Katie Wilkins understands pain. As a previous University of Wisconsin-La Crosse collegiate gymnast, she sustained numerous injuries and has experienced the rehabilitation process firsthand. She’s dedicated her career to understanding musculoskeletal pain and—more important—how to help kids overcome it.
Wilkins is a pediatric physical therapist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. She has a special interest in helping kids who have juvenile idiopathic arthritis, joint hypermobility , Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and sports injuries.
“When kids have joint pain, they will often avoid using those joints,” Wilkins explains, “so the muscles and joints become deconditioned. My job is to guide them to getting their function back and help them return to activities they enjoy doing. I try to keep patients active during recovery, modify activities when needed, and make the experience as enjoyable and as fun as possible.”
As a member of the rheumatology team at Gillette, Wilkins works with patients who have juvenile arthritis. ”Exercise is an integral part of helping kids manage arthritis symptoms,” she says. “I help teach them exercises to strengthen their muscles and preserve their joints. This helps improve their mobility allowing them to participate in activities they enjoy.”
Juvenile Arthritis Association Honoree
Wilkins has a doctor of physical therapy degree, is a guest lecturer at the University of Minnesota’s physical therapy program and is the rehab coordinator of clinical education at Gillette. She has presented at numerous local conferences on physical therapy management of joint hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. But she says that her greatest education comes from her patients.
“I’m inspired by my young patients who successfully manage arthritis on a daily basis,” she says. “I’m extremely privileged to collaborate with them to learn strategies for managing their symptoms. This helps them continue to maintain an active life.”
On March 4, Wilkins will show her support for her patients in another way as she walks beside them at the 2017 Walk to Cure Juvenile Arthritis. As much as she’s inspired by her patients, she inspires them as well. Wilkins was anonymously nominated by one of her patients to be the medical honoree for this year’s event.
“The Arthritis Foundation is an incredible resource for patients and families,” says Wilkins. “I’m committed to advocating with the foundation to help patients who have arthritis lead active and fulfilling lives.”
At Gillette, managing a patient’s arthritis is a team approach that includes physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, therapeutic recreation specialists, psychologists and rehabilitation specialists.
“I’m honored to represent the Gillette team at the Walk to Cure Juvenile Arthritis,” Wilkins says. “I know it will be a morning of positive energy, excitement and celebration.”