Call our Helpline
We run a telephone Helpline, where our volunteers who have experience of PMR and/or GCA can talk with you and offer support.
You can call the Helpline Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
The number is 0300 111 5090.
Please remember we are unable to give medical advice, we always advise to talk to your doctor. If your call is not answered, please do leave a message with a short message and your contact details, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Questions? Browse our FAQs
Yes, is the short answer. However, that specialist could be anyone who has a vast experience of treating patients with PMR successfully. Usually this is a rheumatologist, but your GP or a geriatrician, neurologist, ophthalmologist may all be experts in this.
PMR is a condition where your shoulders become achy and there is not one single test that can prove the diagnosis. On the flip side, there are many conditions that can cause that manifestation – rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, giant cell arteritis, myositis, rotator cuff tendinopathy can all cause similar looking symptoms. Therefore, it is vital to do tests prior to starting steroids. Steroids will make the symptoms of all of these conditions better whilst making diagnosis more difficult (because the symptoms have been masked by the steroids). You may find it much more difficult to come off the steroids without the underlying condition being recognised and treated appropriately.
GCA is an emergency and should be treated immediately with steroids. However, even in this emergency it is of extreme importance to get blood tests prior to starting steroids. In an ideal world, you would be seen on the same day by the expert and all the tests would be done prior to starting treatment.
Most people with PMR need about 1 year and those with GCA need 2 years. However, approximately 25% of people with PMR are likely to have a more complicated form of the illness which will take longer to get over; sometimes many, many years. Some people will experience relapses which will result in needing a higher dosage of prednisolone. It is of great importance that every relapse of disease necessitating a rise in prednisolone is formally diagnosed with assessment from a rheumatologist.
Also, the steroid tapering plan will need to change. After all, if you do the same thing again, you are likely to have the same result. Unfortunately, some people will have refractory disease as well. This means that the symptoms will come back when you are off treatment and they will require much longer term or even life-long prednisolone. The good news is, though, that most people will make a full recovery.
Many people with polymyalgia rheumatica say that, in the early days, they are experiencing so much discomfort that any pressure or manipulation would be quite unpleasant for them. So, for example, people who have enjoyed massage in the past may find it uncomfortable. But a physiotherapist should be able to give advice on stretching and strengthening exercises that will improve mobility and keep you in good shape as you move towards recovery. After long-term steroid treatment there can be some damage to ligaments and tendons (e.g. ‘rotator cuff syndrome’), and if you are unlucky enough to have this, you may find that advice from a physiotherapist can be helpful.