Polymyalgia rheumatica is a rheumatic condition characterized by moderate to severe pain and stiffness in the muscles of the lower back, hips and thighs, neck, shoulders, upper arms and other parts of the body. Literally translated polymyalgia means pain in many muscles. The complaints are caused by inflammation of the synovial joints, the bursa and the tendons around the shoulder and hip joints. Although the inflammatory process is centered around the joints (shoulder and hip), patients feel discomfort in the upper arms and thighs. This type of pain is called reflected because it originates from one part of the body, but it is felt in another. Stiffness is usually more pronounced in the morning. The condition may develop rapidly – within one day or more gradually, as is the case with most patients.
Typically, the primary polymyalgia rheumatica symptoms are moderate to severe stiffness and muscle pain in the neck, shoulder and hip areas. Stiffness is more pronounced in the morning after awakening and after a period of rest and immobilization, usually lasting longer than 30 minutes. The appearance of complaints may be acute or gradual.
Patients may also report flu-like complaints, such as slightly increased body temperature, weakness and weight loss. There can be easy tiredness and difficult gait. Sometimes swelling of some joints, such as wrists, is observed.
Left untreated, this condition can lead to significant stiffness of the shoulder and pelvis and disability. In some cases, the symptoms do not worsen and resolve for several years without treatment. Under the influence of treatment, however, the symptoms quickly resolve.