Abigail G Abigail’s Journey with Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome

“We’re very thankful and grateful for the program and for everyone who helped us get our child back. I’d recommend the Chronic Pain Management Program to anyone.”

When Abigail Gomez was around 12 years old, she started feeling a new pain in her body. The pain kept increasing and developed in different places. “I noticed a lot of things in my life were changing,” stated Abigail. “I couldn’t go to school the same. I wasn’t able to play soccer. I had to stop running track. I would get really dizzy and I wasn’t able to run any more. I wasn’t able to travel to visit my family or go to the beach. I just kept hurting.”

Learning about AMPS

Abigail noticed that her emotional state was suffering from dealing with chronic pain. “I was very frustrated with not being able to do the things that I enjoyed. I felt discouraged. I couldn’t get up in the mornings,” noted Abigail. She saw numerous doctors, underwent various tests and studies and still didn’t have answers or a solution. “I had a lot of stress waiting for the results of different blood tests and MRIs. I was hoping to find some type of answer for the pain.” After two years of suffering from chronic pain, Abigail saw a local rheumatologist who diagnosed her with Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS).

AbigailAMPS is defined as a condition that causes severe, chronic pain in the muscles, joints, or other parts of the body without clear physical cause. Abigail described AMPS as “an attack that you don’t really expect. It can happen to anyone. It’s an attack on your brain that sends pain signals to your body. You don’t only feel physical pain, but also emotional. You feel knocked down and like a totally different person because you can’t do what you did before.” To help manage AMPS, her rheumatologist suggested Children’s Specialized Hospital’s (CSH) Chronic Pain Management Program.

Abigail applied to the program and was encouraged to try outpatient physical therapy before enrolling in the four-week inpatient program. CSH Advanced Practice Nurse, Evelyn David, stated, “Abigail tried outpatient therapies including psychology services, but she continued to suffer from pain. This pain was constant, achy, debilitating that limited her to function and do her daily activities. The pain also made her unable to sleep at nights and impacted her ability to go to school.” “Outpatient therapy was not helping, so I went for an evaluation at Children’s Specialized Hospital and I was then admitted,” noted Abigail.

Managing Abigail’s Chronic Pain at CSH

AbigailIn the summer of 2023, Abigail and her family traveled from Rockland County, New York to New Brunswick, New Jersey to start the Chronic Pain Management Program. The program is typically over a four-week period, with focus on regaining function and using one’s body in a normal way. Abigail’s treatment included intense physical and occupational therapy, integrated mental health intervention, aquatic therapy and recreational therapy.

Abigail also received support from CSH’s clinical nutrition team since she suffered from intermittent abdominal pain and nausea, which impacted her nutritional intake. Clinical Dietitian II, Natalia Miner Capodanno, stated, “Abigail was provided individual and group nutrition education during her admission. Strategies and tips were also provided to help manage her symptoms while optimizing her diet to promote improved progress in her therapy.”

During the program, Abigail was able to learn about her diagnosis and found strategies to manage the pain. “AMPS is about learning what you have and learning to live with it. You have to tell yourself that the pain goes away. It really is about yourself. The pain is temporary, it’s not forever. I told myself not to panic and try my ultimate best to get the pain to go away,” stated Abigail.

Her physical therapist, Kate Vieni, said, “Abigail entered the Chronic Pain Management Program with motivation, realistic goals, and a positive outlook on the benefits that the program could offer her. She greeted me with a smile at every encounter, and was always prepared for her therapy sessions. We bonded early over a shared leisure interest of soccer, which strengthened our rapport and her trust in the program.”

AbigailAbigail’s physical therapy program had a large emphasis on pain education, with a goal to ease fear, provide hope, and help her move towards recovery. It also focused on improving her endurance for physical activity, her overall strength and balance, and dual-tasking for attention and positional tolerance in an effort to promote a successful return to school and sport.

“I am very proud of Abigail’s hard work during her time in the in-patient program, and am confident in her ability to continue to succeed,” added Kate.

When asked what a typical day in the program looked like, Abigail expressed that in the mornings, she went to the pool for recreation therapy, followed by four hours of occupational and physical therapy. Abigail stated, “When I first arrived at CSH, there weren’t any other kids in the AMPS program, so I felt alone, even though I always had a therapist by my side. When more kids arrived, I felt motivated and challenged, especially in the pool. We had different obstacles and games. I had so much motivation and kept pushing myself to win. I went to sleep telling myself that tomorrow I was going to beat my score.”

When Abigail was not enjoying the pool, she participated in other recreational therapy activities, such as mindfulness/meditation group, yoga group, and physically active games to address her goals. “Many therapy sessions took place outside in the therapy garden playing soccer, stretching, and working on breathing techniques. She excelled in connecting to the different mindfulness practices and identifying how she can carry over using these skills at home. Her Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) helped her to make a plan to incorporate positive leisure activities into her weekly schedule to continue to support her journey with her health and wellness,” stated Recreational Therapist Caitlyn Poss.

AbigailDuring Abigail’s down time she could be found in the inpatient recreational room where she enjoyed activities and talking to other patients. “What really helped me being in the program was the people. Not only the therapists and the nurses, but also the patients. When I was there, there weren’t many kids my age, there were a lot of smaller kids, so they looked up to me. Some of them had been in accidents or had life-long conditions that brought them to CSH. Seeing them really motivated me to push myself and just keep going.”

After the first week of the program, she immediately felt a difference. “I felt a big difference going through all the different obstacles and exercises. I said “wow,” I can see myself coming out of this program and doing all the things that I love. The program was supposed to be four-weeks, but I pushed myself every day and was able to go home in two weeks with no pain,” stated Abigail. “Abigail did very well in the program and was discharged without complications,” highlighted Evelyn.

Life After the Chronic Pain Management Program

Within two weeks, Abigail was heading home to New York. She was able to spend the rest of her summer doing the things that she loved, such as getting back on the soccer field, running and exercising pain free. “After I came back, I went to the beach with my best friend. Before, I secluded myself from everything and I wasn’t able to enjoy the beach because of my anxiety. Being in the water and feeling the sand bothered me, it caused me pain. It felt good to go without any pain. I found myself in the water for a long time,” eagerly stated Abigail.

When reflecting back on her time in the Chronic Pain Management Program, Abigail said, “it felt like such a safe and warm environment. While it was still a hospital, the people made it feel better. It was hard not having my mom with me, but the people helped to motivate me.” Abigail’s mother, Manuela added, “we’re very thankful and grateful for the program and for everyone who helped us get our child back. I’d recommend the Chronic Pain Management Program to anyone.”

“During those two weeks, it was a good time to work on myself and grow. I saw different things in my life that I wanted to change, so I fixed it. The program gave me time that I didn’t have before to think. I was so overwhelmed with pain and I had so many emotions. That time was just about me and I was able to hear myself and know what was bothering me,” stated Abigail.

When asked if they had any advice for parents/kids entering the program, Manuela stated, “parent’s need to be supportive and listen to your children. For the first weekend, we spent three days in a row visiting Abigail, we realized it was too much. Giving her that space was important.” Abigail added, “I told the other kids in the program that it’s going to be okay. I knew I could say that because it was for me. I’m in touch with all of the kids from the program and I made a really good friend. To hear them tell me “you were right, I feel great” is good to hear.”

For more information, visit Children's Specialized Hospital.