Polymyalgia Rheumatica

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Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory syndrome characterized by severe pain and stiffness in the proximal musculature of arms and legs. There is no associated weakness in the muscles.

It is currently believed that polymyalgia rheumatica may be associated with underlying inflammation in blood vessels.

The name polymyalgia rheumatica has its roots in Greek words. In Greek 'poly' means 'many', 'my' refers to ' muscle' and 'algia' means 'pain' (many muscle pain) and 'rheumatica'refers to 'muscle and soft tissue'.

There is a rare (less than 5%) association with another syndrome called giant cell arteritis. This syndrome causes inflammation in the blood vessels on the scalp and in the vessels leading to the brain. The inflammation in these blood vessels can lead to narrowing and reduced blood supply distal to the narrowing. This can cause loss of vision in an eye and rarely other blockages.

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What causes polymyalgia rheumatica?
How is polymyalgia rheumatica diagnosed?
How common is polymyalgia rheumatica?
Warning signs of polymyalgia rheumatica
Warning signs of giant cell arteritis

Cortisone is most often the treatment of choice for these conditions. This is a potent anti-inflammatory medication that will settle the inflammatory conditions. A higher dose is required for GCA. Prednisone is the most common type of cortisone used. This medication is taken by pill form and the best time of day to take these pills is in the morning. After initiating a high dose to control the inflammation and the ESR returns to normal the dose is slowly reduced to a maintainance dose to prevent inflammation from reoccurring. This maintainance dose is used for a minimum of 1 year and may be required for several years. If too high a dose is required other immunosuppressive drugs may be added to help lower the dose (eg methotrexate).

Arthritis medications are designed to control a disease, slow its progression, and to help manage pain. There is a wide range of options – with new ones coming on the horizon – so understanding all possible treatments is not easy. 

These medications can be very complex, so you are encouraged to ask for in-depth explanations from your health care team – including pharmacists, who are an excellent source of information. 

To explore this area of treatment, The Arthritis Society has developed a comprehensive expert guide that delivers detailed information on medications used to treat arthritis.

Explore the Arthritis Medications A Reference Guide

The optimal treatment is what is best in each individual case – so speak with your doctor and/or pharmacist about what kind of medications are most appropriate for you.

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