What Is Polymyalgia?

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 syndrome, 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”.

Signs and symptoms

Fatigue and loss of appetite that can lead to weight loss, anemia, feeling of illness and mild fever are also signs and symptoms of polymyalgia.

Polymyalgia and temporal arteritis

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

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

Polymyalgia and giant cell arteritis

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 polymyalgia which cause the inflammation. When this happens, loss of vision and other blockages occur due to the narrowing of the blood vessels resulting to slow blood supply.


How is polymyalgia diagnosed? The cause of polymyalgia 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. 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)

Inflammation is usually treated with Prednisone, a cortisone. 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 Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen may not work.

A maintenance dose of cortisone 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 polymyalgia, a higher dose combined with immunosuppressive drugs such as methotrexate will be prescribed.

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  • 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.