Widespread aching and stiffness affecting the lower back, upper arms, neck, or thighs may the result of a condition called Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR). With symptoms frequently appearing later in life, the fairly common inflammatory condition is usually manageable with medication. PMR is different from arthritis and fibromyalgia in that discomfort isn’t relegated to joints and symptoms improve throughout the day.
There is no known cause of polymyalgia rheumatica, although its sudden onset suggests an infection may be the source, but none has been identified. PMR is characterized by morning muscle stiffness that usually lasts for about any hour or so. Pain and stiffness may return later after prolonged periods of sitting or remaining in one position. There’s research suggesting PMR-related pain originates from joints and is experienced in nearby areas (referred pain).
Related difficulties linked to PMR may include:
Diagnosis usually involves a blood test and a muscle biopsy to confirm PMR. Treatment is almost always centered around finding the right dosage of corticosteroids. While patients tend to respond well to low doses, if the dose is too low, symptoms may recur. Due to this sensitivity to corticosteroids, dosage adjustments are often gradual to allow time to see how a patient’s pain level will be affected.
Some patients who have PMR also have giant cell arteritis, an inflammation of the lining of the arteries, although the link isn’t clear. While symptoms can often be successfully managed, the condition itself often continues intermittently. Seniors living with other joint issues tend to be at a greater risk of experiencing a relapse, which usually requires continued steroid therapy to minimize stiffness and muscle aches.