Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS)

What is AMPS?

AMPS is a condition that is characterized by chronic pain in the muscles, joints, or other parts of their body, which occurs without any underlying injury or inflammation. AMPS pain can be widespread or “whole body” pain, and in this form it is often called fibromyalgia. AMPS pain also can be localized to a specific part of the body, in which case it is sometimes called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

What causes AMPS? 

AMPS can be triggered by an injury, illness, or stress, but the actual cause is not well understood. Experts think that in patients with AMPS, the part of the brain and the nerves that sense pain are “switched on,” even when there is no physical cause for pain. This chronic pain sensing and processing may lead to “pain amplification,” a condition where pain becomes more severe over time. 

What are the symptoms of AMPS?

Children with AMPS experience pain that can be localized or widespread and can be intermittent or constant. Often, children have additional symptoms, including:

  • Allodynia, or pain caused by something that should not cause pain, like a touch 
  • Headaches
  • Skin changes, including color and temperature
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty with movement, stiffness, tremors

How is AMPS diagnosed?

Because pain is a symptom of many conditions and diseases, a diagnosis of AMPS is usually reached after ruling out other possibilities, such as infection or a musculoskeletal injury. 

There are no tests for AMPS, but a physician with experience treating the condition can reach a diagnosis with a physical exam and full family medical history. Your physician may order blood tests or MRI to rule out other conditions or injuries. 

Treatments we offer

The goal of AMPS treatment is to improve your child’s ability to participate in daily activities— such as school, sports, and social activities—and to decrease the severity of the pain your child is experiencing. Functional improvement often occurs first and then is followed by reduction of pain. 

At Columbia's outpatient Pediatric AMPS Clinic, we develop a comprehensive and patient-centered treatment plan, which may include:

  • Daily aerobic and cardiovascular exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy 
  • Psychology evaluation to address coping techniques and for patient/family education on behavioral pain management 
  • Relaxation techniques

Medications are not a primary treatment for pediatric AMPS.