What is Amps

What is AMPS?

Some may question, what is Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome? AMPS is a medical condition causing intense pain to those who have it.

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What is Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS)?

Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS) is a painful medical condition that can cause pain in the muscles, joints, and other body parts. People with the condition describe the pain they feel as more intense or extreme than “normal” pain. For some people, the pain only affects a certain limb, and for others, it affects the whole body. AMPS pain can occur in short episodes, or the pain can be constant. 1

The cause of amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome is not well understood, but current research suggests it stems from an overreaction of the pain signals by the central nervous system. While AMPS can affect anyone, it is seen mostly in children. Around 80% of people with AMPS are pre-adolescent and adolescent girls.2

Musculoskeletal Pain Causes and Risk Factors

So, what causes amplified musculoskeletal pain? Typically, AMPS is triggered by an injury or an illness, like a broken bone. It may also be triggered by psychological stress, mental illness, or emotional trauma. With this condition, there is a “short-circuit” in the pain response, which causes a person’s typical reaction to pain to change. Typically, when someone without AMPS experiences pain, the sensation travels from the site of the injury to the spinal cord, then to the brain.

But with a person who has AMPS, the pain travels to the autonomic nerves. The autonomic nerves react by constricting blood vessels, which cut off blood flow to certain parts of the body. Additionally, a waste product called lactic acid begins to build up in the body. The combination of these occurrences leads to the extreme musculoskeletal pain that people with AMPS experience.3

Causes of Musculoskeletal Pain Overview

Risk Factors

There are a few musculoskeletal pain causes or risk factors that may make a person more likely to experience AMPS, including:
  • Age: Younger people are more likely to experience this disorder.
  • Gender: The condition is more common in females.
  • Genetics: Genetics can be an underlying genetic susceptibility that is triggered by stress, illness, or injury.
  • Family History: People with a family member with a pain disorder are more likely to also have a pain disorder.
  • Illness: Illness can trigger the onset of musculoskeletal pain.
  • Injury: Musculoskeletal pain or injury can trigger AMPS.
  • Stress: Stress can trigger the onset of AMPS.

High-Risk Musculoskeletal Pain Conditions

AMPS is often seen in children, and some researchers suggest that it is triggered by joint flexibility and “growing pains.” People with AMPS often have more flexible joints than the average person and have a history of experiencing muscle and joint pain. 


Those who have experienced emotional trauma or psychiatric conditions may also be more susceptible to AMPS. Additionally, some conditions that may put you at higher risk for musculoskeletal pain will be detailed below.


This condition refers to the swelling or inflammation of one or more joints in the body. AMPS is seen more often in conjunction with inflammatory disorders such as arthritis.


Characterized by fatigue and widespread musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia is a chronic and painful condition. When AMPS is widespread or causes whole-body musculoskeletal pain, it is sometimes referred to as fibromyalgia.

Tunnel Syndromes

Tunnel syndromes, like carpal tunnel, cause tingling, numbness, and pain in affected areas. Carpal tunnel happens when one of the major nerves in the hand becomes compressed as it travels to the wrist. AMPS may be more common in people with tunnel syndromes.

Signs and Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Pain

what is amps
The most common symptom of AMPS is musculoskeletal pain. The pain can be constant or transient, coming and going. The pain is typically more severe than “normal” pain and causes a great deal of distress to those who experience it. AMPS pain may first happen right after an injury or illness, or it may take weeks to occur. Additionally, some people report AMPS pain without any significant illness or injury as a cause.
Pain associated with AMPS may be spread throughout the body or focus on a particular area like an arm or leg. The pain is described as burning, sharp, and intense; some people also report feeling the sensation of “pins and needles.”
Another major symptom of AMPS is fatigue. Many of us have days in which we’re more tired than usual, but the fatigue associated with AMPS can be debilitating. Additionally, sleep problems are common with AMPS, with individuals having trouble falling or staying asleep or experiencing restlessness when trying to sleep. Other symptoms of AMPS include:


This is a condition in which sensations that should not be painful cause pain. For example, someone lightly touching your arm would be painful. Allodynia occurs because of AMPS on the nervous system. Allodynia affects approximately 70% of people who have AMPS. 4
One teen with allodynia explains the condition: “It’s almost like you had a really awful bruise or a really awful burn, but just your entire body is that,” Shevlin said. “And so everything that touches you —like clothes, sheets, anything like that, water — it shouldn’t hurt, and you know it shouldn’t hurt, but it does.” 5

Allodynia Overview

Changes to the Skin

Skin changes may occur throughout the body or in the localized area of pain. The skin may be red or hot and may have a different texture than the surrounding skin.

