Hesperian Health Guides

Range-of-motion Exercises for Children with Arthritis

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 16: Juvenile Arthritis: Chronic Arthritis in Children > Range-of-motion Exercises for Children with Arthritis


Note: Range-of-motion exercises for different joints are described in Chapter 42. Here we discuss ways to make them easier for children with arthritis.


For a child with arthritis, it is important that every day he move his body, arms, and legs through as full a range of motion as possible.

But this is not always easy. Pain and stiffness make straightening of joints difficult. So before starting to exercise, take steps to calm the pain and relax the tense muscles. Aspirin helps do this. Take it half an hour before beginning exercise (or before getting up to help morning stiffness).

Heat helps relax muscles and calm pain. See suggestions for applying hot soaks and hot wax. If many joints are painful, it helps to lie in warm water (a little warmer than body temperature).

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Ideas for making tubs or water pits heated by the sun are in Designs for Therapy Baths.

If possible, get or make a tub large enough for the child to lie straight and to stretch his arms and legs in all directions.

Warm water not only helps calm pain, but gently lifts and
takes the weight off body parts This makes motion easier. Support the child only as much as needed so that his arms and legs are loose and held up by the water. Ask him to relax completely. Let him begin to move his
arms and legs. The more he relaxes, the more they will straighten as he moves.

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Find ways for the child to play in the water. This will help him forget his pain and make straightening the joints easier.
woman talks to child in a tub
Now keep your leg stretched like that and say 10 times, "Ball, don't move."



In moments when she has her leg or arm most straight, ask her to hold that position a moment without bending.

This way, little by little, she will find she can straighten her joints more and more.



This page was updated:19 Jan 2018