More Activity Tied to Less Pain in Kids with Arthritis

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients showed more activity associated with less pain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) For kids with arthritis, painful joints can limit activity. Trying to sort out the relationship between pain and activity in these kids could mean better therapies and quality of life.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a disease without a known cause that affects four in every 1,000 children. Nearly all have joint pain, and 25 percent have severe pain.

Pain hinders their ability to participate in many activities of their peers, and once activity levels decrease, this creates a cycle of less and less activity.

Figuring out whether more physical activity was associated with less pain was the focus of a recent study done by a Canadian research team.

These researchers found that less JIA pain was associated with more physical activity, but kids with JIA were less active than kids without JIA.

"Consult a rheumatologist about appropriate activities for kids with arthritis."

Dr. Brian Feldman and his research team from The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada performed this research.

The study enrolled 34 kids over the age of 11. More of the participants were female (68 percent) than male. The average age was 15.

The researchers gave several surveys to the study's participants. The surveys collected data on a physical activity questionnaire, a pain severity survey, a body diagram to indicate the number of painful areas and an activity limitations survey. The activity limitation survey specifically measured pain interference with physical activity.

The results of the study showed that kids with JIA were less physically active than children without JIA. JIA kids scored an average of 2.2 out of a possible 5 points on the physical activity survey, while healthy kids scored an average of 3.1. There was no difference between girls and boys with JIA. Physical activity of kids with JIA decreased with age.

The main finding of the study was that intensity of the pain and activity limitation due to pain was associated with physical activity levels. The associations were inversely related, meaning that lower pain severity was associated with increased physical activity and higher levels of activity were associated with less JIA activity limitation.

The authors mentioned that one limitation of their study was that they did not determine whether activity decreased pain or kids were more active when they were in less pain.

"Randomized controlled trials that follow participants over the course of an exercise intervention program are needed to determine the therapeutic benefits of physical activity in children with JIA," Dr. Feldman and team wrote.

Because of the associations found in their study, the authors concluded, "Our findings nonetheless suggest that physical activity interventions and pain control may play important roles in the management of patients with JIA."

This study was published in the February issue of The Journal of Rheumatology.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 19, 2014
Last Updated:
February 20, 2014