Polymyalgia Rheumatica

What is Polymyalgia Rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a disorder generally seen in people over age 50 that causes stiffness and aching in the neck, shoulder and hip areas. Other symptoms may include fatigue, weight loss, low grade fever and depression. These symptoms are due to an underlying inflammatory disorder.

Young woman gripping her neck in discomfort



The causes of PMR and GCA are not known. Because these are disorders that occur primarily in older people, it has been suggested that these diseases may be related somehow to the process of aging. A genetic predisposition seems to be involved.



PMR is a syndrome, and unfortunately, there are no specific tests. Other conditions that cause symptoms similar to PMR need to be excluded before the diagnosis of PMR can be confidently made. The diagnosis of PMR is made based on the history and physical examination along with blood tests. A biopsy of an affected blood vessel – usually the temporal artery – is necessary to confirm GCA.

Health Impact


  • PMR and GCA almost always occur in people over the age of 50; the average age of persons with these diseases is approximately 70.
  • PMR and GCA occur twice as often in women as in men.
  • Whites have a stronger predisposition to PMR and GCA.
  • The prevalence of PMR is 700 per 100,000; that of GCA is 200 per 100,000.
Document with a letterhead regarding polymyalgia rheumatica



The goal in treating PMR and GCA is to relieve the symptoms and, in the case of GCA, to prevent damage to the tissues. The most commonly used medication is prednisone. Usually patients with PMR respond very quickly to low doses; patients with GCA usually require larger doses of this medication. Treatment often extends for two years or longer. In mild cases of PMR, it may be possible to