Most people are used to hearing about arthritis as they grow older, but many people are unaware of something known as juvenile arthritis, which occurs in children under the age of 16. There is said to be on average 4-14 cases per 100,000 diagnosed annually in the US alone, but is prevalent across all aspects of the world. Juvenile arthritis is a becoming somewhat more common in the USA increasing from 10 to 20 cases per 100,000 in 2005 to 30 to 40 cases per 100,00 in 2015.
There are several types of juvenile arthritis, but all types are linked to either auto-inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. With this common thread it is important to note that research has shown a link between dysfunctions in our digestive tract (known as our gut microbiome) and autoimmune/auto-inflammatory disorders. This research leads us to believe that diet and dietary changes may have some assistance in improving juvenile arthritis symptoms.
Some of the most noteworthy dietary changes was increasing Omega-3s in the diet, Calcium supplementation, vitamin D supplementation, and eliminating dairy products in some cases (due to a food intolerance link). Again, most of these studies were also using more conventional means of treatment for juvenile arthritis, but with these additions seemed to improve more than the groups who did not do these alternative dietary changes.
Often dietary changes and supplementations are lumped under a subcategory known as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM therapies). One study showed that 92% of parents recommended these treatments in conjunction with other, more main stream treatments, as being of great importance for helping their children manage and overcome their juvenile arthritis. Some of the most common CAM therapies include dietary changes, acupuncture, yoga, massage, meditation, and homeopathy. Along with standard western medicine treatments, these methods have been shown to give quicker improvement of symptoms, mainly a decrease in pain, with longer lasting results and less of a need for medication. One other note that needs to be made is the fact that, unlike adult Rheumatoid arthritis, kids often outgrow juvenile arthritis and go on to lead normal, healthy, and pain free lives. In some cases pain can become chronic and persistent, but this is not as common. Some factors that seem to be associated with prolonged pain into adulthood are older age at onset, poor function/disability, and longer disease duration.
The main take home seems to be that a variety of treatment approaches (both conventional and CAM) may be necessary for alleviating symptoms, improving quality of life, and decreasing likelihood of long standing symptoms and disability. It is good to educate yourselves and explore your options. At our clinic we are able to address the conventional treatment methods with main stream physical therapy, but also have several therapists on staff that can address the dietary and supplementation as well as other possible CAM therapies. To find out more information, give us a call today and see how we are different.
*** Information compiled by Tara Albright PT, DPT, Cert DN from NIH.gov and arthritis.org