What is polymyalgia rheumatica? Polymyalgia rheumatica is a disorder that results in severe pain and stiffness of large muscle groups in the body. Although its exact cause is not known, it may be due to a disruption in the function of the body’s immune system. Polymyalgia rheumatica primarily affects adults over the age of 50, and women are affected twice as often as men. Overall, the condition affects 0.7% of adults over the age of 50, or approximately 1.9 million adults in the United States (Source: NIAMS). Symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica tend to appear suddenly and are usually moderate to severe in intensity. Muscle pain and stiffness are the characteristic symptoms. The neck, hips and shoulders are the areas most commonly affected. Making a diagnosis of polymyalgia rheumatica can be difficult because there are no specific tests to confirm the presence of the disease. In addition, the diagnosis is sometimes missed or delayed because the symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica can be similar to those occurring in other conditions, including influenza, fibromyalgia, giant cell arteritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Most people who are affected need medical treatment to reduce the severity of their symptoms. Your health care provider may prescribe medications to help you manage your symptoms. The prognosis for polymyalgia rheumatica is favorable, as the disease often resolves spontaneously after a few years. Seek prompt medical care if you have concerns about muscle aches and pains that are persistent or worsening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience sudden onset of severe muscle pain or weakness, particularly with a fever.