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Polymyalgia Rheumatica: Care Instructions


Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory condition that causes pain and stiffness in muscles, mainly in the hips, neck, and shoulders. Pain and stiffness are usually worse in the morning. Your doctor will treat you with medicine to reduce the inflammation, which helps your symptoms. Your symptoms should get much better in 1 to 3 days and go away in 2 to 4 weeks. Treatment is usually needed for about a year.

Some people who have this also get giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis). This causes swelling of some blood vessels in the head. Tell your doctor if you have any headaches, jaw pain, or tightness or tenderness along the temple or scalp. This condition can cause blindness if it is not treated. Tell your doctor if you have problems with your vision, including blurring or seeing double.

For more information on polymyalgia rheumatica, visit Alberta Rheumatology – Polymyalgia Rheumatica.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You may get medicines to reduce pain and to keep your bones from getting thin.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Make sure to drink milk and eat dairy products, such as low-fat cheese and yogurt. Ask your doctor how much calcium you need. If you cannot eat dairy products or you do not get enough calcium from food, you may take pills.
  • Get regular weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, dancing, or weight lifting. This will help keep your bones strong and may also help your mood.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a headache, jaw pain, or problems seeing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your joint and muscle pain or stiffness gets worse.
  • You have side effects from your corticosteroid medicine, such as:
    • Signs of diabetes (feeling thirsty all the time, needing to urinate often).
    • Signs of infection (fever, chills, cough, burning during urination, severe sore throat, or skin infection).
    • A large weight gain.
    • Mood changes.
    • Trouble sleeping.
    • Bruising easily.
  • You have any other problems with your medicine.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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