Polymyalgia Rheumatica: An Overview

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a rare inflammatory disease with no known causes. Learn the basic facts about PMR, including its symptoms, risk factors, and treatments.

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a rare inflammatory disease with no known causes. But experts are looking into age and sex as the biggest risk factors for polymyalgia. This is because PMR usually occurs in women over 50 years old. Heredity and link to giant cell arteritis are also considered as factors for developing polymyalgia.


When you are diagnosed with polymyalgia, you experience stiffness and muscle pain in the shoulders, arms, neck, and hips. The stiffness and pain can lead to immobility. Chronic pain hinders even your simple daily activities when PMR is not treated. Symptoms appear suddenly and are felt in the morning. The pain and stiffness gradually spread from the shoulders to the hips and thighs, affecting both sides of the body. Pain at its severe level can prevent you from reaching objects, standing from the couch and even from getting into your car.

Secondary symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica or PMR include low-grade fever, fatigue, sudden weight loss, malaise, and depression. Some other common symptoms are the loss of appetite, depression, limited range of motion and even anemia. Persons aged 50 and above are a high risk of this disease. Women are most likely to get this disorder than men.

Blood Tests

A rheumatologist diagnoses persons suffering from polymyalgia rheumatica. He performs a physical examination and recommends blood examinations to confirm the presence of the disorder. The blood tests are used to check for signs of inflammation. PMR is confirmed by the doctor when the measured erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein levels are high. An ultrasound is also used to detect inflammation of tissues and joints. The ultrasound machine can create detailed images of the different inflamed soft tissues. A rheumy also recommends biopsy when he suspects an inflammation of the blood vessels.

Treatments for Polymyalgia Rheumatica

A low dose corticosteroid is an effective treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica. Prednisone is a reliable drug for reducing inflammation. It can relieve symptoms in as fast as 2 days. He will prescribe a dosage of 10 to 30 milligrams of prednisone. Corticosteroids are effective but have side effects.


Corticosteroids are effective but have side effects. The long-term use of steroid drugs can cause high blood pressure, cataracts, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Corticosteroids also weaken the immune system. It also results in increased weight as well as high cholesterol levels.

Vitamin D and Calcium

Your rheumy will also recommend a daily intake of vitamin D and calcium supplements. This is to reduce side effects of steroids to your bone.

Physical Therapy and Healthy Diet

Physical therapy helps in improving patient strength and improve range of motion.

PMR patients are advised to eat a healthy diet and reduce salt intake to maintain normal blood pressure. Regular exercise will strengthen the bones and muscles while preventing weight gain. When pain and stiffness linger and symptoms do not improve, the doctor performs additional tests. The tests will confirm other rheumatic disorders such as rheumatic fever and osteoarthritis. Complications of PMR include the temporary loss of joint use. This increases the risk of suffering from joint problems. A frozen shoulder is an example of a lingering joint disorder.

People with PMR can also develop a peripheral artery disease. This arterial disorder causes leg pain and ulcers and affects blood circulation. Giant cell arteritis is another complication.

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