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Polymyalgia Rheumatica


Polymyalgia rheumatica

is a condition that causes muscle pain and stiffness from inflammation. The symptoms are worst after you have not used the muscles for a period of time. For example, it may be difficult to get out of bed when you wake up in the morning. Polymyalgia rheumatica usually affects people older than 50 years, often after age 70. Polymyalgia rheumatica can occur with a serious condition called giant cell arteritis, or temporal arteritis. This condition causes the walls of arteries to swell.

Common signs and symptoms:

Any of the following may develop suddenly or within a few days or weeks:

  • Pain, aching, or stiffness in both shoulders, or your neck, upper arms, or hips
  • Pain and stiffness that gets better with movement
  • Trouble raising your arms higher than your shoulders
  • Trouble getting dressed or rising out of a chair
  • Less ability to move joints fully
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, or weight loss without trying

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have signs or symptoms of giant cell arteritis, such as a headache, jaw pain, vision changes, or a fever.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new or returning signs or symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica while the steroid medicine is being lowered.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


NSAID medicines may help relieve mild pain and stiffness. For more severe pain, steroid medicine will help relieve inflammation that is causing the pain. You may feel relief right away, or it may take several doses before you feel better. Your healthcare provider will increase the dose until your symptoms are controlled. He will then lower the dose over a few days or weeks to find the lowest dose that is effective. You will then continue to take the medicine at that dose, usually for about 6 months. You may need to continue for up to 3 years to control the pain.

Manage polymyalgia rheumatica:

  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can help prevent or reduce pain. Exercise can also help you keep muscle mass and prevent falls.
  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help keep muscle mass. He can also teach you exercises to improve range of motion in joints that are difficult to move.
  • Use assistive devices as needed. A raised toilet seat or chair can help you stand more easily. Devices are available to help you reach items on high shelves if you have trouble reaching up. Your healthcare provider may recommend a cane or walker to help you keep your balance.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Healthy foods can help you have more energy. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Your healthcare provider will need to check your symptoms and adjust your steroid dose over time. He will also check for side effects from the medicine, such as a high blood sugar level or fast heart rate. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Polymyalgia Rheumatica (Ambulatory Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference