Growing up, I remember watching my dad massage my mom’s neck and shoulders. He’d apply ointment to her joints, as she would explain to me she had arthritis. Fast forward to today, and I too am in my 40s; I recently learned after an MRI that I have arthritis in my cervical spine.

When you think of arthritis, we normally envision an elderly person struggling to walk, with a cane in hand.  You hear more stories of younger adults developing arthritis. But did you know that arthritis also affects children and teenagers too?

Arthritis is one of the more common disorders resulting in chronic disability in children and teens in Canada. While we think that arthritis is an “older person’s” disease, juvenile arthritis can affect young people, with potentially devastating effects on developing bodies.

March is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, and I had the opportunity to chat with Nicole Barry whose 10-year-old son lives with a form of juvenile arthritis – juvenile ankylosing spondylitis which affects the spine.

Nicole’s son, Conor, first began to complain of pain in his left foot. Nicole thought he may have outgrown his running shoes, so she bought him a few new pairs. A few weeks later, Conor’s gym teacher called Barry, and told her she noticed he was limping, and favouring his right foot.

After several doctor visits and x-rays, medical professionals attributed the foot pain to growing pains. But the issue persisted.

About a month later, Conor was admitted to the hospital after blood work came back irregular. After a week’s stay and several tests, doctors thankfully ruled out bone cancer. But his diagnosis turned out to be arthritis.

“When I was told he likely had arthritis I thought phew! No biggie. Take some anti-inflammatory pills and stretch out your hands, like my Grandpa does. I wasn’t aware of the different types of arthritis and how it can impact your internal organs,” Barry admitted.

Barry has switched careers to reduce stress on the family, and to be available for medical appointments, sometimes as many as three times a week to check on worrisome symptoms.

“Life has indeed changed for us. Managing the appointments, medicines, insurance forms, and his symptoms is a lofty task – one of course I am happy to do,” Barry said.

“I worry about his length of life and that his type of arthritis is degenerative, so I worry about his mobility as he ages. But, he is incredibly resilient and strong and I know he will strive in whatever does in life, Barry says.

Despite his worrying condition, Barry remains optimistic.

“Conor is so mature, so kind and empathetic, so intelligent. I am so proud of him and how he manages and thrives in spite of this disease.”

For more information and resources, please visit the Arthritis Society website.


Disclosure: This post is proudly sponsored by AbbVie Canada. As always, the opinions expressed herein are my own.



Maria Lianos-Carbone is the author of “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year”, and publisher of, a leading lifestyle blog for women.


  1. Pingback: Arthritis Affects Young People Too | Today's Viral Info

  2. I have a bit of arthritis in my shoulder. It’s so hard. The best thing you can do is eat antiinflammatory foods and keep moving despite the pain. Cold months are worse on arthritis than summers, so I long for summer all year round. May end up needing to move to a permanently warm climate.

  3. Annemarie LeBlanc Reply

    I did not know arthritis could affect young people. I always thought it is a disease you acquire in old age. Thanks for sharing your story. It must have been both scary and relieving to know the diagnosis.

  4. I can so relate to this. I’ am a young adult and arthritis pain is killing me for real. Not a joke to have it at such young, active age.

  5. Never knee this was ever possible. In youth makes it even more scary. We should pay much more attention to the health of these young ones

  6. A family friend’s daughter developed arthritis as a child. It made life a little more challenging for her, and although it still affects her as a adult, she has managed to life a full and rewarding life.

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