While arthritis might be the best-known cause of joint pain and stiffness, other conditions can cause similar symptoms, for example, polymyalgia rheumatica. The experienced rheumatologists at Arthritis Northwest PLLC in Spokane, Washington, provide evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment for this inflammatory condition to help you resume your life. For expert care of polymyalgia rheumatica and other inflammatory conditions, book your appointment by calling Arthritis Northwest PLLC now. Or, visit us online.
Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory condition that triggers muscle aches, stiffness, and pain. It sometimes occurs along with giant cell arteritis, a condition that causes blood vessel inflammation (vasculitis).
About 50% of people with giant cell arteritis also experience symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica. Polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms usually start at age 70 or later, and it rarely occurs before the age of 50.
Polymyalgia rheumatica usually causes:
Unlike joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica rarely causes joint swelling.
Symptoms affect both sides of the body and usually occur in the shoulders and hips. You can also experience symptoms in the neck, upper arms, thighs, hands, and wrists. Most people experience the most severe symptoms first thing in the morning.
Diagnosis can be challenging, but the rheumatologists at Arthritis Northwest PLLC have the expertise needed to differentiate polymyalgia rheumatica from other inflammatory conditions. In addition to a physical exam and symptom review, you need blood tests at the in-clinic lab.
In some cases, diagnosis and treatment of polymyalgia rheumatica intersect. For example, if polymyalgia rheumatica is the most likely cause of your symptoms, you’re usually prescribed low-dose (10-15 milligrams) corticosteroids to take daily.
If you have polymyalgia rheumatica, corticosteroids relieve symptoms quickly — sometimes in a single dose. However, if you take low-dose corticosteroids for 2-3 weeks without relief, you probably don't have polymyalgia rheumatica.
Once your symptoms recede, you gradually decrease your corticosteroid dose to the lowest level possible. Most people need to take corticosteroids for 1-3 years to prevent symptoms from recurring.
You may need to take medication to prevent bone thinning, a common side effect of long-term corticosteroid use. You may also need to make some lifestyle changes to stay healthy and feel your best during treatment.
These changes usually include improved nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate rest. Arthritis Northwest PLLC partners with a naturopathic doctor to help you implement these changes in the most effective way possible.
If you need help with stiffness and pain, call Arthritis Northwest PLLC to schedule a consultation and to make an appointment. Or, visit us online.