Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Polymyalgia Rheumatica Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) is a disease that affects your neck, shoulders and hips.  Associated with PMR are a feeling of malaise (i.e., a feeling that you’re sick), fever and stiffness.  In about 15-20% of cases it is associated with a rare type of severe headache, temporal arteritis (giant cell arteritis).

Because so many health conditions can mimic the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica, and due to the fact that a clear “gold standard” to identify this disease does not exist, diagnosing PMR can be challenge.

Who Does It Affect?

Polymyalgia rheumatica affects individuals over the age of 50.  Females get it twice as often as men.   A greater proportion of cases are found in those with Scandinavian ancestry.

What Causes It?

Who knows.  It is thought to consist of a disorder in the immune system that in turn leads to inflammation of the blood vessels.  Specifically, there is an accumulation of proteins that start attacking these areas, whereas the inflammatory response is associated with trying to defend against these proteins.  Why all of this happens in just the neck, shoulders and hips is anyone’s guess.
Genetic factors are thought to play a role.   It is also thought that certain viral infections can lead to PMR.

How Can I Know For Sure That I Have Polymyalgia Rheumatica?

See your doctor!  It is next to impossible to do a “self-diagnosis” in this case since so many conditions may mirror it.  Your doctor has to do a thorough examination.  The exam is focused more on eliminating other causes of pain, such as certain types of arthritis, strain/sprain, fibromyalgia, and many other diseases, than it is on finding out whether you have PMR.
There are blood tests that do turn out positive for polymyalgia rheumatica; however, they turn out positive for other diseases as well.  These tests are the Sed rate, or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and the C-reactive protein test.  
An ultrasound examination can also reveal some inflammation in the shoulders, neck and hips.  Again, though, other diseases can also reveal inflammation, too.

What Can I Do About It?

Much to everyone’s dismay a clear natural way to treat polymyalgia rheumatica has not been confidently identified.  There are, however, certain prescription medications, not to mention common-senselike lifestyle factors, that are suggested to manage this disease.

Am I Gonna Have This Condition For The Rest Of My Life?

Although it may take a year to a few years to resolve, polymyalgia rheumatica is NOT a permanent condition.  With proper treatment, it is resolvable.  I will include insight on treatment alternatives in a different post.

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