Yoga: An Approach to Treating Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Considered the most common form of arthritis, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) begins before age 16 and involves swelling in one or more joints lasting at least six weeks. JIA includes several types of arthritis previously known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). One reason for this shift is that JRA is not—as the term implies —simply a pint-sized replica of the condition that affects adults. In fact, it’s believed that only about 10 percent of children have a disease that closely mirrors rheumatoid arthritis in adults. JIA may include a variety of symptoms, such as muscle and soft tissue tightening, bone erosion, joint misalignment and changes in growth patterns. Not all symptoms are shared by all children with the disease. Moreover, the symptoms of JIA can change from day to day.

Yoga has been shown to be a safe and effective means of improving both physical and psychological well being both in the general population as well as those with chronic conditions. This form of exercise and the sustained postures increases strength, flexibility and balance. The deep, mindful breathing and the meditative nature of this practice improves respiratory health as well as mental status. Subjectively, yoga has been attributed to improved feelings of positive energy, alertness, decrease in strength, and in some instances a decrease in pain.

Physical activity is vital for the treatment of those living with chronic conditions such as JIA. Adina Schwartz, an occupational therapist and yoga instructor is leading a research study to review the effectiveness of yoga in the treatment of adolescents with JIA. To qualify for the 8-week yoga therapy study, you must be between the ages of 14-18, have a diagnosis of JIA (any type), speak English and be able to get on/off floor independently. Incentives are offered and there is no cost to the participants.



About the Author | Adina Schwartz is a pediatric occupational therapist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with 15 years of clinical experience.  She is also a yoga therapist specializing in management of chronic pain and adolescents with rheumatic diseases.




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