Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica  

The most common symptom of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is pain and stiffness in the shoulder muscles, which develops quickly over a few days or weeks.

The muscles in the neck and hips are also often affected. Both sides of the body are usually affected.

The stiffness often feels worse first thing in the morning after you wake up and starts to improve after about 45 minutes as you become more active.

Some people with polymyalgia rheumatica have additional symptoms, including:

  • a mild high temperature (fever) of 37-38C (98.6-100.4F)
  • depression
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

When to seek medical advice

If you have symptoms of pain and stiffness that last longer than a week, you should make an appointment to see your GP so that the cause can be investigated.

When to seek immediate medical advice

You should seek immediate medical advice if you have been diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica (or the condition is suspected) and you suddenly develop:

  • a persistent and severe headache
  • jaw pain or cramping in your jaw muscles which is worse when you're eating
  • pain in the tongue when chewing 
  • vision loss or vision disturbances, such as double vision

These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition called giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis).

Call your GP immediately for advice if you have any of the above symptoms. If this isn't possible, contact your local out of hours service or call NHS 111.

Page last reviewed: 20/01/2015

Next review due: 20/01/2017