Polymyalgia: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Are you a woman who is over 50 years old? Do you have pain in your muscles and stiffness in the areas of your neck, shoulders, and hips? Do you feel that after a long rest, you feel stiffness in your body? These are some of the classic symptoms of polymyalgia.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica

An inflammatory disease, polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) affects the musculature of the upper extremities and lower extremities. The term comes from the Greek “poly” (many), “my” (muscle) and algia (pain). Put together it literally means “many muscle pain”. The second term “rheumatica” is for “muscle and soft tissues”.


The primary symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica are fatigue and loss of appetite. Both can lead to weight loss, anemia, feeling of illness and mild fever which are also signs and symptoms of PMR.

PMR and Giant Cell Temporal Arteritis

The symptoms may also be similar to people suffering from temporal arteritis. This is because 15% of the people affected by polymyalgia rheumatica PMR are also diagnosed with temporal arteritis, and 50% of those with temporal arteritis are with polymyalgia PMR.

Because of these facts, symptoms may also include a headache, jaw or facial soreness, scalp tenderness, vision distortion, aches in the limbs due to decreased blood flow and tiredness.

Although no muscle weakness is felt, polymyalgia rheumatica is considered to be connected to some inflammation of the blood vessels. A syndrome known as giant cell arteritis (GCA) is associated with PMR which causes the inflammation. When this happens, loss of vision and other blockages occur. This is due to the narrowing of the blood vessels resulting to slow blood supply.


How is PMR diagnosed? The cause of polymyalgia rheumatica has not been discovered although genetic factors are being considered.

There is also no singular test to determine it but laboratory exam results will confirm the symptoms of polymyalgia PMR. Two very important blood tests that doctors require for polymyalgia rheumatica PMR diagnosis are Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP). These are inflammatory markers so that the doctors can rule out other diseases with similar symptoms. So doctors will use your medical records, symptom, and physical examinations to make a diagnosis.


Symptoms of Polymyalgia Rheumatica
Polymyalgia Rheumatica affects many white elderly women (photo from medicalobserver.com.au)

How do you live with polymyalgia? Is there a cure for polymyalgia rheumatica? Patients suffering from any disease want to find a cure? They will dig into finding the best treatment to relieve them the pain. They will try all possible food supplement or alternative treatment, and synthetic pills and get rid of pain immediately.

Inflammation is usually treated with Prednisone, a cortisone. A patient will experience relief after two to three days of taking 10-20 mg of Prednisone. However, if after three days, no improvement is observed, the diagnosis should be reconsidered.

Pain relievers and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may not work. However, these are usually taken by many patients as polymyalgia rheumatica treatments.

A maintenance dose of corticosteroid is given for at least one year. If improvement is observed, Prednisone or cortisone is gradually reduced until withdrawn after 6 months. If symptoms persist and giant cell arteritis is suspected with PMR, a higher dose combined with immunosuppressive drugs such as methotrexate will be prescribed.

  • Complementary TherapiesSome people suffering from polymyalgia are concerned about the side effects of doctor-prescribed pills. Fortunately, there are complementary and alternative treatments that can also provide relief for polymyalgia symptoms. Find out what complementary therapies for polymyalgia are available to you.
  • Diet and NutritionIn addition to taking corticosteroid medications, which are the primary treatments for PMR, a healthy diet can help reduce the symptoms this autoimmune disease. Learn what types of foods are recommended for PMR patients.
  • OverviewPolymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a rare inflammatory disease with no known causes. Learn the basic facts about PMR, including its symptoms, risk factors, and treatments.
  • Symptoms and DiagnosisTypically, polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms initially appear on one side of the body only. As the condition progresses, the same symptoms appear on the side other of the body. Learn what these symptoms are to determine if you have PMR.
  • TreatmentsPolymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) typically resolves within one to two years. For treating PMR symptoms, standard pain relievers (such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen) or anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin) may be ineffective. However, corticosteroids are known to be very effective in controlling the symptoms.

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Mary Loar
Mary Loar

I had polymyalgia about 5 years, and then got rid of it. Recently I have been similar symptoms. Went to my doctor yesterday and he did all the blood tests, so I am waiting to see if the diagnosis is PMR. I have all the classic symptoms but one always hopes it is not PMR.