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A Journey Through Chronic Pain: Stella's Story

Stella holding a painting she drew

Stella was 12 years old when she was diagnosed with amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome (AMPS). AMPS is a chronic pain condition that causes the brain to send pain signals to the body even when there is no injury. Stella’s pain was so severe that she could barely move, and she had to be hospitalized and was referred to Children’s Specialized Hospital Chronic Pain Management Program at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego for treatment.

During her time at Rady Children’s, she received a variety of treatments, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and psychotherapy. She also learned how to manage her pain through relaxation techniques and stress management. After a month of treatment, Stella’s pain was reduced by half. She was able to go home and resume her normal activities. Stella is now an advocate for other children with AMPS. She speaks to groups about her experiences and shares her advice on how to manage the condition.

“If you have AMPS, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone,” says Stella. “There are other kids out there who are going through the same thing. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are ways to manage AMPS. It’s not easy, but it’s possible to live a good and successful life with the condition. Don’t let AMPS take over your life. Find things that you enjoy doing and that make you happy. Don’t let the pain define you.”Stella's family

Stella’s family was very supportive during her time at Rady Children’s. They visited her every day and helped her to stay positive. Stella’s siblings called her every week to check in, and her parents flew them out to visit her for a weekend. Her family is grateful for the care that she received and says the doctors, nurses, occupational therapist, physical therapist, recreational therapists and psychologist, were incredibly compassionate and understanding.

“I couldn’t hug Stella since she had chronic pain in her back,” says mom, Leslie. “Once she was near the end of her program, I could hug her again. It was powerful.”

Stella is now a teenager and thriving. She is still in pain, but she has learned how to manage it. She is back in school and she is involved in several extracurricular activities, including music and theater. With a bright future ahead of her, Stella is a determined and resilient young woman, and she is not going to let AMPS define her or her way of life.

“When Stella came to us, like so many of our patients, she was first doubtful if the program could help her return to her active life despite having chronic pain,” says Anke Reineke, program director. “Her motivation and continued hope helped her to work through challenging moments and in the end, she learned not only to cope and deal with her pain but also to enjoy life to the fullest.”

To learn more about chronic pain services at Rady Children’s, visit Adolescent & Pediatric Chronic Pain Management | Rady Children’s Hospital (