When your child has juvenile arthritis - also called juvenile idiopathic arthritis, or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis - she may have difficulty with even the simplest movements. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by pain, stiffness, swelling and tenderness in the joints, which restricts movement. Over time, it damages joint cartilage and bone, leading to joint deformities and growth problems.

For some of the 300,000 plus American children suffering with arthritis, engaging in sports can be as attractive a prospect as final exams. But, it turns out that juvenile arthritis and sports can be a winning combination. The Arthritis Foundation recommends physical activity as a useful strategy for relieving arthritis symptoms. Several studies show that exercise and physical activity have pain-relieving effects. They also increase flexibility and range of motion, reduce stiffness, and strengthen muscles and bone.

But there are other benefits from getting your child with arthritis involved in sports. Children want to fit in with their peer groups, and sports is one of the key ways they can do so during and after school. Also, sports help your child to gain more confidence about their physical fitness and ability.

Juvenile Arthritis and Sports: Making Play Possible for Your Child

• Get your child into a treatment routine. Proper arthritis management delays the progress of juvenile arthritis and relieves symptoms. Devise a routine to help your child remember to take medications and do therapeutic exercises.

• Start the day with warm baths. Morning stiffness and pain is quite common in juvenile arthritis. Your child can loosen up and soothe those achy joints by taking a warm shower first thing in the morning so her body's more prepped for sports.

•  Be cautious with high-impact sports. Ideally, your child should choose the sports he wants to participate in. However, sports like running, hurdles, long jump, and trampoline stress joints. They also have a higher risk of injury in general, but especially if your child has juvenile arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation states that if your child's condition is well-controlled, high impact sports - including basketball and soccer - may not be off limits.

• Encourage low-impact sports. Swimming provides is one of the best sports for children with juvenile arthritis. It gives their muscles and joints a good workout, but doesn't put stress on their joints. Other low-impact sports that might suit your child include biking, archery, table tennis, rowing and surfing.

• Talk to teachers and coaches about modifications. Simple adjustments can make sports more possible and less painful for you child. For instance, your child may need to take medication before gym class. He may be allowed to do fewer repetitions of an activity. Or, he could wear a wetsuit and two swim caps to stay warmer. Make sure your child's coach knows about his condition so he's on side.

• Give your child protective gear. Assistive devices (such as knee braces) help stabilize your child's joints and protect her from injury. Make sure she knows the correct ways to use them.

• Feed your child a healthy diet. Nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin D provide bone-protecting benefits, and fatty acids in fish such as salmon and trout may reduce inflammation caused by juvenile arthritis. Talk to your doctor about the best diet and supplements for your child.

• Practice post-activity alternative therapies. Treatments such as massage, acupressure and Epsom salts baths can alleviate inflammation and pain caused by juvenile arthritis. They also reduce muscle soreness and joint inflammation from participating in sports.

• Allow for flare-ups. Juvenile arthritis is unpredictable and doesn't care if your child has an archery competition in a few days. During flare-ups, your child will need to limit certain activities. Once this painful period is over, she can get back to playing her favorite sports.