Range-of-motion exercises for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

Children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) must do regular range-of-motion exercises to prevent contractures and to maintain joint range and flexibility.

If your child is 4 years old or younger, an adult will need to move the child's joints through the range-of-motion exercises. This is called passive range of motion. The adult will gently move the joints from a bent position to a straightened position several times. Range-of-motion exercises may be painful during a flare of arthritis, so it is very important to be gentle. Exercises should be done at least twice a day and should be periodically reviewed by a physical therapist.

Older children can do the exercises themselves but may still need adult supervision. Children need support and encouragement from the family to continue exercises.

In addition to range-of-motion exercises, encourage your child to participate in low-impact sports, such as swimming, biking, or rowing. These aerobic exercises are good for the heart and lungs, build strength, and keep joints flexible. Participation with other children in activities like these helps improve a child's ability to function and builds self-confidence. It may also decrease pain, disability, and the need for medications.

Last Updated: June 25, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Stanford M. Shoor, MD - Rheumatology

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