PMR (Polymyalgia Rheumatica)

As the name suggests PMR effects our muscles (myalgia) and joints (rheumatica). PMR is one of the 80+ auto immune diseases that can strike without warning, with no easily discernable cause and can be very debilitating. The symptoms of PMR vary from person to person although it does seem to be universally agreed that the larger joints in your body are the worst effected particularly your shoulders. Other symptoms may include a sudden inexplicable weight loss, jaw tension headaches and pain in other joints including your fingers, wrists, elbows, spine and toes. A blood test would reveal a high ESR, more women than men suffer from PMR,  50+ is the typical age demographic and the symptoms of PMR can be similar to the symptoms of other auto immune disease such as fibro myalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

PMR tends to be episodic, for most the symptoms  start in the shoulders and are most severe first thing in the morning. Raising your arms above your head when your shoulders are acute can be very painful and restrictive, though fortunately they usually respond well to anti-inflammatory drugs… long as you have no high blood pressure or stomach ulcers. Corticosteroids such as prednisone can lessen the symptoms significantly though apart from being contra-indicated for hypertension and stomach ulcers you may experience weight gain using this drug aswell as severe mood swings and an inability to relax. The original onset of symptoms can last from 12 months to 4 years but if it recurs it is usually of less intensity than the first time.

Unlike muscular problems where you get a little warning before you get into a painful position, PMR can suddenly feel very intense and stop you in your tracks the moment you bend a joint even a little too far. Potentially the most serious symptom of PMR is Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA), it is this that causes the jaw tension headaches which, if left untreated can blind you.

Some PMR sufferers try an alkaline or nightshade free diet and find they do not help, others who try claim such diets definately do work. In either case you can still take your medications if you want to use both, so long as any food you eliminate from your diet has it’s nutritional values replaced by some other food. Many who get diagnosed with PMR find alot of relief from acupuncture, ice packs, massage, osteopathy and chiropractic, these therapies can be used in conjunction with pharmacuetical treatments too.

For a previously active and able bodied person the onset of PMR can be scary and demoralising, any exercise at all in the early acute stages may prove impossible, even having sex may require some adjustment. Practising meditation and relaxation techniques can help you cope with PMR as will planning what you do when you go out, if your knees are affected you might find that stairs are best avoided and getting into and out of coats can be embarrassingly difficult too. Like many other health problems that effect your abilities your facility to distract yourself and remain positive is an important part of  managing PMR.

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