What is pain?

Everyone has experienced pain, whether from a needle or a cut, or due to something more long-lasting like JIA. It is really hard to understand someone else’s pain because pain is very personal. It can be difficult for those around you to know how much pain you have when you may not have any visible signs of injury such as a cut, bruise or swollen joint. Likewise, it is hard to describe to other people what your pain feels like. It is like describing the taste of chocolate to someone who has never tasted chocolate before.

Have you ever wondered why you feel pain? Pain is the body’s warning system, alerting you that something is wrong. Nerve cells, also called neurons, transmit signals from all the senses including pain. Specialised pain neurons are found throughout the skin and other body tissues. When the pain neurons are stimulated, electrical and chemical signals travel through nerves in the spinal cord to the brain and are interpreted as pain.

Acute pain 

Acute pain is called ordinary or nociceptive pain. It is a useful sensation because it protects us from hurting ourselves. If we did not feel pain, we might burn our fingers on the stove or not know when we have a serious injury.

Acute pain is what you feel when normal nerves send messages from the injured body tissues. This is the type of pain you feel from a needle poke for blood work, or from an inflamed joint. This pain is temporary. Acute pain goes away when healing occurs. If inflammation is not well controlled, acute pain can last for minutes to months.

Chronic pain

Chronic pain refers to pain that has lasted for at least three months. Unlike acute pain, chronic pain does not serve a useful purpose like warning us about something harmful. Sometimes with JIA you can have chronic pain because there is repeated or ongoing inflammation of the joints but sometimes there is pain even when there is no inflammation.

Some kinds of chronic pain are not due to normal nerves reporting that tissues are injured or inflamed. Instead, these other kinds of pain, called nerve or neuropathic pain, are due to abnormal messages being sent to the brain by the nerves. This can happen even when the tissue is no longer inflamed or injured.

How we feel pain

Experts believe that there are many important reasons for why your pain might persist, including:

• Your physiology, or the way your body is made up.
• The way your body responds to physical and emotional stress.
• Your mood and beliefs.
• The way that parents and friends respond to you.

The good news is that you can learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. These can help change the way that your body experiences pain.

Managing your pain

Pain can be changed by stopping pain signals from reaching your brain. These pain signals can be reduced or blocked anywhere along the pain pathway. It may not be possible to eliminate all pain due to JIA. However, there are things you can do to reduce pain to levels that will let you do the things you want to.

physical methods such as heat, cold, massage, and exercise
• stress and pain coping strategies (e.g. relaxation strategies, distraction, positive thinking habits, prayer).

The following pages provide information on different ways to manage pain.


Welcome to the Taking Charge: Managing JIA Online Program! In this section you will learn what to expect in the program, how to get started and how to set goals to better manage JIA.

JIA stands for juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Find out what causes JIA, the different types of JIA and how it will affect you now and in the future.

Diagnosing JIA may be difficult as joint pain and swelling may be a part of many different illnesses. Diagnosis of JIA typically includes a physical exam, blood tests and imaging studies.

Pain, stiffness, and tiredness or fatigue, are common symptoms of JIA. These symptoms can lead to difficulties with participating in school and sports activities, and enjoying time with your friends. Learn about pain, fatigue, and stiffness, how to manage symptoms and how these symptoms can cause stress.

There are several strategies you can use to help you cope with pain, stress, and sleep problems. These include relaxation, distraction, and managing your thoughts. In this section, learn more about how each of these strategies work.

When you know about your medications, you can talk to your doctor about them and make good choices for yourself. Find out about the different types of JIA medications, how they work, common side effects, and the importance of talking to your doctor about your medication plan.

Did you know that there are many other therapies that you can use to manage JIA symptoms? They can help to prevent complications so that you can do all the things you want to do. In this section, learn more about physical, occupational, and psychological therapies; maintaining healthy nutrition; surgical options for JIA, and more.

Your role in making decisions about your treatment plan is very important. Your health-care team and other members of your support system are available to help you make these decisions. In turn, they can help you to manage your JIA.

Whether you have JIA or not, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Find out how to stay healthy and active, learn about puberty and relationships, healthy body image, and making healthy lifestyle choices.

Sometime between the ages of 18 to 22, you most likely will transition from your pediatric rheumatologist to the adult health care setting. At that time, there are a number of things you, your family, and your health-care team can do to help make this change go smoothly.