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.

Giant Cell Arteritis

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The exact cause is not known. Inflammatory conditions may be due to some problem with the immune system. Some evidence suggests that certain viruses could be responsible for PMR. Genetic factors may also play a role.

Risk Factors

PMR is most common in Caucasian women, aged 65 years and older.


Symptoms may include:

  • Muscle pain and/or stiffness in the hip, shoulder, or neck areas
  • Stiffness in the morning
  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. There is no single test for PMR. To support the diagnosis and rule out other conditions, tests may include:

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), a blood test that measures how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube.
  • Rheumatoid factor (RF), a blood test that looks for RF antibodies in the blood.
  • Complete blood count, a blood test that measures the amount of different blood cells present in whole blood.
  • C-reactive protein, a protein that is elevated in the blood when inflammation is present.
  • Muscle biopsy.

Imaging studies take pictures of internal body structures. These may include CT scan or MRI.

If you have PMR, your doctor may also consider the possibility of GCA. Evaluation for GCA includes:

  • Physical exam, including vision test
  • Biopsy of an affected blood vessel is necessary to confirm the diagnosis

Symptoms of PMR will disappear without treatment within several months to years. Treatment leads to dramatic improvement, which may occur within 24-48 hours.

Treatment may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Corticosteroids
  • Supplements, such as calcium or vitamin D
  • Physical therapy to help with strength, flexibility, and mobility

There are current guidelines to prevent PMR.