If you suffer from pain and stiffness – without swollen joints – in certain areas of the upper body, you may be suffering from a condition known as polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). This fairly common condition generally does not present in younger people. In fact, the average agefor symptom onset is 70.
PMR is an age-related disease with no apparent cause. It doesn’t appear to develop as a side effect of medication. It also doesn’t appear to be directly related to any particular form of injury. PMR could be triggered by some sort of infection, but medical science has not definitively proven that yet.
You might find PMR easier to understand if we break down the words. The term ‘myalgia’ is related to the Greek word describing muscle pain. The ‘poly’ prefix implies involvement of several areas and ‘rheumatic’ refers to pain in the joints, muscles, or fibrous tissues.
Common Symptoms of PMR
PMR’s primary symptom is muscle stiffness in the upper arms and shoulder girdle. Stiffness is at its worst during the morning hours; it generally lasts for about 45 minutes or so. Aching and stiffness are most commonly observed in the lower back, thighs, neck, shoulder girdle and upper arms.
Blood tests are carried out if I am suspecting PMR and these often show raised inflammation markers which would be consistent with the diagnosis.
In addition to pain and stiffness, many PMR patients also report:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- extreme fatigue.
The pain and stiffness from PMR can be distracting enough that patients are not hungry during the morning hours. Thus, they lose their appetites and do not eat as much as they should, which explains the weight loss associated with the condition. As for the extreme fatigue, it is a fairly common symptom of rheumatic diseases.
The body expends a lot of energy dealing with pain. Consequently, chronic pain can lead to fatigue. Note that there is one more symptom we rheumatology specialists observe from time to time: depression. Rheumatic conditions are known to lead to depression in some patients because the pain and fatigue are overwhelming.
PMR Can Be Treated
I consider myself among the top private rheumatologists in London. During my years of practice, I have consulted with countless patients suffering from PMR. I can tell you that the condition is treatable. Because it does not present with joint inflammation, it can be difficult to diagnose. So you need a rheumatology specialist who recognises the symptoms and knows how to treat it.
PMR responds very well to corticosteroids. One medication we use here in the UK is prednisolone. Patients are typically prescribed a moderate dose that is gradually reduced over time. Though patients can begin feeling better in just a few days, a rheumatologist can treat for up to two years to keep symptoms from returning.
You should know that NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are not effective in relieving the pain of PMR. Therefore, if you have been exhibiting the classic symptoms of the condition and found no relief from NSAIDs, there is a good chance that PMR is at the root of your problem.
Let’s Talk About Your Symptoms
As a private rheumatologist, PMR is a condition I am very familiar with. I invite you to contact my London office to set up an appointment. Let us meet and talk about your symptoms in detail. If you are suffering from PMR, we can get a treatment programme started right away. The sooner treatment begins, the sooner you will start to feel better.
PMR can be a chronic and debilitating condition. It doesn’t have to be. It is routinely diagnosed by experienced rheumatologists and treated effectively with corticosteroids.