Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory disorder involving pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulder and usually also the hip. It is most common in women and almost always occurs in people over 50. The main symptom of polymyalgia rheumatica is stiffness after resting. Other symptoms include fever, weakness and weight loss. Symptoms can appear almost overnight in some cases with no relief. As suddenly as it sometimes appears, it often goes away on its own in a year or two.
Polymyalgia rheumatica sometimes occurs along with giant cell arteritis, a condition that causes swelling of the arteries in the head. Symptoms include headaches and blurred vision. Doctors often prescribe prednisone for both conditions. Polymyalgia rheumatic usually responds to treatment.
The exact causes of PMR are not known. The inflammation that causes the pain occurs when white blood cells, which normally protect the body from invading viruses and bacteria, attack the lining of the joints, particularly the shoulders, hips and knees. PMR is usually less severe than rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatments for PMR include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen) for mild symptoms and corticosteroid drugs (such as prednisone) in low, daily doses for more severe symptoms.