Problems with Movement

AMPS can affect a person’s ability to move and function normally. This may mean that the individual cannot stand for long periods, lift heavy objects, or even tolerate touch, depending on the location(s) and severity of the pain.

AMPS may also be linked to changes to the autonomic nervous system, which can affect blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature. People with AMPS may also have:
  • Edema or swelling
  • Changes to hair in the affected area
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness

AMPS and Mental Health

Anyone living with a chronic pain condition can attest to the fact that feeling pain on a constant basis can have a tremendous impact on a person’s quality of life. 


Studies show that people who experience chronic pain have a significantly lower quality of life due to pain inhibiting them from functioning normally and participating in the activities they would like to do.6

Can AMPS Be Mentally Draining?

AMPS, like other chronic pain conditions, can not only be physically painful but also mentally draining. People with amplified musculoskeletal pain syndromes may be more likely to experience anxiety, depression, brain fog, and other mental health concerns. 


Also, it is important to note that stress can be one of the causes of AMPS, so it’s important to manage stress levels as much as possible.

There are many ways to manage the pain associated with AMPS, and the outlook on recovery is positive. We’ll discuss pain management and AMPS outlook later in this article.

How is Musculoskeletal Pain Diagnosed?

what is amps
Amplified musculoskeletal pain can be difficult to diagnose. Many conditions can cause painful sensations in the body, and sometimes people have AMPS along with another medical disorder.
Amplified musculoskeletal pain can have many different causes. Because of this, doctors will give a thorough evaluation, including a review of your symptoms and medical history, a physical examination, and different tests to diagnose. The process may be as follows:

Initial Evaluation

In the initial examination, your doctor will talk with you about the pain you are experiencing and any other signs or symptoms you may have. 


Since AMPS can be hard to diagnose, doctors must look at a patient’s complete medical history and ask many questions in the initial exams.

In this initial evaluation, your doctor may also ask you several questions, such as:
  • How long have you been experiencing pain?
  • In which areas of the body do you feel pain or other symptoms?
  • Is the pain constant, or does it come and go?
  • What is the pain level?
  • How are you currently managing the pain?
  • What makes it worse or better?
  • What does the pain feel like (stabbing, sharp, dull, etc.)

Physical Examination

During the physical examination, your doctor will check for any physical signs and symptoms of amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome. The doctor may press on certain areas or test the movement of certain joints.
This may be uncomfortable, but it is important that your doctor can locate the exact location of the pain. AMPS can be in the form of musculoskeletal chest pain, back pain, leg pain, arm pain, or throughout the entire body.


Once the initial exam and physical exam have been completed, your doctor will likely want to run tests to confirm the diagnosis and check for any complications. Tests can include:

Lab Tests

Blood work can indicate signs of inflammation and potential deficiencies contributing to symptoms


X-rays are great for identifying issues with bones and can show bone deformities or changes associated with AMPS. X-rays do not show soft tissues like nerves, muscles, or tendons, so additional testing is often required to diagnose AMPS.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging can show issues in soft tissue, unlike x-rays, so doctors will likely order an MRI in addition to an x-ray when testing for AMPS.

Computed Tomography (CT)

A CT scan, like MRIs and x-rays, can show what’s happening in the body to confirm an amplified musculoskeletal pain diagnosis.

