Polymyalgia rheumatica

Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2004 Oct;18(5):705-22. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2004.06.003.


Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory condition of unknown etiology characterized by aching and stiffness in the shoulder and in the pelvic girdles and neck. In the past, PMR was considered a manifestation of giant cell arteritis (GCA) or a variant of elderly-onset rheumatoid arthritis (EORA). The current diagnostic criteria for PMR were empirically formulated by clinical experts who had studied the disease extensively. Arthroscopic, radioisotopic and magnetic resonance imaging studies all have indicated the presence of a synovitis in proximal joints and periarticular structures. The synovitis is probably responsible for the musculoskeletal symptoms in PMR. The prominence assigned to the proximal symptoms has probably overshadowed the less well recognized and more variable distal musculoskeletal manifestations which are present in about half of the cases. A normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate does not exclude a diagnosis of PMR. C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 seem to be more sensitive indicators of disease activity both at diagnosis and during relapse/recurrence. Corticosteroids are the drugs of choice for treating PMR. A course of treatment of 1-2 years is often required. However, some patients have a chronic, relapsing course and require low doses of corticosteroids for several years. Large, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are required to define the role of methotrexate and anti-TNF-alpha agents as corticosteroid-sparing drugs in PMR.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / complications
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica* / complications
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica* / drug therapy
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica* / pathology
  • Synovitis / complications
  • Synovitis / pathology*


  • Glucocorticoids