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Polymyalgia rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a disease that causes inflammation in joints and surrounding tissue. The inflammation, most often in the neck, shoulders and hips, causes stiffness and pain in these locations, giving credence to its literal meaning, "pain in many muscles." It can appear out of nowhere and continue for years, and is most noticeable upon waking in the morning or after extended periods of inactivity.

Although the cause of PMR is not yet known, researchers believe heredity, age and environment have a significant role in the disease. It occurs twice as often in women as men, and usually after age 50.

Common Treatments:

Although PMR usually goes away on its own in within one or two years, there are treatments that can help alleviate the pain and stiffness. In addition to rest and exercise, physicians typically prescribe medications to bring relief from PMR's symptoms. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen are effective for milder symptoms, although extended use may lead to more serious consequences like intestinal bleeding.

For most cases of PMR physicians prefer prescribing a low, daily dose of a corticosteroid like prednisone. The advantages of this particular drug are three-fold: patients most always experience immediate relief of the pain and stiffness; the drug can be taken safely for extended periods; and, as a patient improves, dosage levels can be gradually lowered.

The use of a corticosteroid has one caveat - once begun a patient should not stop on their own without their doctor's consent. Because corticosteroids suppress the body's hormone production, a sudden suspension of the drug can have serious health consequences. Physicians typically wean corticosteroid patients gradually so that the body has sufficient time to resume normal hormone production.
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