Desensitization Therapy For Children With Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome
Desensitization therapy is a type of physical therapy that works to make the body and its tissues less sensitive to pain. It includes relaxation techniques, gradual exposure to stimuli, and breathing exercises designed to improve nerve responses to touch, pressure, vibration, and temperature.
Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome, also referred to as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, occurs when the nerves that sense pain don’t fire properly. Instead of sending signals directly from an injury or stimulus up into the brain, these signals travel via neurovascular nerves (also referred to as “fight or flight”) which regulate blood flow.
Nerves that receive pain signals respond by constricting blood vessels, cutting off oxygen to muscles and bones. This causes an accumulation of waste products like lactic acid which may exacerbate existing discomfort.
To break this cycle, children with APS need to focus on aerobic exercise that specifically targets areas of pain and use desensitization (modification of sensation) to increase tolerance for painful stimuli. Furthermore, stress management should be included as an integral component of rehabilitation and should be integrated into the program.
A treatment approach that incorporates aerobic exercise, stress management and desensitization exercises for children with amplified pain syndrome may lead to improved pain perception and greater functional mobility. This program should be tailored specifically for each patient but typically consists of 5 hours of intense exercise per day plus daily desensitization exercises over an 8-week period.
Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome is a chronic disorder that causes children to experience intense muscle, bone, and joint pain across their bodies. While this condition can affect children of any age group, it tends to affect pre- to adolescent girls most severely.
Experts still do not know the precise cause of AMPS, but genetics and psychological stressors appear to play a role. In addition to physical symptoms, those suffering from AMPS may also experience mental issues like depression, anxiety or stress.
According to rheumatologist David Sherry, founder and director of the Center for Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “Amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome stands apart from other forms of chronic and acute pain because it has its own life cycle and does not respond to medication or other treatments.”
At Golisano Children’s Hospital Amplified Pain Syndrome Program, patients are assessed and enrolled in an intensive physical therapy (PT)/occupational therapy (OT) approach that retrains the nervous system while providing strength, endurance, and flexibility.
Sherry believes the intensive approach is key for relieving pain from children with AMPS. After studying this condition for years, he notes it takes patience and hard work to wean kids off medications.
Studies of children with Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City have demonstrated that those who followed an intensive, multidisciplinary strategy had better outcomes than those who didn’t. Results show that those following an AMPS program develop more function, reduce their dependency on narcotic pain pills, and experience fewer psychological issues compared to their non-AMPS peers. Furthermore, those following the AMPS plan experienced fewer but less severe relapses as well.