Typically when our kids fall sick, we know by the peeky look in their eyes, their flushed cheeks or their irritable behavior. But imagine how a mother feels when their seemingly healthy and active toddler abruptly tells her she is sick and needs to see a doctor. That was precisely what happened to Emily Mogel when she was just two-years-old.

On Christmas eight years ago, little Emily told her mom she was sick and needed a doctor.  Little did her parents realize a high fever and rash would erupt just three days later, resulting in six weeks of painful testing, bone marrow tests and ultimately a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis. Although Emily is now 10-years-old, she doesn’t remember the hospitalization but she does remember the painful weekly shots and she vividly spoke of  the pain of no longer being able to play soccer or participate in her beloved dance class.

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a round-table discussion on juvenile arthritis with the Arthritis Foundation, Massage Envy and Emily, a sweet, smart and articulate 10 year-old girl from Frederick. Prior to the event, I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even realize children could get arthritis, not to mention how debilitating and life-altering of an illness it is for children. I’m confident we all know someone who suffers from arthritis and the statistics are staggering. 50 million Americans have arthritis and that number is expected to arise to 67 million by 2030 but did you know that 26,000 children have arthritis? Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can cause children to need a wheelchair, inflict extraordinary pain on them and prevent them from the healthy and active lifestyles that kids crave and need.

I was moved listening to Emily speak about her experiences with the wisdom and poise you would expect from an adult, not a 5th grader. As I sat there imagining what this experience was like for her mother, I learned that children as young as one to 18 can be diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and with no clear warning signs. Emily’s mom said there were signs pointing to the onset of the illness before she was diagnosed but they were subtle and Emily was too young to articulate it. In retrospect, her mom said that one clear sign was Emily’s sudden dislike for bath time because the  movement around the tub and into and out of the tub was painful on her joints. But what 2-year-old can explain that?

And it was movement that was the central theme of yesterday’s event. “Movement is our biggest message,” said Lisa Mauti, VP of Communications of the Arthritis Foundation. Movement helps lubricate the joints and can help relieve the pain of arthritis and one natural means of relieving the pain of arthritis is through massage. Winston Moore, Regional Director of Operations for Massage Envy, explained that his company has partnered with the Arthritis Foundation to support World Arthritis Day on October 12 because of the relief that therapeutic massage can bring to arthritis sufferers. Moore explained that no child is too young for massage, parents should start with the child’s hands and joints to get the blood moving and help increase circulation.

I learned that much research is needed to better understand juvenile arthritis. The goal of treatment for juvenile arthritis is to relieve inflammation, control pain and improve a child’s quality of life. Mauti explained that researchers are exploring what bio-markers we have in our blood indicating that we are predisposed to arthritis, including the more common osteoarthritis. And it is a trial test through Children’s Hospital that is working well to help Emily combat this debilitating disease. Mrs. Mogel noted how grateful she is to live in this area and have access to pediatric rheumatologists and Children’s Hospital. Many children need to travel 10-15 hours to access the kind of medical care and attention they need with juvenile arthritis.

In honor of World Arthritis Day, on October 12, Massage Envy will donate $10 from every massage and facial in their facilities to the Arthritis Foundation.  What a wonderful way to treat yourself or a family member and ultimately donate to a very important cause.  Give-away Alert: I have two one-hour massages from Massage Envy to give-away. All you need to do is “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page or subscribe to my RSS feed and send me an email at monica.sakala@gmail.com letting me know that you would like to enroll in the give-away. Enter soon because I will announce the 2 lucky winners on Monday October 10. And I can’t encourage everyone enough to visit Massage Envy on October 12 to support the Arthritis Foundation and the research needed to help cure arthritis. Massage Envy has 24 clinics in the DC area.  I also encourage you to alert others to the Massage Envy deal and support World Arthritis Day using #healinghands on Twitter.

When not feeling blessed that her children are otherwise healthy, Monica blogs at Wired Momma. She’d love for you check out her blog or follow her on Twitter @Wired_Momma