Yet another autoimmune disease where inflammation plays a big part, it is the small blood vessels that supply the muscles supporting the body – namely the neck, shoulders, hips or thighs – that become inflamed in this condition.
Known as polymyalgia rheumatica or PMR, this disease has only been recognised since 1969. The symptoms of PMR usually start at any age after 50 but mainly affect women over the age of 60 who are two to three times more likely than men to be affected.
While everyone needs a certain amount of inflammation in the body to protect and heal in cases of injury or infection, too much and you can end up with a condition such as PMR. Symptoms of inflammation are redness, warmth, pain, swelling and loss of movement or function but some chronic inflammation even goes unnoticed so that you are unaware of any damage being done
Symptoms of PMR are often non-specific but can include
- Muscle pain and stiffness, particularly in the neck, shoulders, hips and upper arms. The word myalgia means painful muscles.
- Stiffness often worsens after resting especially in the morning after a night's sleep.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Difficulty raising arms above shoulder height.
- Unexplained weight loss.
PMR can develop over an extended period of time in some people - and almost overnight in others - with the symptoms lasting a year or so before improving or ceasing. You are more at risk of developing PMR if you are a Caucasian female over 50. Most sufferers are diagnosed at around the age of 70.
How is PMR diagnosed and treated?
While there is no single test that can diagnose PMR, your doctor should be able to make a diagnosis based on a number of factors, including your medical history, a physical examination, tests that measure the levels of inflammation markers in the blood and additional tests to rule out other possible causes.
The most common way of treating sufferers with PMR is with corticosteroid medication, with the amount being prescribed depending on the situation. Whatever the dosage, the ultimate aim of such medication is to relieve the symptoms while slowly reducing the dose to the lowest possible amount without the return of such symptoms. Most people are aware that the long-term use of oral corticosteroids can result in many unwanted side effects.
Because of these side effects, it is important to make some lifestyle changes and investigate other remedies with a view to being less dependent on pharmaceutical medications.
How to ease the symptoms of PMR
Top of the list is to reduce inflammation (and you can find our top ten tips here
). These include:
- Combating stress.
- Realizing that Candida may be involved as well as food intolerance and low stomach acid. All these possibilities need to be addressed.
- Vitamins and minerals that can play their part in eliminating inflammation. Vitamin K2 is very beneficial and check too whether you are suffering from a zinc deficiency. Being less able to absorb zinc can be linked to diminished capacity to produce stomach acid. When taking zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, and any of the other minerals, be sure to take vitamin C or acidic foods to help improve this absorption. Having a magnesium deficiency is also common in people with PMR as they can have an excess of calcium in relation to magnesium and may need to take magnesium supplements.
- Increasing your intake of B vitamins. Both B5 (pantothenic acid) and B3 (niacinamide) have proved beneficial to PMR sufferers at doses of 25 mg daily. These should be taken in the form of a balanced B-complex supplement and should not be taken at night. Niacinamide reduces inflammation and increases joint flexibility.
- Considering giving up gluten as many have systems with immune cells that suspect gluten foods of being foreign invaders and inflammation can be the result. If you develop sensitivity to gluten or dairy, you are more likely to have autoimmune types of problems. And anyone with gluten sensitivity is nearly always sensitive to casein (dairy) as well. At risk are 1 in 8 of the population.
- Ensuring a good balance between omega 3 to omega 6 in the body as this will regulate the process of inflammation and have a profound effect on joint and muscle pain. Good sources of omega 3 fats include Chia seeds as they contain more omega 3 than salmon. Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce morning stiffness while blackcurrant seed oil, rich in gamma-linolenic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, can also ease inflammation.
- Checking those vitamin D levels as higher levels can help reduce inflammation. Sunlight is the best source with supplementation of vitamin D3 if necessary. Get tested if you are unsure of your levels – you may be surprised.
- Exercising regularly, giving up smoking and losing any excess weight. Low-impact activities such as swimming or walking can help reduce muscle pain and stiffness. Gentle exercise such as yoga can relieve pain and improve joint function while tai chi is often recommended as an effective forms of exercise for this type of condition.
- Food is the ultimate medicine and can play a number one role in combating PMR and inflammation. Of course, to reduce inflammation, the focus should always be on eating a healthy diet with fresh, local whole foods with lots of vegetables plus organic fruit, free range eggs, poultry and pork, and grass fed beef. Include raw garlic and raw onions along with legumes, like lentils and chickpeas, as all these are especially helpful in reducing inflammation in the body. The biggest culprits are pro-inflammatory foods such as processed and GM foods, trans fats, fried foods, high fructose corn syrup, sugar and grains. Some people will be adversely affected by dairy, eggs or yeast. As the foods most often linked with autoimmune problems are grains, you could first try coming off wheat to see if your condition improves. If your joints are also affected, you might also try eliminating members of the nightshade family - namely potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers.
- On the herbal front, Native Americans valued black cohosh and used it for a range of conditions including those conditions caused by inflammation.
And just one more thought
One aspect of PMR many do not consider is whether someone suffering from this condition has ever had a hip or knee replacement. Metallic debris from materials used in such operations can travel to distant parts of the body or the material itself that was used could even be suspect. Such debris can be removed from the body with chelation therapy where metals are taken from the bloodstream and excreted. Another elimination method for toxins in the system is continual supplementation over three to six months of MSM (methylsulphonylmethane) and NAC (N-acetylcysteine).
PMR should not be confused with fibromyalgia
This is another type of inflammation condition that affects mainly younger adults.