Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome

What Causes Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS)?

Amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome is a chronic pain condition. With specialized treatment, it is possible to manage and overcome pain symptoms.

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What Is Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS)?

Amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome (AMPS) is a physical condition that causes overwhelming persistent or intermittent pain in different body parts.
Although AMPS can affect anyone, it disproportionately affects pre-adolescent and adolescent girls. In fact, up to 80% of children with pain amplification syndrome are young girls.1

Symptoms of Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome

The primary symptom of AMPS disorder is diffuse muscle pain, which can either be constant or intermittent. The onset of AMPS disease symptoms may begin right after an injury or illness; however, AMPS pain can also appear weeks later.

The pain may be localized, affecting only one area, such as a leg or shoulder, or it may be widespread, affecting several areas of the body. People who experience AMPS pain indicate the nerve or muscle pain that accompanies the disorder feels like a burning sensation or sometimes sharp and stabbing like “pins and needles.”

Common AMPS Symptoms

Other common symptoms of AMPS syndrome include:
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue or sleeping difficulties
  • Joint pain
  • Anxiety, depression, and similar mental health concerns
  • Decreased mobility
  • Problems using the affected body part
  • Allodynia (increased sensitivity in the painful area)

Causes of Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS)

The initial cause of amplified muscular pain syndrome is typically injury or illness that causes pain. As a result, the pathway between nerve communications at the site of the pain and the receptors in the brain becomes broken or interrupted. 


In a child with pain amplification syndrome, that pathway reroutes pain signals directly to the autonomic nervous system. Research from recent studies shows the average age of onset for AMPS syndrome is between eleven and fifteen years.2

When pain signals reach these nerves, they react by constricting or reducing the blood flow to the painful body parts. This reaction causes a lack of oxygen, which increases lactic acid in the muscles and joints, leading to amplified pain. The most common root causes of AMPS disease symptoms are injuries, illnesses, and medications.

What Types of Injuries Cause AMPS?

Various physical injuries or trauma to the body can lead to amplified pain syndrome. Common examples of such injuries may include:
  • Tendonitis
  • Abdominal strains
  • Back sprains and strains
  • Broken bones and other traumatic injuries
  • Tendinosis

What Types of Infections Cause AMPS?

Several common infections can lead to AMPS symptoms, including:
  • The common cold or the flu
  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Malaria
  • Trichinosis (a food-borne illness caused by the parasite Trichinella)

What Medications Cause AMPS?

Certain medications used to treat chronic conditions may lead to amplified pain syndrome in adults and children. 


Many of these medications are vital to overcoming chronic medical conditions, such as:

  • Medications used to treat cancer, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs
  • High blood pressure medications, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Statins-drugs used to lower cholesterol levels

Diagnosing Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome

Unfortunately, AMPS diagnosis can be complicated. No singular physical examination or AMPS test can rule out or definitively diagnose AMPS disease. 


However, some of the criteria and methods that can be utilized in order to successfully diagnose an individual with AMPS will be detailed below.

Medical History

Medical professionals start by assessing the quality and type of pain and reviewing accurate and complete medical history (including information about any previous illness or injury).

Physical Examination

The next step to diagnose AMPS is completing a comprehensive physical exam by evaluating the range of motion and potential pain points, testing strength, inspecting joints, and palpating muscles.

Imaging Tests

Doctors can order MRIs and X-rays to examine the body further and possibly rule out other illnesses and syndromes that affect the muscular system.

AMPS diagnosis is made only when it is clear that the symptoms do not result from an underlying injury, inflammation, or infection.
Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome

How Is Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome Managed or Treated?

AMPS treatment takes several possible forms. The best treatment will depend on the pain level and how much it affects the ability to function. 


Typically, AMPS treatment employs a team approach with several doctors and specialists working together to help the patient learn about their pain and how to manage their symptoms.

Research shows that intensive approaches that combine exercise and cognitive-behavioral treatment are the most effective in treating AMPS.3

AMPS Treatment Methods

AMPS treatment can last for several weeks and involves several types of intervention:

  • Exercise, including strength training and aerobic exercises to improve flexibility and function
  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Selected medications to control pain
  • Psychological counseling to help address the emotional challenges, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, that occur when living with chronic pain
  • Music therapy to help induce relaxation
  • Wellness treatments, such as meditation, mind-body skills, and biofeedback
  • Desensitization, the process of applying pressure to painful areas that encourages the patient to “breakthrough” their pain and grow accustomed to growing levels of pressure
One study utilizing intense exercise, desensitization, and psychotherapy to treat children with AMPS found that, after just one month, around 80% had no pain and were fully functional, and 15% had mild pain and were fully functional.4

Get Treatment for Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome at J. Flowers Health Institute

The prognosis for a child living with AMPS is unique to the person. AMPS is a chronic condition, so the outlook will differ from another.

If your child experiences chronic pain and you wonder if their symptoms could be due to amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome, do not wait to seek help. 


With treatment, your child’s symptoms can improve. To learn more about how we can help, contact us at J. Flowers Health Institute today.