Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a debilitating condition with inflammation of the muscles of the neck shoulders hips and thighs.
It is not known what causes it to occur although it often develops after a “flu-like” viral infection. The majority of people affected are over the age of fifty with more women effected than men.

The pain and stiffness in these muscles builds up over a week or two making it very difficult to function properly. Climbing stairs, walking, and getting in and out of the bath all become uncomfortable or impossible to do and many previously active people suddenly find themselves housebound. In severe cases of PMR the pain may mean that someone becomes bed-bound.

The symptoms are worse first thing in the morning and after sitting down for a long time. Many people also suffer extreme tiredness, weight loss and generally feeling unwell. Dramatic relief of symptoms

Prednisolone a steroid is the usual form of treatment and can bring rapid and dramatic improvements. They work by reducing the inflammation often within 48 hours of starting treatment.

The ESR, which measures the level of inflammation in the body, is an important measurement as an indicator of how well the treatment is working. This enables the doctor to adjust the dose of treatment as necessary. Some medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (e.g. ibuprofen) may also be of help but can cause irritation and in some cases ulceration to the stomach.

Other treatments such as Acupuncture and Homoeopathy can help with the inflammation and more conventional treatments such as Physiotherapy can improve the function of the muscles once the pain and stiffness is relieved.

Arnica, ginger, and cod liver oil are all natural ways of reducing inflammation and can be of benefit. Always remember to let your doctor know if you are also taking treatments such as these.

Often people can remain on a minimal dose of medication for about two years. The dose is kept at a minimum, as one of the possible problems of steroids over a prolonged time is that the bones can thin and cause osteoporosis to develop. Plenty of calcium and vitamin D in the diet can help as well as weight bearing exercises such as brisk walking when the inflammation allows. When PMR eventually burns itself out the medication is no longer needed. This however must always be done under supervision of the doctor. Nobody should ever reduce or stop their steroid medication without consulting their doctor first.

PMR facts…

A debilitating inflammatory condition
Cause unknown
It often follows “flu-like” illness
Usually affects people over 50’s
Men are affected less often than women are
Steroid medication treats symptoms quickly
It eventually burns itself out

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