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Polymyalgia Rheumatica: Severe Muscle Pain

Polymyalgia Rheumatica: Severe Muscle Pain
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Polymyalgia Rheumatica


Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disorder of the muscles that results in pain and stiffness, especially in the shoulders. It is most common in individuals older than 50 and the symptoms are typically the worst upon waking up.

What Causes Polymyalgia Rheumatica?

The cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is still unknown, but research shows it may be genetic. It has also been linked to environmental triggers, such as seasonal weather changes.

Types of Polymyalgia Rheumatica

There is only one type of polymyalgia rheumatica, but the condition Giant cell arteritis is considered by many to be a sub-type of polymyalgia rheumatica. Giant cell arteritis is characterized by inflammation of arterial lining, which can lead to blindness or stroke. More than half of the patients with giant cell arteritis also have polymyalgia rheumatica.

Polymyalgia Rheumatica Symptoms

  • Shoulder pain and aches
  • Pain and stiffness in the neck, hips, or upper arms
  • Pain and stiffness in the wrists, elbows or knees
  • Limited range of motion
  • Mild fever
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression

muscle pain

Diagnosing Polymyalgia Rheumatica

There is no definitive diagnostic test to confirm polymyalgia rheumatica. Your primary care physician can diagnose the condition through a physical examination and assessment of your symptoms and medical history. They may have you perform certain physical maneuvers to assess your range of motion and whether or not there is pain in your muscles. They may also order blood tests and diagnostic imaging to rule out other conditions that produce similar symptoms.

Treating Polymyalgia Rheumatica

There is no cure for polymyalgia rheumatica, so treatment focuses on managing the symptoms. Painkillers and corticosteroids can be used to reduce the inflammation in the muscles. Supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D can alleviate symptoms by strengthening the bones. Some patients benefit from physical therapy, which strengthens the muscles and prevents muscle atrophy.

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