Kadi Nicolson is a Physiotherapist in Surrey, BC, who also lives with Juvenile Arthritis. In June, she gave a talk called, How to Navigate Sport, Recreation and JIA, based on her own experiences balancing a passion for sport with chronic pain. Read Kadi’s story below and watch her full talk for more tips.
I was diagnosed with Polyarticular JIA when I was 16 after experiencing swelling, fatigue, and pain following an infection at age 15. At the time I was a high level gymnast and seeking a sports scholarship to a university in the United States. In total, I was competing and and training about 25 hours per week.
When I first started having joint pain, I didn’t know what had happened. I thought I’d injured myself. Eventually, I was diagnosed with JIA at BC Children’s Hospital. Despite some setbacks, I never lost sight of my goal: I wanted to make it to nationals.
During that period of intense training, I would often be tired, in pain and sometimes not be able to finish a practice. At times, it was very hard to keep going, but with some excellent treatments and help from my physiotherapist, I was able to realize my dream and compete at National Championships in Montreal.
Eventually, I did have to retire from gymnastics. At first it was hard, but then I started trying new sports like cycling, dancing, and yoga. As I found activities I truly enjoyed, moving and being active became a part of my life once again and not something I had to do just to stay healthy. I realized: I have arthritis, but it doesn’t define me.
That’s why I became physiotherapist – to work with people of all ages to reach their goals and improve their pain. In the video below, you’ll learn how you can help your child with JIA find the right balance between chronic arthritis and their own activity goals – whether that’s elite sport or gym class. You’ll also hear tips on:
- How to become more confident in identifying the different types of pain (inflammatory pain vs mechanical pain, i.e. sports injury)
- What activities feel good during flares
- How to balance possible side effects of your medication with your sport goals
- How changing the way you think can break the cycle of pain