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J Rheumatol Suppl. 2000 Apr;58:44-8.

An overview of amplified musculoskeletal pain syndromes.

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  • 1Pediatric Rheumatology Section, Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle, Washington 98105, USA.


Children may have a wide variety of amplified musculoskeletal pain syndromes that may or may not be associated with overt autonomic signs and may be diffuse or localized to one body part. It is most common in pre- to adolescent girls. Hallmarks of the diagnosis include increasing pain over time, allodynia, an incongruent affect, disproportional dysfunction, and the absence of other causes. Psychological distress within the child or family is apparent in most, but not all, since it also is associated with injury or illness. Once the diagnosis is established, all medicines and testing are stopped. A sympathetically driven pain model is used to explain the pain to make it understandable. Treatment is an intense exercise program; ours is 5 hours daily. We focus on functional aerobic training specifically using the involved body part such as sports related drills, running, play activities, and swimming. Allodynia is treated with desensitization such as towel rubbing. A psychological evaluation is done and specific psychotherapy is recommended if indicated. The average duration of the daily program is 2 weeks with a 1 hour home program being done for another 2 to 8 weeks. After one month roughly 80% of the children have no pain and are fully functional, another 15% are fully functional with mild or recurrent pain; 5% are not better. Significant relapses are infrequent; 15% require retreatment. Five to 10% of the children will develop a different symptom of psychological distress. At 5 years, 90% are doing well.

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