How is polymyalgia rheumatica treated?

Medical treatments for polymyalgia rheumatica

Medications to relieve pain and inflammation can be very effective for controlling the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica. Many people with polymyalgia rheumatica will take medications for a year or more. Your health care professional can develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs. It is important to precisely follow your treatment plan for polymyalgia rheumatica to help minimize your symptoms and decrease the chance of your symptoms recurring over time. Medications used to treat polymyalgia rheumatica include:

  • Aspirin
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone (for example, Deltasone, Meticorten, Sterapred)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (for example, Advil and Motrin)

What you can do to improve your polymyalgia rheumatica

Your treatment plan for polymyalgia rheumatica may also involve lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce stress on your muscles and joints and thereby lessen the severity of your symptoms.

In addition to taking your medications as prescribed, you can reduce the severity of your symptoms by:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Complementary treatments for polymyalgia rheumatica

Some complementary treatments may help some people to better deal with the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Complementary treatments are not meant to substitute for traditional medical care. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are consuming nutritional supplements or homeopathic (nonprescription) remedies as they may interact with the prescribed medical therapy.

Complementary treatments may include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Nutritional dietary supplements, herbal remedies, tea beverages, and similar products 
  • Yoga

What are the potential complications of polymyalgia rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica often resolves spontaneously after a few years. However, approximately 15% of people with polymyalgia rheumatica will develop a complication known as temporal arteritis, or giant cell arteritis, which is an inflammation of the arteries in the head. Left untreated, the inflammation of temporal arteritis can in some cases disrupt the flow of blood to parts of the brain, leading to the serious complications of blindness or stroke.

In some cases, polymyalgia rheumatica can lead to serious complications including:

  • Adverse effects of treatment
  • Inability to perform daily activities
  • Poor quality of life
  • Stroke
  • Temporal arteritis (giant cell arteritis)
  • Vision loss


  1. Polymyalgia rheumatica. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.
  2. Polymyalgia rheumatica. American College of Rheumatology.
  3. Michet CJ, Matteson EL. Polymyalgia rheumatica. BMJ 2008; 336:765.
  4. Bope ET, Kellerman RD (Eds.) Conn’s Current Therapy. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2013.
  5. Domino FJ (Ed.) Five Minute Clinical Consult. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.

What is polymyalgia rheumatica?

Polymyalgia rheumatica is a disorder that results in severe pain and stiffness of large muscle groups in the body. Although its exact cause is not known, it may be due to a disruption in the function of the body’s immune system. Polymyalgia rheumatica primarily affects adults over the age of 50, and women are affected twice as often as men. Overall, the condition affects 0.7% of adults over the... Read more about polymyalgia rheumaticaintroduction


What are the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica?

Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica primarily affect the muscles and connective tissues, although symptoms may also involve other body systems. Some of the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica are vague and nonspecific, such as fatigue and malaise. Because there is no definitive diagnostic test for the condition, your health... Read more about polymyalgia rheumaticasymptoms


What causes polymyalgia rheumatica?

The cause of polymyalgia rheumatica is not known but may be related to a malfunction of the body’s immune system. Temporal arteritis, also known as giant cell arteritis, occurs in 10% to 20% of those affected by polymyalgia rheumatic. Temporal arteritis is believed to be an autoimmune disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissues because it targets them as foreign substance... Read more about polymyalgia rheumaticacauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Bones, Joints and Muscles

What's Causing Your Symptoms?