Joint Fluid Testing

If AMPS is happening in the joints, your doctor may perform joint fluid testing, which is when a small sample of fluid is withdrawn from a joint to check for abnormalities.
Your AMPS diagnosis will likely be categorized as localized AMPS (two or fewer affected body areas; no autonomic changes); complex regional pain syndrome, type one (two or fewer affected body areas, with additional autonomic symptoms); or diffuse AMPS, which includes three or more affected body areas. 7
what is amps

Preventing and Living with Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS)

It is not always possible to prevent injuries and illnesses, including amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome. However, you can do a few things to prevent the injuries that sometimes trigger AMPS. Prevention tips to keep in mind:
  • Be sure to warm up before exercising to avoid putting too much stress on the body.
  • Stretch before workouts and between long bouts of sitting or staying in the same position. Take breaks from any constant posture every 20 minutes and pay attention to any muscles that begin to become stiff.
  • Listen to your body. If an activity is painful, be sure to stop the activity.
  • Tend to an injury earlier rather than later. 

Posture Tips

Specific posture tips for musculoskeletal back pain or musculoskeletal neck pain include:
  • Keep the back straight, and the shoulders relaxed. Be careful with twisting and bending motions.
  • Set up your workspace so that your body is directly in front of your work and doesn’t require you to stretch or strain.
  • Keep wrists as neutral as possible; the wrists should not be extended further than 15 degrees in any direction. 
  • Most of us don’t realize how much time we spend bending our necks forward to look at computers or smartphones. However, it’s important to avoid doing this, as it can lead to neck injuries.
  • Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for an extended period. Muscles tire more quickly when they are held in the same position. Try to take frequent breaks and increase blood circulation.

Posture Tips

Coping with Musculoskeletal Pain

Aside from medical treatments for AMPS, which we will explain below, there are other ways to cope with musculoskeletal pain. Adapting your lifestyle and everyday actions to support your healing and minimize pain and stress is important. Some things you can do at home to help maintain well-being while dealing with AMPS include:

Minimize Stress

Don’t take on more work than you can handle. It can be hard to say no to additional tasks or work projects if you’re used to working a lot, but putting too much on your plate is likely to raise your stress levels. 


Additionally, take steps to avoid other sources of stress in your life, whether it’s certain people or situations that stress you out.

Try Yoga or Meditation

Studies show that exercise is good for the body, but yoga may provide increased stress relief due to its meditative elements. 


Experiencing the pain of AMPS may negatively impact one’s quality of life, but research shows that yoga can significantly improve the quality of life, making yoga a great option for people with musculoskeletal pain.8

Make Time For Joy

It’s no question that dealing with pain can have a negative effect on mood. But whenever possible, invest time in doing things you enjoy. Research shows that our mental state and mood can really impact our physical health, so staying positive could help you feel better overall. 9
what is amps

Treatment for AMPS Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome

If you suspect you or your child may have AMPS, you must see a doctor to begin testing for the condition. Musculoskeletal pain symptoms can resolve with lifestyle changes, but the best musculoskeletal pain treatment is a combination of lifestyle changes and medical interventions.

Treatment for AMPS amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome will vary based on an individual’s circumstances, but musculoskeletal pain treatment typically involves the following interventions:


Musculoskeletal pain medication is often a first line of defense against AMPS in adults; however, it is not always a first choice for children with the condition. 


Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen are often used to manage pain. In some severe cases, opioids may be prescribed.


For adults and children, therapy can be a useful treatment for AMPS. Physical therapy can help individuals tone muscles and improve symptoms. 


Psychotherapy is also useful, as it can teach individuals how to cope with the stress that comes along with AMPS and can help them learn how to function even while experiencing pain.

Since AMPS is sometimes triggered by trauma or mental illnesses, therapy may also be a good preventative measure.

Aids and Devices

Many people can find relief using aids and devices like orthotics, braces, taping, and lumbar supports. While these aids and devices may seem like small interventions, they can make a big difference for people with musculoskeletal pain.


Surgery is typically the last option for people who cannot find relief from other treatment options. Surgeries may include joint replacement, soft tissue and cartilage repair, arthroscopy, and laminectomy.

As you complete treatment for AMPS, you can expect to experience fewer musculoskeletal pain symptoms each day. Treatment for AMPS typically leads to a gradual recovery which, in children, can be shown by improved school attendance and activity participation. 


For amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome in adults, recovery can be more easily measured and discussed with a musculoskeletal pain doctor.

Treatment at J. Flowers Health Institute

At J. Flowers Health Institute, you can receive treatment for AMPS and other musculoskeletal pain disorders, bringing you relief from symptoms and a more positive outlook. Reach out today to learn more.