Many families are turning to complementary therapies to help ease the pain of their children with arthritis. But not all complementary therapies are safe for kids.
Therapies to try:
Exercise. Research shows that regular exercise is both safe and beneficial for kids with arthritis. It can improve your child’s muscle strength, joint range of motion, cardiovascular health and pain levels. It can also build bone – and self-esteem.
Biofeedback. This technique uses electronic instruments to measure body functions and then relay that information back to you. Biofeedback can help your child learn to gain some control over his pain.
Meditation and prayer. Whether it’s praying to a higher power, or sitting in a quiet place and focusing on a single object, these techniques can be effective at quieting the mind and fighting pain.
Water therapy. Soaking in a warm tub – with or without jets – is a good way to help your child limber up stiff joints in the morning and relax tight, aching muscles at bedtime.
Massage. This is one of the most-studied complementary therapies for children with arthritis. Massage relaxes muscles, lessens pain and improves circulation. Parents can learn to massage their children’s joints and older children can learn self-massage. Ask your physical therapist for assistance
Therapies to avoid:
Elimination diets. Some people swear that certain foods or classes of foods worsen their arthritis, but studies show foods rarely play a role in arthritis or its severity. Good nutrition is especially important for children with chronic diseases.
Bee stings .Although there is some evidence that venom from insect stings reduces inflammation, few doctors advise it. It’s difficult, painful and puts your child at risk of a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
Glucosamine and chondroitin. The hottest nutritional therapies for osteoarthritis, these supplements have not been tested for children with JA, so there’s no evidence they help and there’s some speculation they may hurt – possibly even causing damage to growing bone.
Soy proteins. Soy supplements contain plant compounds with a chemical structure similar to that of estrogen. While this may be a good thing for women trying to prevent postmenopausal bone loss, it may be harmful to prepubertal children.