Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory disorder. It results in muscle pain and stiffness in the body. The effects are most common in the shoulders, arms, hips, and thighs. About 15% of people with PMR will also develop giant cell arteritis (GCA). GCA is an inflammation of the lining of the arteries, the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart.
The exact cause is not known. Inflammatory conditions may be associated with a problem with the immune system. Certain viruses may be responsible for PMR. Genetic factors may also play a role.
PMR is most common in Caucasian women, aged 65 years and older.
Symptoms may include:
- Muscle pain and/or stiffness in the hip, shoulder, or neck areas
- Stiffness usually occurs in the morning or after long rests and may ease throughout the day
- Unexplained weight loss
- Mood changes
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. PMR will be suspected if symptoms are there for more than 2-4 weeks.
Your bodily fluids or tissue may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests—which show presence of inflammation
- Muscle biopsy
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Symptoms of PMR may disappear without treatment within several months to years, but treatment leads to dramatic improvement. Relief may occur within 24-48 hours.
Treatment may include:
- Corticosteroids—may be used for up to 2 years at low doses
- Supplements, such as calcium or vitamin D and biphosphonates—to prevent bone loss due to steroid treatment
- Physical therapy to help with strength, flexibility, and mobility
- Anti-inflammatory medications
There are current guidelines to prevent PMR.
American College of Rheumatology
The Arthritis Society
Polymyalgia rheumatica. American College of Rheumatology website. Available at: http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Polymyalgia-Rheumatica. Updated June 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116138/Polymyalgia-rheumatica-PMR. Updated September 25, 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Questions and answers about polymyalgia rheumatical and giant cell arteritis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Polymyalgia/default.asp. Updated April 2015. Accessed May 11, 2016.
Salvarani C, Cantini F, Boiardi L, Hunder GG. Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant-cell arteritis. N Engl J Med. 2002;347(4):261-271.
Soubrier M, Dubost JJ, Ristori JM. Polymyalgia rheumatica: diagnosis and treatment. Joint Bone Spine. 2006;73(6):599-605.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.