods that must be avoided in this context are processed food, fried foods, and food that are rich in sugar. Give your child lots of fish and olive oils, tomatoes, walnuts, almonds, fruits, and green leafy vegetables.(6)
- Herbs, Spices, and Supplements as a Natural Remedy for Juvenile Arthritis: There are a number of spices, herbs, and supplements that yet again due to their natural anti-inflammatory properties offer much respite in the condition of juvenile arthritis.(5)
- One such herb is Turmeric. It has a variety of elements such as magnesium, iron, potassium, vitamin B3 and vitamin C and fiber. The other important element in turmeric is curcumin which can help in juvenile arthritis to a huge extent.
- Green tea is the other natural element that can be rather effective in treating inflammation in juvenile arthritis. It is a rich source of antioxidants and polyphenols and helps to fight and keep free radicals in check.
- Ginger is one of the most popular ingredients used in Asian cuisine and it is seen that ginger has several anti-inflammatory properties in them. It was also found to have the COX-2 inhibitors that help to suppress leukotrienes biosynthesis which is responsible for inflammation in juvenile arthritis.(7)
- Cinnamon is another helpful spice that contains large amounts of cinnamic acid and cinnamaldehyde both of which are powerful antioxidants and can help to control free radicals and also prevent joint damage.(8)
- Another important spice that has anti-inflammatory properties is garlic. Garlic contains diallyl disulfide which has anti-inflammatory properties which restricts the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines.(9) Add it to your food or just crush it and have it with a glass of lukewarm water. Opt for fresh garlic and try to avoid bottled garlic which has preservatives.
Juvenile arthritis is a condition that requires mental and emotional support and counseling from the parents and the families of the child as well. The parents, families and the caregivers of the child must make it a point to mention to the children, that their current condition of juvenile arthritis is due to no fault of their own. They must treat their child as normally as possible and should encourage them to undertake various physical activities and lead a normal life like any other child. The child must be given all the chance to express their feelings about their physical condition and also do psychological counseling to prevent a sense of depression seep into the child. A combined treatment procedure is the best possible way through which juvenile arthritis can be managed so that the child not only has a normal childhood but also a healthy future as well.
- Consolaro A, Ravelli A. (2016) Unraveling the phenotypic variability of juvenile idiopathic arthritis across races or geographic areas – key to understanding etiology and genetic factors? The Journal of Rheumatology. 43:683–685.
- Grzanna R, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. (2005) Ginger—an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions. Journal of Medicinal Food. 8(2):125–132.