'Like a knife digging into you': Radical treatment treating pain with more pain
Imagine if the touch of a feather felt like a punch.
Or if a light massage caused excruciating full-body aches.
This is the reality for thousands of young people around the world suffering from Amplified Pain Syndrome – a confounding and mysterious nerve condition that researchers say can affect up to a quarter of all teenagers to some degree.
Those battling extreme cases of this syndrome are in a constant state of pain as their nervous system simply 'feels too much'. Their bodies register everyday physical sensations as threats, with the lightest touch sending an overload of pain signals through the body.
The condition can confine the sufferer to a life of pain – where merely walking across the room or holding their head up is agonising and all-too-difficult.
It's certainly a bizarre condition – but clinicians at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City USA apply an equally bizarre treatment for their patients.
They fight pain with more pain. It's a form of intensive therapy that combines tough physical workouts and sensory exercises to overload the nerves with what is at times an excruciating amount of pain signals, in an attempt to reset the body's understanding of, and response to, pain.
It's a very radical treatment providing dramatic results.
Dr Cara Hoffart, the medical director of the program, told 60 Minutes reporter Liam Bartlett the clinic's treatment is not just life changing for its patients, it's life saving.
"If we don't catch this and we don't treat this, they're likely going to be an adult with chronic pain facing a lot of challenges," Dr Hoffart says.
"It's a way to teach their nerves what normal is and that normal is not dangerous. And even though it hurts, you don't have to stop."
Dr Hoffart says the results are impressive: 90 per cent of patients who go through the program become fully functional, while 70 per cent become pain-free.
Fifteen-year-old Alivia Gatlin is one of the rehabilitation program's patients. Her battle with severe pain has stripped her of life's joys and she's been forced to take time off school and step away from her passion of cheerleading.
"It's sharp pain, like someone takes a knife and is just like digging it into you and pulling it out," she told Bartlett.
"I thought I was going crazy. There is no way that someone can be in this much pain and nobody knows what it is."
But with the help of the program, Alivia is enduring the unimaginable to beat the pain and live a normal life.
"Pain for me has been such a huge player," she told 60 Minutes.
"I want to be able to say that pain, it's here, it's there, but I'm in control now."
To watch 'No pain, no gain' and for full episodes of 60 Minutes, visit the official website.