Aches, pains, and stiffness can make life unbearable. Some days, it’s hard to get out of bed. For people affected by polymyalgia rheumatica, the pain can be so severe, standing up out of bed and getting dressed is difficult or impossible. If you or a loved one are suffering from this inflammatory condition, it’s important to understand it. So what is polymyalgia rhuematica? What are the causes and symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica and what natural treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica may help? Keep reading to learn more!
What is Polymyalgia Rheumatica?
Polymyalgia rheumatica is an inflammatory disease that causes stiffness, pain, and limited mobility in some parts of the body. Pain can range from mild to debilitating.
The condition primarily affects the:
Like other similar conditions, the pain is usually worse in the morning and improves gradually throughout the day. When the pain is severe, this can make it difficult to get out of bed without assistance.
The condition is most common among older adults over the age of 65 and is rare among people younger than 50.
Some people who develop polymyalgia rheumatica also have temporal arteritis, which causes the blood vessels in the neck, head, and arms to become inflamed. Temporal arteritis can also cause frequent headaches, vision problems, and jaw pain. These additional symptoms can make it even more difficult to live with polymyalgia rheumatica.
Polymyalgia rheumatica isn’t always easy to diagnose because the condition doesn’t cause noticeable swelling in the joints. It requires a specialized diagnosis from the right healthcare practitioner.
Living with this condition can be very difficult. The symptoms and effects can impact your ability to perform everyday tasks, like getting dressed, bathing, brushing your hair, or even getting up out of bed.
The pain, discomfort, and inability to perform these activities can limit your physical activity, social interactions, and overall wellbeing.
Symptoms of Polymyalgia Rheumatica
Polymyalgia rheumatica can affect both sides of the body. Signs and symptoms include:
- Pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, hips, or thighs
- Stiffness or aches in the knees, elbows, or wrists
- Limited range of motion in painful areas
The condition can also cause a general feeling of malaise as well as:
- Low-grade fever
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
Polymyalgia Rheumatica Causes
Doctors still don’t know what causes polymyalgia rheumatica. Symptoms often appear suddenly and out of nowhere. It doesn’t appear to be a side effect of medication.
Some medical experts believe that it may be caused by an infection, but there is no evidence to support this claim.
Research shows that this condition causes inflammation in the hips and shoulders as well as the bursae. So, the pain you’re feeling in your thighs and arms may actually originate from nearby joints.
It’s believed that genetics plays a role in the development of this condition. Certain genes may make you more susceptible to polymyalgia rheumatica.
For many people, symptoms come and go on a seasonal basis. For this reason, many doctors believe that this condition may have an environmental trigger. However, there is no clear evidence that supports this claim.
Some people are at a greater risk of developing polymyalgia rheumatica than others. Risk factors for this condition include:
- Women are up to three times more likely to suffer from polymyalgia rheumatica.
- This is a condition that almost exclusively affects older adults – typically those between 70 and 80 years of age.
- Caucasians are more likely to suffer from this condition, especially those of northern European or Scandinavian descent.
Diagnosis and Conventional Treatments
Diagnosing this condition can be tricky and requires the expertise of a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist will be able to recognize the signs of polymyalgia rheumatica and provide an accurate diagnosis.
A blood test may be used to help with the diagnosis. Those who suffer from polymyalgia rheumatica tend to have abnormally high levels of inflammation. Certain blood tests can detect this inflammation. An ultrasound may also be ordered to look for inflammation in your tissues and joints.
Most doctors will want to rule out other conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, first before checking for polymyalgia rheumatica.
Low-dose corticosteroids is the most common treatment prescribed by doctors. NSAIDs and naproxen are generally ineffective at treating this condition.
If the corticosteroids work, the dose may be decreased gradually over time until your doctor finds a level that is most comfortable for you. Some people are able to get off of corticosteroids after a year, while others may be on them for years.
While corticosteroids are effective at alleviating the pain and stiffness associated with polymyalgia rheumatica, the potential side effects can be concerning. Long-term use of corticosteroids can increase the risk of:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Doctors sometimes recommend taking vitamin D and calcium supplements while taking corticosteroids to help reduce the risk of side effects.
Diet and Supplements for Polymyalgia Rheumatica
Diet and lifestyle choices can go a long way in helping improve symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica. Eating certain foods can help stop inflammation or prevent it before it even starts. Some foods can aggravate inflammation or cause it, making your symptoms even worse.
Some supplements can also help bring some relief.
If you’re suffering from polymyalgia rheumatica, these diet and supplement choices may help.
Fruits and Vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables can help prevent or reduce inflammation. However, some foods have more potent anti-inflammatory properties than others, such as:
- Citrus fruits
Healthy fats, like olive oil, can also help combat inflammation that leads to pain and stiffness in the joints.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Corticosteroids are the conventional treatment for polymyalgia rheumatica, but this treatment increases your risk of osteoporosis, bone damage, and fractures. Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements can help prevent this side effect.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Found naturally in fatty fish and some plants, like flaxseed, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.
There is also an indication that omega-3s can reverse your body’s immune response to inflammation and even prevent the recurrence of polymyalgia rheumatica.
Many foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, including:
- Fatty fish
- Chia seeds
- Leafy greens
Supplements are also available, which may make it easier to get a therapeutic dose of omega-3s.
CBD may help ease symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Studies have shown that CBD can lower levels of inflammatory cytokines and inhibit T cell proliferation. This effect can help alleviate pain and reduce symptoms of this condition.
For people who suffer from polymyalgia rheumatica, CBD-infused creams are a great option. Creams can be applied directly to the affected area, and there’s no need to worry about the gastrointestinal side effects that can occur with oral supplements.
In many cases, CBD creams contain other ingredients that may also help ease your pain and inflammation, such as:
Creams can be applied as needed for quick pain relief, so you can go about your day.
One of the great attributes of DMSO is its anti-inflammatory properties. Doctors found DMSO to be extremely useful in reducing inflammation in joints and often prescribe it to patients experiencing chronic pain.
The reason DMSO works so great to reduce inflammation is due to the fact that it is extremely effective at absorbing into the skin. DMSO can get to the source quickly and start reducing inflammation a lot quicker than other medications.
There is no cure for polymyalgia rheumatica, but proper treatment and symptom management can help you get back to your everyday routine. Being diligent about your diet and adopting a regular exercise routine can help prevent recurring episodes of polymyalgia rheumatica.