Aug 15, 2000 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Am Fam Physician. 2000 Aug 15;62(4):801.

See related article on polymyalgia rheumatica.

What is polymyalgia rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a disease that causes stiffness in the neck, shoulders and hips. The stiffness is usually worse in the morning. Without treatment, the stiffness and pain can get worse over time.

Who gets PMR?

PMR is most common in people more than 50 years of age. Women get PMR more often than men, and white people get it more often than people of other races. However, people of all ages and ethnic groups can get PMR.

The cause of PMR is unknown, but it may have something to do with the body's immune system.

How can my doctor tell I have PMR?

People with PMR often go to their doctor because their body aches and is stiff. They might have a low fever and feel tired. They usually have these problems for a while before they go to the doctor. People with PMR might have tender muscles.

Your doctor will talk with you and examine you. Then your doctor might order lab tests. Based on your problems and what your exam and lab tests show, your doctor will decide if you have PMR.

How is PMR treated?

PMR is usually treated with an anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen (brand name: Advil) or naproxen (brand name: Naprosyn), or with a steroid such as prednisone.

You will probably need to take the medicine for some time. The good news is that you should feel better within a few weeks after you start taking the medicine. Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you to. Call your doctor if you have any side effects from the medicine.

What is temporal arteritis?

Some people get temporal arteritis at the same time as PMR. Temporal arteritis is an inflammation of the arteries in the head, forehead and scalp. It has some of the same symptoms as PMR but is a more serious disease.

It is important to tell your doctor right away if you have headaches or a burning or tingling feeling in your scalp. Your doctor also needs to know right away if you start having jaw pain, tongue pain or problems with your vision.

If you have any of these problems, your doctor might want you to have a test to see if you have temporal arteritis.

What can I do to get better?

  • Take your medicine as directed.

  • Tell your doctor about any side effects of your medicine.

  • Exercise lightly but regularly.

  • Eat a healthy diet and make sure you get plenty of calcium.

  • See your doctor if you still have problems.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2000 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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