Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disorder that causes muscle pain and stiffness that often occur in the shoulders, neck, upper arms and hips. It is related to giant cell arteritis, which can cause headaches, vision difficulties, jaw pain and other symptoms. It's also possible to have both of these conditions together. Most people who develop Polymyalgia rheumatica are older than 65 and the symptoms usually begin within two weeks. The symptoms can be improved with anti-inflammatory drugs, but these drugs require careful monitoring for serious side effects.



The onset of the illness can be sudden. A patient may have a healthy history until awakening one morning with stiffness and pain of muscles and joints throughout the body. These pains can lead to a sensation of weakness and loss of function. Sometimes there is also muscle tenderness. These symptoms persist and are often accompanied by an intense sensation of fatigue. They usually occur on both sides of the body and may include:

  • Aches or pain in the shoulders, neck, upper arms, buttocks, hips or thighs;
  • Stiffness in affected areas, particularly after being inactive for a long time;
  • Limited range of motion in affected areas;
  • Pain or stiffness in wrists or knees;
  • Mild or low-grade fever;
  • Fatigue;
  • Malaise;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Unintended weight loss;
  • Depression.



The exact cause of Polymyalgia rheumatica is still unknown. Recent research has indicated that genetic factors play a role in who becomes afflicted with the illness. Theories have included viral stimulation of the immune system in genetically susceptible individuals. Nonetheless, there are two factors that appear to be involved in the development of this condition, genetics and an environmental exposure. However, this is yet to be proven.


Risk Factors

Risk factors for Polymyalgia rheumatica include age, sex and ethnicity. To be more precise, it affects older adults almost exclusively.  Also, women are about two times more likely to develop the disorder than men. Lastly, people from Northern European origin are more likely to have Polymyalgia rheumatica than are people of other ethnicities.



Symptoms of Polymyalgia rheumatica can greatly affect a person's ability to perform everyday activities. The pain and stiffness may contribute to difficulties getting out of bed, standing up, bathing, getting dressed, etc. These complications can affect a person's health, social interactions, physical activity, sleep and general well-being.

Further on, it can lead to loss of function of the joints if it is left untreated. This generally is temporary, but frozen shoulders can be a further complication. Additional complications, such as stomach bleeding or kidney impairment, can result from medications used to treat Polymyalgia rheumatica.



There is no prevention for Polymyalgia rheumatica. Prevention measures focus on preventing the side effects of medications used to treat Polymyalgia rheumatica