Polymyalgia Rheumatica Treatment

Once diagnosed, treatment of PMR is relatively straight forward: low-dose corticosteroids to manage the inflammation that is causing aches, stiffness, and pain.

Once you have been diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), you will want to know how best to treat the condition. Luckily, PMR is relatively easily treated.

Medical treatment of PMR consists of a low dose of corticosteroids, such as 15 to 20 milligrams per day of prednisone. The medication usually quickly relieves pain and stiffness within a few days. If symptoms do not improve after two to three weeks of treatment its possible that you do not have PMR, and your physicians may need to consider other causes of your symptoms.

When symptoms have improved, your dose of corticosteroids will be slowly decreased. Your doctor will work with you to find the lowest dose that keeps you comfortable. Some people are able to stop taking corticosteroids within a year. Others need a small amount of corticosteroids for two the three years or longer to control their stiffness and aching.

Because even low doses of corticosteroids can cause side effects, it is important to have follow-up visits with your doctor.

Side effects include:

  • Higher blood sugar (need to monitor for signs of diabetes)
  • Higher blood pressure (need to monitor for signs of hypertension)
  • Weight gain (control calorie intake)
  • Osteoporosis (may need to take medication to prevent or treat osteoporosis)
  • Sleeplessness
  • Cataracts (regularly scheduled eye exams are advised while on medication)
  • Thinning and bruising of the skin
  • Change in appearance (puffiness of the face and neck)
  • Muscle weakness

Once symptoms of PMR go away, you can resume your normal activities, including exercise. Symptoms may return once the dose of corticosteroids is lowered.

Corticosteroids are also used to treat giant cell arteritis, a form of vasculitis that can be related to PMR.

Non-medication Treatments

In addition to corticosteroids, your doctor may recommend non-medication treatments such as physical therapy, low-impact exercise and calcium and vitamin D supplements. You may also benefit from using assistive devices.

Physical therapy can help you regain strength, coordination and the ability to perform daily tasks.

Low-impact exercise, such as swimming, walking and riding a stationary bicycle, can help reduce pain and improve your overall sense of well-being. Moderate stretching can keep the muscles and joints flexible.

Calcium and vitamin D supplements can help prevent osteoporosis caused by treatment with corticosteroids. Your doctor will recommend how much you should take daily.

Assistive devices can make daily tasks easier. These include using reaching aids, shower grab bars and luggage and grocery carts. To prevent straining painful muscles, alternate strenuous or repetitive tasks with easier ones. Your doctor may recommend using a cane or other walking aid to prevent falls or other injury.

Updated on: 11/19/15
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