“They were distinct patterns of pain,” Tupper said.
“Kids were more likely to have more pain when they were more physically active,” the researcher found. She noted that the intensity of pain was also high when the children were inactive.
But if they were involved in light physical activity such as walking, the pain intensity was less, she said.
“We need to find ways of developing physical activity programs…they can be engaged in that are not painful,” Tupper concluded.
Juvenile arthritis is defined as continuous inflammation of one or more joints of a child, lasting for at least six weeks for which no other cause can be found. Figures from the Arthritis Society of Canada show juvenile arthritis affects one-in-100 Canadian children under the age of 16.
As well as considering the effect of physical activity, Tupper also looked at another area of juvenile arthritis.
Part of “my research (was) focused on looking at how pain changes during the day for young people with arthritis,” Tupper said.
“The reason I wanted to look at this was that adults with arthritis have very distinct pain patterns during the day.”
For adults with rheumatoid arthritis their pain tends to be worse in the morning and gets better as the day progresses. While adults with osteoarthritis tend to be better in the morning and experience more pain as the day progresses, she said.
Tupper wanted to know if the same was true for children suffering from the condition.
Tracy Wilson-Gerwing, also a post doctorial fellow in pediatrics at the U of S, conducted her study of juvenile arthritis by using rats.Her research involved examining various parts of the rodents’ anatomy in order to discover the effects of arthritis on their bodies.
Wilson-Gerwing found the younger rats developed arthritis much faster than the older rats. The younger ones had arthritis that was localized to specific areas while the adult rats had the arthritis condition spread throughout their body.
Wilson-Gerwing does not profess to have all the answers to the juvenile arthritis mystery even after her recent research.
But she is hopeful that by understanding more about the condition new drugs can be developed to assist juvenile arthritis sufferers.
Krissie Garcia, mother of a 19 month old son, knows just how difficult childhood arthritis can be. Maddox was diagnosed with the condition at 17 months old.
“I am not sure what stage I am right now, but at the beginning, I just could not accept it,” she said. “I felt very depressed.
“I wondered if it was something that I did, so I went through guilt,” she recalled.
Her search for answers and support lead her to the Arthritis Society of Canada internet forum. By sharing her personal story and struggles with her son’s condition, she has received multiple emails with advice and support from other parents who understand what she is going through.
“Unfortunately, I have been told there is no known cause for it which is not quite acceptable to me,” Garcia said.
She said because arthritis is an auto immune disease, Maddox is sick frequently because his body is constantly fighting off infections.
To offer Maddox relief from the pain involves a cocktail of medications which must be taken on a regular basis.
Studies like these at the U of S are important, said Sheila Fahlman, coordinator of the arthritis education program at the Arthritis Society, Regina division.
“In general…one-in-six Canadians are affected by arthritis,” said Fahlman, noting that this figure represents over 4.5 million Canadians age 15 years old and over.
Arthritis is the third most common chronic condition in Saskatchewan, she said, and according to the society, juvenile arthritis is one of the most common chronic illnesses affecting children.
“The huge benefit (of) this research is…(it can lead the way to) those solutions that improve quality of life, whether that is physical activity or medication or a combination,” Fahlman said.
“We need this kind of research at all times,” she added. “We need to be progressing and looking for those answers because while arthritis is not a life threatening disease it does have a negative impact on quality of life for people.”