Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a group of symptoms like pain and stiffness, generally in shoulders, neck and hips. Patient can suffer from a sudden pain or the pain can develop slowly over a period. Sometimes the cause of pain may be a condition called temporal arteritis, which is inflammation of one of the facial arteries and is a potentially dangerous condition.


Patients usually wake up in the morning with muscle pain. However, they may suffer from pain in the evenings too. Typical symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica are: There are studies showing that 15% of polymyalgia rheumatica patients suffer from temporal arteritis. Vice versa, about 50% of temporal arteritis patients have polymyalgia rheumatica. Symptoms of temporal arteritis are severe headache, soreness of jaw or face, scalp tenderness, distorted vision, fatigue and pain in limbs due to reduced blood flow.


Cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is not yet understood well. Pain and rigidity are caused by the action of inflammatory cells and proteins which are usually a component of our immune system. This inflammatory action seems to be the most around the affected joints. During the disease the white blood cells hit the lining of the joints and cause inflammation. Recently it has also been found that hereditary factors too play a part in causing the disease. Polymyalgia Rheumatica There are some factors which show a relationship with the disease, like:


No particular diagnostic test is available for polymyalgia rheumatica. This is because there are many other conditions which can cause muscle pain and inflammation. Only a few tests can help eliminate other possibilities. ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate) is a general test that is performed to find out inflammation. But more ESR can be caused by many factors and so, this too is not a definite test for polymyalgia rheumatica. Sometimes PMR is caused due to temporal arteritis, the diagnosis of which is done by a biopsy sample of the temporal artery.


Prednisone is widely used for PMR. Duration of treatment may be as long as one year or more. If the patient doesn’t show improvement after 2-3 years, the diagnosis is reconsidered. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are not effective in the initial stages, but may be used as an adjuvant along with corticosteroids. Medications should be accompanied by right food habits and exercises. Exercise helps make weak muscles stronger and prevent weight gain. Healthy food helps making immunity stronger, and build stronger muscles and bones. Food containing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products and low-fat meat is helpful in controlling the disease. Food containing salt and refined sugar should be avoided.