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Quick Facts

Polymyalgia Rheumatica


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2019| Content last modified Oct 2019
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What is polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)?

PMR is an inflammatory condition that causes severe pain and stiffness in the muscles of your neck, back, shoulders, and hips.

  • Doctors don’t know what causes PMR

  • It usually occurs in people over 55, particularly women

  • Your neck, back, shoulders, and hips feel stiff and painful

  • To diagnose PMR, doctors do blood tests

  • Doctors treat it with corticosteroid pills

What causes PMR?

Doctors don't know what causes PMR. People have inflammation in their joints and the tissues around the joints, such as the tendons (tendinitis), and bursa (bursitis).

What are the symptoms of PMR?

Symptoms can happen suddenly or develop slowly. They usually include:

  • Aching pain and stiffness in your neck, shoulders, back, and hips

  • Severe stiffness when you wake up in the morning

  • Stiffness after you've been sitting still for a while

The pain and stiffness may keep you from doing your normal daily activities.

You may feel sick all over, lose your appetite, and be tired and depressed.

What are the complications of PMR?

A lot of people who have a blood vessel disease called giant cell arteritis also have PMR. And some people with PMR develop giant cell arteritis. In giant cell arteritis, your immune system attacks the lining of your blood vessels. It can affect the blood vessels in your eye and cause blindness if not treated.

Tell your doctor if you have symptoms of giant cell arteritis, including:

  • Headache

  • Jaw pain during chewing

  • Scalp tenderness

  • Vision loss or blurring in one eye, or double vision

How can doctors tell if I have PMR?

Doctors diagnose PMR based on your:

  • Symptoms

  • Blood tests

How do doctors treat PMR?

Doctors treat PMR with:

  • Corticosteroids

  • Medicines to block your immune system

  • Physical therapy

Most people with PMR feel much better very quickly when treated with corticosteroids. If you get better quickly, doctors are quite sure that you have PMR.

You usually need to take medicine for at least a year. Then the dose can be slowly lowered. PMR can come back again.

People who take corticosteroids for a long time can develop:

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