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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.
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:
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 website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. 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%5FInfo/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.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 05/2016
- Update Date: 05/11/2016