Polymyalgia rheumatica is a rheumatic disorder associated with moderate-to-severe musculoskeletal pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulder, and hip area.
Stiffness is most noticeable in the morning or after a period of inactivity. This disorder may develop rapidly; in some people it comes on literally overnight. But for most people, polymyalgia rheumatica develops more gradually.
Caucasian women over the age of 50 have the highest risk of developing polymyalgia rheumatica. This condition almost exclusively affects people over the age of 50. The incidence rate peaks between 70 and 80 years of age.
Polymyalgia rheumatica is quite common. It is estimated that 711,000 Americans have polymyalgia rheumatica.
In addition to the musculoskeletal stiffness mentioned earlier, people with polymyalgia rheumatica also may have flu-like symptoms, including fever, weakness, and weight loss.
The treatment of choice for polymyalgia rheumatica is corticosteroid medication, such as prednisone. Even without treatment, polymyalgia rheumatica usually disappears in 1 to several years. With treatment, however, symptoms disappear quickly, usually in 24 to 48 hours. If corticosteroids don’t bring improvement, the doctor is likely to consider other possible diagnoses.